Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, going to the doctor was an inconvenience to me. Almost every time I went, it turned out to be nothing and I ended up feeling foolish. Eventually it got to the point where the only time I made an appointment was when I felt I was at death’s door.
After my diagnosis, that changed. Every little lump or discoloration could be the cancer again. It’s like coming home from work one night and finding an intruder in your home. He points a gun at your chest for a few minutes while he tries to figure out what to do. He may pull the trigger. He may not. Then he knocks you to the ground and runs out the front door. You are never the same after that. Every sound you hear could be him. No matter how many times you check the locks on the doors and windows, he could still be out there, waiting. He knows where you live; he knows what you look like.
I found a lump on a Thursday night as I lay in bed. A shot of adrenaline surged through my body the moment I found it. I cursed and sat straight up in bed, a brainstorm of thoughts swirling in my head: biopsy, surgery, chemotherapy, sickness, fear, weariness. All my scary thoughts, all my deepest fears, sat with me in bed that night. My intruder had slipped in somehow. I was sure I had checked everything, but here it was again. What had I missed? I went to every appointment, got my mammograms when I was told to, and had my blood work done every three months. Aren’t those darn tamoxifen pills working?
I cried myself to sleep. I had allowed myself to believe that I had passed through that valley and needn’t worry about it again. But I don’t think you are ever really free and clear. There was no reason why I should have gotten breast cancer in the first place, but chances are I will get it again. So I will always have to be vigilant. I will always have to go to the window when I hear a noise outside. Just to make sure. No matter how foolish I may feel about going to the doctor, I must. It would be foolish not to go.
And thank the good Lord for nurses. My wonderful nurse knows there is an undercurrent of worry and fear for women like me. After every appointment she says to me, “Lisa, if anything changes or you are concerned about anything at all, you give me a call.” Sometimes I wonder if nurses know just how much they mean to those they care for. Doctors may be the brains, but nurses are the heart. It’s the nurses who pick you up off the floor, dust you off and give you the courage to go forward. When she says “call me,” she means it. I had an appointment with her today. My lump was a buildup of fatty tissue. Nothing to worry about. Do I feel foolish? Yes. Do I feel better? Yes.