Life can be serious business.

Give It To Me Straight, Doc. How Long Do I Have?

“I need you to lift your breast and flop it on to the machine. Now relax while I squish the shit out of your boob and also, please stop breathing until you feel like passing out, while I take the picture. After I’m done violating your breasts with this vice, I’ll have you wait here to ponder your own demise.”

Ok, so maybe the technician performing my mammogram didn’t use those exact words, but she may as well have. All the niceties in the world could not have prepared me for what I experienced this morning, and I don’t just mean the actual act of have my boobies flattened like a pancake. Through out the process, I felt incredibly vulnerable and scared out of my mind.

During a routine physical last week, my doctor felt something in my breast that concerned her and sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound. I had both tests done this morning. While I waited for the doctor to look over the results, I completely convinced myself that I had breast cancer.

I sat there planning how I was going to tell my family. Already convinced of my fate, I decided that I would opt to have my breasts cut off. I wondered if my health insurance would cover all the treatments I would need, including whether or not implants would be an option. I panicked as I thought about my hair falling out. I fought back tears, as I thought about my two kids growing up without me. I knew it was inevitable that my new found breast cancer would kill me.

When the tech came in and told me that the doctor did not see anything that concerned him, Ididn’t believe her. I had managed to work myself up to the point that even hard evidence, showing I was in good health, wasn’t enough. I then went for my ultrasound.

“I want you to lie down and expose your left booby. I’m going to glob some hot gooey stuff on your tit and awkwardly rub this wand all over it, while saying nothing but making noises that will lead you to believe I just saw death on the screen I’ll be staring at.”

Yeah, no. That isn’t really what the ultrasound technician said either, but again, she might as well have.

Before I was even finished wiping off the boob goo and getting dressed, the tech was telling me through the door (how personal, right?) that the doctor saw nothing and I was free to go. I whipped the door open so fast, I almost smacked the poor woman in the face with it. I asked her, “So, you’re sure I’m good. I don’t need a biopsy or anything like that? Will I need a follow up ultrasound, ya know, just to be sure?” “No” she said. “You’re all good.”

And just like that, I was physically no different then when I arrived.

As I drove home with the confirmation that my ta tas were actually healthy, I contemplated why I’ve always feared I would die young. Is it connected, in some way, to my early childhood trauma? Is it because my mom died young? Could my self-esteem really be that low – to the point that I don’t feel worthy of living a full lifetime?

It’s so strange to me that this one event could make me question so much, and convince me so strongly of a false fate. I’m so grateful for the outcome and in a strange way for the entire experience. Once again, life has shown me how damaging my “pending doom” and irrational thinking can be.

Always fearing the worst, I see things without clarity or lack an authenticity to my experiences. I’m not in control all the time – that’s not even a realistic option. I need to be reminded of this from time to time. Today was a clear reminder. I had myself six feet under because I fooled myself in to thinking I was in control. Apparently, my idea of controlling things leads me in the path of the worst case scenario. That is not how I want to live. If I always assume and plan for the worst, I’m preventing the good in life from shining through.

I realized something today that I don’t think I fully understand yet. Letting go of fear seems to run parallel with letting go of control for me. Perhaps by heading towards fear, I can move forward more freely.

Why is it so common to expect the worst? Is imagining the experience of pain easier than imagining the experience of joy? Have you ever experienced something similar, where you convinced yourself something bad was going to happen, even before you had all the necessary information?




11 thoughts on “Give It To Me Straight, Doc. How Long Do I Have?”

  1. I wrote this last week in my sleep, right? OMG…. Every word you write reverberates deeply within me. Currently I am convinced I have beginning signs of ALS (this is before everyone started pouring ice on their heads and I am also convinced every time I see that on Facebook, it’s an ominous sign specifically for me saying, “see, you have this disease!”). I recently wrote a piece about the Web MD but nowhere did I seriously let the truth out about how terrified I am of dying young. Well, I am 50 already so I cannot say young anymore! Anyhow, friends that I have confided in thru the years no longer have any empathy for me because I am like the boy who cries wolf. Yet each and every time the fear grips me like a vice and the pics in my head of my children’s grief over having no mother is Overwhelmingly vivid. I am very happy to hear your outcome is so terrific and utterly amazed how fast they told you. I am always waiting days by a phone for these “retests.” Thanks for writing such a vulnerable piece.

    1. Thank you so much for responding. I figured people would just think I’m nuts. You should have seen me while taking my psych classes. Learning about the different mental health disorders, I was convinced I had every damn one. Another example: my husband was 20 minutes late getting home tonight, I just knew he was in a bad car accident. He wasn’t … He was simply running late. My mind goes crazy with these types things. It drives me up a wall. I don’t know why I’m like this but always have been.

      I was surprised too that I heard results so quickly. I thought I’d have to wait for my f/u appt with my primary care doc. Thank God I didn’t. I’d of been a hot mess.

      And BTW…50 is still young in my book! 🙂

  2. Surely there is a better way to check boobs and prostates for cancer. C’mon, science! I’m glad you’re fine though. My dad is 64 now and thinks everyday is a miracle. His mom died when he was 19 and his dad died young as well. Had he known he was gonna live so long, he’d probably have saved his money better. Lol.

    1. Saving money is over rated. I mean we need to eat and all but how much fun is being adventurous when you’re afraid of breaking a hip? And you’re so right…technology can find anything and anyone but can’t find booby cancer without squishing my lady bits? Talk about a torture technique. Thanks for stopping by, Don. Always enjoy hearing from you.

  3. This post made me laugh out loud. You wrote exactly how I’ve felt during and after my mammograms and ultrasounds. I even gotten as far as needle biopsy, and two biopsy procedures. All of which were benign, but I was scared out of my mind. The same thoughts were in my head and I DID pass out. Luckily, the technician was releasing the grasp of the machine as I went down or I fear I may have ripped the right one off completely or been left — hanging. LOL

  4. I also always think the absolute worst and then am in shock when it is not the worst but that is just my way of dealing with things. also had a health scare a few weeks ago and was contemplating how to tell my family, my mother would be devastated and the thoughts just went on and on. I also planned how I was going to change my life, live my life, live in the moment and all those good things. Strange how the thought of dying makes us want to live and then bam healthy, although so the doc says, and well back to thinking I am going to live forever. Glad that you are fine and that they didn’t find anything scary.

  5. I always think the worst, then justify my thought process as planning ahead. Ha! I’ve gotten much better but a year ago, I was convinced that I had all the signs of cancer and then got my bubble burst when I found out I was perfectly healthy. Accepting that this is one of my many quirks has helped because I can mostly let the thoughts pass through without lingering. I’ve always thought it was tied to childhood trauma and a need to control the uncontrollable. Who knows. Great post!

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