After shaking our hands and introducing himself, the surgeon sat down, clipboard in hand and light-heartedly asked, “So how nervous are you right now?”
I ran through a quick self-evaluation. How nervous was I? Up until just a few minutes ago, when I sat down in this cold, hideously yellow exam room, with its thin table/bed that looked like it could have been recovered from the ruins at Chernobyl, I have been surprisingly calm. But now, alert and slightly shaking, I was admittedly anxious.
“Probably like a six, on a scale of one to ten.” I answer.
“Okay, let’s bring that down to about a one,” he jokes. This comment would set the tone for the rest of the appointment: comments that were slightly comedic, mildly dark (“I could have cancer, he could have cancer, but I don’t think that you have breast cancer in that spot.”), and a whole lot of casual C.Y.A. At more than one moment in the appointment, I thought to myself, “Was this a waste of our time and money?” But I never said it out loud, and was able to justify that if I had not come here, I would have worried and wondered for months.
In March, I had to make the call to Massimo that my doctor had found a lump in my breast during my annual exam. Between that day and my appointment with the comedic surgeon, I had gone through a weeks of visits from a series of mental roommates – some welcome, others not.
The first to stop by after we learned that this lump existed was called Faith. She was, as she always is, wise and free-spirited. Faith assured us that all we needed to do was invite her over, and she would happily stay with us. She said we didn’t need anyone else besides her to get through this. I politely declined, assuring her we would get through this.
Next to come over when I said goodbye to Faith was Pride, who introduced himself as Responsibility. Of course, true Responsibility calls himself “Humility,” so I should have known better. Nonetheless, I spent some time at home and at work with Pride, who constantly reminded me that this could cost us a fortune. “You have a high deductible plan,” he said. “And your emergency fund was really not for tests, surgeries, and treatments, was it? You always said that was in case of a ‘car accident,’ Deborah, you didn’t plan for this! What if this is bad?”
Pride was relentless. I admit I should have shooed him away quickly, but he made some excellent points. Massimo and my mom assured me time and again that this is not the time for financial decisions; this is the time for health care decisions – the two should not be mixed. I eventually told Pride to leave, but before he left, he apparently called his friend, Fear, to stop by.
Fear came by for just a little bit at first, but his real power came after the ultrasound, when he teamed up with his sister, Self-Pity, and their friend, Logic. When this mass first came to our attention, I could easily brush it away as “probably nothing.” Logic, at that time, seemed my friend. Logic told me that most of the time, for someone my age, a lump was just a cyst or just plain tissue. “This is more of a hassle than cause for concern,” Logic told me. I let him stay on the couch for a week.
The day of the ultrasound, Logic sent me off on a great foot. The whole thing went very quickly. In fact, maybe too quickly. The tech took her pictures, left to speak to the doctor, and came back with him. He took more pictures, spoke for about 30 seconds, and left. I looked at the technician with confusion, hoping my face would convey my inner voice screaming, “What do I do now?”
She smiled at me and said, “You’re all set.” That’s not really an answer, lady.
The doctor said a few words that stood out to me: “Your age,” “Not a cyst,” and “most likely a fibroadenoma, which is benign.” That’s really all I had. He mentioned something about a surgeon, or biopsy, but it went very quickly. I walked out feeling like a two out of ten on the worry scale: pretty good.
We went home happy, and it wasn’t until a few days later, when my doctor got the report and decided to refer me to a surgeon for a consult that the visitors showed up again.
This time, Logic seemed to get along better with Fear than he had gotten along with me before. Logic explained very clearly the following facts: 25-year-olds, statistically, are just about as low-risk as one can be. But if a 25-year-old did get cancer, it would (statistically) be breast cancer. And if a 25-year-old did get breast cancer, it would be bad (physically and financially), and even if she survived, it may affect the safety of her having children some day.
Then Self-Pity chimed in and expressed her concern that of course I deserve a long, healthy life with my husband, and that I deserve to have children and raise a family and et cetera et cetera. I knew she couldn’t be right, and after a couple days of that malarky, Massimo set her straight and she packed her bags.
Massimo, of course, was amazing through all of this. I don’t know if he didn’t notice our unwelcome guests, or he was just better at ignoring them than I was, but I told him time and again that if there was a description of how I would like my spouse to act in these circumstances, I would base it off of him. He was amazing. His strength and support – both silent and spoken – were amazing.
When we finally acknowledged the roommates that we both hated: Fear, Logic, Pride, and Self-Pity, we got on a united front and kicked them out once and for all. With them gone, we had room to invite Faith over to spend the week with use before the surgeon appointment. Faith also brought over her friends Joy and Hope, and we all got along splendidly. Sure, in the back of our minds we were always wondering what would happen, but it was more of an intangible, almost (stress the almost) weightless thought, than an unbearable burden.
The only small frustration in those days shared with Faith, Joy, and Hope was planning. There was always a “what if” factored in to making plans and spending money. “What if I need a biopsy? What if this drains our account?” But Hope would chime in and say, “Even still, it is well.”
The day of my appointment went by in a flash. When the comedic doctor left after a brief exam, we couldn’t stop grinning and holding hands. I felt every breath come in and out of my through with such clarity. Joy rode in the back seat with us on the way home from the surgeon’s office, grinning just as wide.
Now, almost six months later, my follow-up appointment next month is practically routine. I learned a lot from those weeks between discovering the lump and being dismissed from the yellow office. I learned that worrying does one hundred percent nothing. I learned that no matter how much good I think it does, the sick feeling in my stomach, a result of fear and concern over things I can’t control, really sucks the joy out of every day.
I’m extremely thankful for all the Lord did for us in those weeks and since. Even though we got an excellent outcome from out tests and appointments, if it had been less than that, we still would have been safe and secure in our Savior’s arms.