Monthly Archives: April 2013

Planting Wonder

I wrote this a few days ago and just happened to find out that April is National Poetry Month. Apparently that was all the motivation I needed to share this. With great trepidation, and a middle finger to the perfectionistic part of me that says I should research poetry and refine this endlessly before I post, I give you the first poem of my thirties. If not twenties. Either way, it’s been far too long.

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Planting Wonder

I bury them and always doubt

Tiny spheres will live, grow, inspire, nourish.

They peek out, my heart flutters.

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Little one refuses green at the table

Nibbles raw kale from the stalk.

With each plant we pass, “Can I eat this?”

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My oldest begs for asparagus from the market

Proclaims it’s his favorite, along with peas.

“Can we please plant zucchini again this year?’

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This rhythm- seeds, soil, seasons.

Woven tightly into our life.

These planted memories will grow in wonder, too.

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All clear

My diagnostic work all came back clear and negative. I am enormously relieved. I wasn’t completely satisfied when I left the office because I still longed for an explanation of why I had pain and why the tissue felt different. I’m pretty sure I have that now, so I’m feeling even better.

My primary doctor sent me a message tonight letting me know that the changes in density were probably due to reactivity of lymph nodes from tiny scratches I’ve acquired while gardening, combined with old mastitis scarring. I’m going to buy new gardening gloves to celebrate the end of this journey. Sexy, I know. I had mastitis three times while breastfeeding the boys. Twice with Charlie, once with Miles. I had no idea that it caused scarring and permanent tissue changes.

I also learned today, when handed a brochure entitled “Breast Pain”, that 70% of women experience it with unknown etiology at some point in their life. I’m guessing mine isn’t unknown but rather hormonal because of where I’m at in my cycle. It’s weird that it’s lasted for five days, but it’s possible all this stress made things worse than normal. The only time I recall breast discomfort lasting that long was the early weeks of pregnancy.

Yes, that did make me wonder. No, I’m not. I think what’s even less likely than me getting breast cancer is Harry’s vasectomy failing. But yes, I did freak out about that a bit until my period came.

I realized this afternoon that the last time I was in that imaging department was exactly three years ago today. I was 41-weeks pregnant with Miles, completing an ultrasound to check his fluid levels. I delivered him two days later, at the very end of a gorgeous spring day. So, now it’s time to focus my energies on celebrating my little guy. My LAST baby, who is officially leaving toddlerhood and becoming a little boy.

I am thankful I shared here, which basically means sharing with my friends and family on facebook but not taking up their entire newsfeed to do so and having chances to edit! One of the things that happened for me was just normalizing this. Prior to this, very few people have shared their experiences with me about these scares, so I first heard about them when I shared mine. And there were A LOT of messages in my inbox. I think it’s like this with so many topics- other health problems, miscarriage, fertility struggles, parenting challenges, marital struggles, etc… and I’m amazed at how many friends I have tackling these issues in the light, making them less taboo. They have inspired me.

Thank you so much for your prayers, encouragement, stories, humorous tidbits and concern. Thank you.

Rule it out

Late last Thursday night I felt a lump. I was immediately quite worried. It was decently sized- nickel to quarter- and felt a little painful. I told Harry and he asked, “Are you worried?” Dear soul. I love him so, but I wanted to pound him over the head.

I called my doctor’s office Friday morning and was able to get in at 4:30. By the time the doctor stepped foot in my little sterile square land, it was 5:15. She had something urgent come up. I became so bored (no magazines! seriously?) that I posted a shot of the exam room to instagram and twitter. What the hell was I thinking? I looked at how many twitter followers I had and who they were and realized it was no big deal, but knew I’d better not hesitate to call my mom. Anyways, by that point in the waiting, I had gotten over my initial nervousness and come to a place of thinking that I was about to draw a monopoly card to get out of jail free. I didn’t think I’d be calling her to tell her anything else.

After lots of questioning my doctor told me I needed to go through the full work-up because cancer was a possibility. Not likely. But it needed to be ruled out. Good god. God is good, but good god. Really. Hearing that I needed to schedule my first mammogram and ultrasound quickly brought me out of my social media all-is-well-coma and back to a place of fear.

I got home a little before six. Imaging was closed. I left a voicemail, but would have to wait out the weekend. I didn’t make dinner, I didn’t help with the boys getting to bed. I just laid in our bed in shock.

I cried with Harry but didn’t freely sob until after he got the boys to bed. I cried when Miles crawled into bed with me to hug and kiss me goodnight and tell me he wished I felt better. I could see the concern in his face, too. He hasn’t seen me cry much. He’s only a few days shy of his third birthday. That’s what I had been thinking about until I found the lump.

I am proud of how I’ve handled this, and realized I’ve actually learned a thing or two in the past few years about how to be vulnerable. I called my mom and dad, instead of assuming it was better for them to wait until I knew something for sure. I also emailed a handful of friends and family. I knew I couldn’t handle any more phone calls after doing the awful mutter-sob-breath-mumble-cry-talk on the phone with my mom, but I knew I needed support. I needed texts, I needed calls, I needed prayers, I needed hugs.

I am learning. I am not a rock. I guess I am also not an island, though I do like to sing along to that song, so I will continue to proclaim that I am when Simon and Garfunkel grace my home.

I have been to the worst in my mind. I have left my husband and my boys. I have realized that Miles probably wouldn’t remember much of me if I had the most awful, aggressive form and went quickly. He might remember me, but probably not the healthy version of me. I am trying really hard to not go to this place often.

I have been spiritual, a believer in God and Jesus, since my early teens. (If you’re wondering where I fall on the spectrum from fundamental to liberal, I’m probably about as close to the far end of liberal as one can be without falling off the edge. I think God can handle me cussing here.) Many times, God has prepared me for things yet to come. I can look back and see faithfulness. What doesn’t help, though, is when I read into things I’ve been soaking in lately and assume it’s all because I freaking have cancer.

Because Harry and I both have friends from high school who have children with cancer, one of them with a very rare form of childhood cancer, it’s easy to think things like, “Well, yes, I could be one of those one in a million who gets breast cancer under the age of forty without a family history of breast cancer. Someone has to be.” The sun shines on us all, the rain falls on us all. And lightning strikes one unlucky chap every once in awhile.

In the past month or two, I’ve been introduced to the powerful words of Lisa Adams, a woman with terminal stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. I have kept up with her since, including her twitter feed, which gives a really amazing look into her life. I’ve also finished a little book about a boy’s time in heaven during an emergency surgery that I never checked out but read because it was in our home. Of course, I immediately thought, “That’s all because I needed this preparation!”

The same goes for so much of my history. It’s easy to chalk it all up to “necessary growing trials.” As if other people’s traumas and tribulations were for somehow for me. How twisted and ridiculous is that? Ugh. I hate it. But, I went there. (I probably have my childhood fundamentalist background to thank for this.) For several weeks during college I took care of kids I grew up babysitting while their mom went through intensive breast cancer treatment and spent most of her time in isolation. I could attribute that time with those precious kids to preparing me for my time with mine. Check! First stupid way to try to rationalize this. My sister was hospitalized for months with an extremely rare, neurological disease while I was in junior high. Check! Second stupid way. It’s easy to travel this road. I think that’s a really dangerous thing about over-spiritualizing things. Shit happens. Sometimes there isn’t any rhyme or reason. God comforts, yes. I even believe in miracles. But I don’t think they’re like gumballs in a machine that our prayers automatically release.

So, I wait. I would like to say that I know I’m going to be fine, but I don’t. Sure, very long term- but I’m not referring to heaven. I can’t lie and say I know what path my life will take. None of us do. God doesn’t make these promises to us. Today I wait with a full heart because I have been very loved this weekend. I know I have a really good team.

I know the odds are in my favor. I really like those numbers. I also treasure your prayers, cheers, hugs and messages. So, please pray for me. My family. My friends. We would so very much like for this to just be a cyst or random lump. Most are benign. Chances are good. But if I’m wrong, we will need a lot of support and I’m counting on at least a few good jokes and stories from those of you who read this. You’re going to be in my corner, alright?

I am sharing this with you (readers who I assume I only know from real life because I don’t think many strangers read this, but if so, “Howdy, stranger!”) because I have felt so bouyed by my little handful of friends and family who already know. I let them in on my pain and fear. I don’t think I would’ve done this a few years ago. Maybe not even a year ago. It has made an enormous difference. I am now letting everyone in on it because I think more openness will also be a gift to my family and me. (I writing it all is therapeutic for me, too. Thank you, Brené! I should send you chocolate or something.)

Cheer me on, tomorrow I’m about to get my breasts pressed like paninis. I’m really hoping that’s the worst of it, but if you’ve been through mammograms before and have any tips, I’m all ears.

With deep appreciation. ~K