This morning, I had an appointment for 5 ultrasounds. Not that I’m experiencing any pains, my doctor just has some ‘concerns’ and is particularly diligent with me because of my family history. As a result, my entire torso has now been photographed and mapped, inside and out.
Over the course of the hour, between the neverending instructions – lie down, turn left, raise your arm, wipe the gel, go to the bathroom, lie down, take a deep breath, turn right, go to the bathroom, sign this waiver, lie down, spread your legs, take a breath – I had a lot of time to think. I found myself being swept up in distressing thoughts.
The first time I was sent to the bathroom, I glanced at myself in the mirror and thought ‘oh, I look pretty good today’. When I glanced back, I thought: ‘what if this is the day that begins my story of how I found out I have cancer?’ I paused for a moment to consider the enormity of that thought, then brushed it aside and returned to the examination room.
As the tech slid and pressed her wand across my body, I became acutely aware of every little lump, every dark spot on the screen, every moment she paid a little extra attention to one spot over another.
I started to think of all the people I’ve known who have had cancer. They’re all women. Probably each of them had an exam like this that started with a routine checkup and their doctor saying “hm, I feel something weird here. It’s probably nothing to worry about, but I’m going to send you to have it checked out just in case.”
I wondered if they were scared or if, like me, they had gone into it assuming everything would come out just fine. I wondered if, at the moment when they found out they had cancer, they felt totally alone in the world, or if they knew they’d have someone by their side holding their hand the whole way. I wondered who would be by my side.
And the tears began to stream down the sides of my face.
I wondered how these people I’d known felt every time they’d prepared to go in for treatment. I wondered if I would be scared of chemotherapy. I wondered if I would believe that I could beat the cancer, or if I would just go through the motions hoping for the best.
I wondered if I should stay home this afternoon instead of going to work, because really life could change on a dime and I’d never see it coming, and I should make sure to at least spend this one afternoon in peace. I wondered if the lab tech already knew there was something wrong with me, and was thinking to herself ‘this poor girl’ as she completed my exam.
Then I realized I was spinning, catastrophizing. I took a few deep breaths, tried to stay away from scary thoughts, and eventually put my clothes back on. I bought some groceries. I had a short nap. I went to work.
I believe my tests will all come back negative. But with my family history, it’s likely that one day I won’t be so lucky. If that few minutes on the table was a glimpse into how I’ll feel then, I just hope that when the time comes I will be surrounded by loving people I can count on because I am going to need all the strength they can give me.
Until then, I will do my best to remember to be grateful for my health, every day, for as long as I can.