Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Made aware.

I found a lump in my breast last week.

There are spaces that exist, tiny pockets filled with momentary glimpses, pockets suspended between what is and what was and what will be. Occasionally in life I get trapped in them. Stuck - wondering, wishing and hoping that what will come next will resemble what already was - the gloriously happy and uncompromising time I didn't realize I was inhabiting until now. And now, I don't know what will be, and am so suddenly grateful for what was. Stuck. Stuck in that space.

This doesn't make sense. Duh. Let me try a better way of explaining it: have you ever experienced the horrible sensation of having your ears terribly plugged when passing through a higher elevation on an airplane? Before this experience, you are completely unaware of the blissful pleasure of unplugged ears. You were simply living your life, strolling through daily minutia, oblivious to the unstuffed sensation you were experiencing. But, now, as you wither and squirm through this throbbing annoyance, you yearn for that moment of release with manufactured yawns while covering your mouth and nostrils attempting to force exhalation. You swear that once the pressure is released, you'll never again allow yourself the shameful luxury of ignorance regarding the unclogged status of your normal eardrums. My regular ears were so good....soooo sooo good. I want them back. Give them back. Please, Please, Please....pop already.

For days, I was in that space. In between the initial discovery and the doctor's visit, the trip to radiology for the final answer. I was in that space as I Googled and researched and assessed and reassessed. Night after night, I would toss and turn, alternating between presumptuous optimism and distressing fear.

Do I have breast cancer?
Could this possibly be the worst news of my life? Impossible, I am 25. I've given birth twice. I breastfed. I grew my own garden of produce this year. These are fully functioning (albeit, small) glands. I am about to make a purchase of two handsome, burnt orange window panels for my autumn decor. I have a husband and children and a future. One full of bright opportunities and graduations and trips through Europe. Yes, impossible.
Or no. No. Definitely possible. This is the story. It is always the story. The happy life. The contented - knocked down, kicked and dragged. Best sellers on the New York Times lists. Lifetime movies. The exploited victims of tearfully paltry Saturday afternoon entertainment. This is who we are. We exist.

I would mumble a prayer in the darkness to try to calm myself down, feeling the lump - over and over- as if an agitated massage would somehow make it disappear.

Dear God,
Please. Please. This cannot be the plan. And if it was The Plan, I am asking You to change it. I don't care if I originally agreed. It was and is a horrible plan, and if it was or is to be my destiny, it is a mistake. I don't care about the lessons, the meanings, the journeys of potential introspection and growth. I don't want heaven. Not Yours. Not now. I didn't know. I didn't hear Lily's voice or London's laugh, how it would feel to touch their cheeks and wash their dirty hair. I want the laundry, all the blessed laundry. And the dishes and the Sunday mornings. I want the smell of Tyler's sweaty body after a workout. I want the work and the goals and the fatigue. And if you take it from me... if you take me from it, I won't know who You are...will I ? An All-Loving and Ever-Present Father, or some sort of sick pubescent kid who loves nothing more than to perfectly assemble intricate houses made of paper - delicately created with all the details of his sister's dollhouses - and then filled with his favorite roly-poly bugs, only to gleefully torch it and watch the desperate disintegration, the melting and scattering of his perfect order?

I don't mean to sound like a spoiled child...but if you can't give me this one thing...I'm never going to talk to You again. Amen.

(Ok, it wasn't that bad.)

A couple days later, I walked into the second story of the hospital. I carried my new purse, a fabulous purse. The office assistant checking me in happened to be an old acquaintance:

"Rachel! How great to see you!"

Great to see me. In Radiology? Seriously? Nothing could be worse. How dare you.

"You too! How are the kids?!"

I was ushered into the patient room with an ultrasound technician. I looked into her eyes as she scanned the screen. She couldn't tell me anything (hospital law). With every lift of her brow and glance down towards my breast, I'd try to read her mind. Is it "Poor girl, she has no idea what she is about to face"...or..."What a wimp, she thought this was something to be concerned about?"

She left the room, and I changed back into my clothes in the cool, sanitary shell of the hospital room. Cold tiles, light violets mixed with chalky blues interlocked geometrically on cheap wallpaper. A generic Monet hung in a brass frame slightly above the gray examination table. What was this designer going for? Indifference? Sterility? The absence of merriment? Why is it that spas spend enormous amounts of dough creating the perfect environment for wrinkle elimination - bamboo plants and crisp linens, oils and fresh scents - while hospitals charge forty times as much and can't even provide a gown that hasn't been previously vomited or urinated on? Can you at least provide some sort of 'Sounds of Nature' C.d. playing through the hospital intercom? Something to remind me of life. A place created that doesn't coax you into death just in order to find an exit.

Knock, Knock.

"Hello Rachel, I'm Dr. Micheals."

My heart sunk and raced at the same time.

"You're fine."

"I am?"

"Yes. There is definitely a palpable mass, but upon inspection it looks like a perfectly normal build-up of tissue. Just keep an eye on it, and report any big changes to your regular doctor. Everything looks perfectly o.k. to me."

He quickly exited, off to deal with more important patients. Patients who really had cancer. Patients - not me.
I sat weightless, the emotion and relief flooded my being - only to be quickly replaced with a sense of guilt for those who receive the other kinds of answers. The sort of news that leads to the questions, the introspection, the yearning for the lives they had before they entered Radiology on the second floor. Left in that pocket of space where I no longer linger.

I left. I kissed my kids and visited Tyler at work even though I had a million other things on my "to-do" list. I love my "to-do" list.

I made an pathetically small donation to a Breast Cancer Foundation.

It's Breast Cancer Awareness month. Boy, was I aware.
I think I'll be adding pink to my list of autumn decor from now on.

You can donate here, too.


Daron and Jamee said...

I have to admit that I skipped down to find out if you were OK or not and then went back and finished the rest.

Oh Rachel,I am so sorry you had to go through all those emotions.

So so sorry.
But, I'm always happy and enlighten and inspired through others experiences. So, thank you.

Love you.

Alexis said...

There are a MILLION reasons, as your mother, that I would list why you can't check out yet...many far too emotional for me to type on the keyboard as tears roll down my face. But one that I will list here; is that you MUST continue to use your talent as a writer. You have a gift for translating human experiences into the written word with insight that is often palpable with emotion, humor and bare naked honesty. Who else would admit they weren't going to talk to God if their prayer wasn't answered? Most of us have had that emotion - but you are honest enough to write it and therefore say what we don't dare admit.
That is called provocative. That is what you do. You provoke us to think, to confess, to laugh and sometimes to wrestle with our opinions.
Sometimes we have the false notion that "little children" give us the greatest joy. Not true. Big children give us the greatest awe.


Rae, I'm SO glad you're OK. That first sentence really shocked me. But that was also one of the most well written and inspiring posts ever! You have an amazing gift and your mom's comment also made me cry! Please keep writing!!

Heinrich said...

Two thoughts:

"Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering..."

Secondly, allow me to share the "Stubbed Toe" theory:

Whenever we stub our toe, we immediately wish the pain away. We want out. We want our ears unpopped again. But instead of wishing to escape the unpleasantness of the moment, if we dove deeper into the pain, we would discover a great deal about our toe. Focusing in on the throbbing, we would begin to feel the blood flowing into our toe. We would notice the pressure on the bottom, the tip of our shoe. In short, by stubbing our toe we are able to learn more about our toe than ever before simply because we are able to focus in more specifically on the toe.

So, is it raining right now?

It depends.

Rae's Corner said...

So what you're saying is...
you wish I had breast cancer.

touche heinrich.

Also a great case for the brilliance of God, no? - you know, that guy up there that you don't believe in.

Ian said...

Yo Rae you freaked me out here! I'm glad your okay though, hey after I read this I did some studying for you and the newest and best way to prevent breast cancer they say is to drink green tea and eat mushrooms. Lots of antioxidants, etc. Can't wait to see you and the family at Disneyland

Rae's Corner said...

Ian...i think this is quite possibly my favorite comment of all time. Green tea and mushrooms it is, thanks for the concern and love you too...

Oh yeah, and while I'm at it responding to today's comments:

Jamee, it really wasn't that horrendous, you know me...flair for the dramatic.

Mom, very sweet. ya makin' me cry!

Jamie Dallas, I think Jamie Dallas is about the cutest name ever. Seriously, I never knew Dallas was your middle name?! Every time I see it I think "Such a good name."

Heinrich said...

Brilliance of God?!?! Brilliance of God as in "in my omnipotent mercy, I've created cancer?" or brilliance as in "I love scaring the hell out of my miserable creations."

Maybe there is a god up there... playing SIM Universe and in moments of boredom sending natural disasters, plagues, etc. I remember SIM City and the alien you could send, or the earthquake at your disposal with the click of a button...

I think I'm coming around... almost a believer.

Rae's Corner said...

You're not kidding anyone. You are a believer...
that is, unless you really think the entire scope of your beautiful baby's existence is summed up by simple biological reflexes and his smiles are nothing but the results of various neurons firing off in the brain.

But you don't.

haha. i win.

God said...

Yo Heinrich or Hitler or whatever your creepy name is, lay off ya douche I hope you get prostate cancer. Go put down yourself and not others ya fool

Rae's Corner said...

Ok, that was not appropriate and I don't know how to delete this previous comment.

Looks like I'm gonna have to start moderating my comments people.

Rae's Corner said...

BTW - the name Heinrich is an inside joke.

Heinrich Himmler Hasslebach said...

Dear God,

I stand corrected. Thank you for mercifully breaking your 2000 year silence and confirming that you do indeed exist and that you care about the trivial details of our individual lives. That you would take time to read one of your creations' blogs and comment on a comment demonstrates the love you must feel for each and every one of us. How you find time for all of us still is beyond me.

Please accept my apologies for thinking you didn't exist or didn't care.

I've seen the light and will change my ways.


Ciara said...

Rae, I hadn't had a chance to check in and read the past week... but I just read .. and I cried. You're so blessed and so wonderfully lucky to have walked out with that weightless feeling.

Sadly, my cousin (29yrs young) was diagnosed about 5 weeks ago. I was so uncomfortably tense thinking that you too may carry the weight she has recently come familiar with.

I have never been more aware than now. Since our wedding, two of our guests have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer, it's frighteningly present in our world. I'm so happy to know you are WELL & ready to take the world on again with unplugged ears!! Give yourself a huge hug from me!

Much love and a huge sigh of relief.

Joan said...

PHew. Wow. Scary. Big time reality check.
I couldn't even get through the post without reading the end first! I'm glad you are well and healthy.

jenniferoharra said...

WOW That scared me at first. Glad that you're ok!!
You should run with me in Moms On The Run in May. Its every Mother's Day and it's a race to benefit women with breast cancer. All the funds stay in No. Nevada! I help organize the event-such a great cause!