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


6 thoughts on “Rule it out

  1. Nancy Ariniello

    Kathleen Bean–praying for you! I’ve heard if there’s pain it’s not cancer. Hope it’s a truism. Mammograms are no big deal! I’m sure you will sail right through it. Please update, or just send a message. XOXOXO
    Nancy A

    1. kathleenbeanblog Post author

      Thanks, Nancy. I really appreciated your note. (FYI- the early inflammatory type of breast cancer that young women are more likely to get can have pain associated with it. Just a little PSA. 🙂 ) The mammogram wasn’t fun, but my tech was fantastic. I got a little lightheaded at first, but the room was hot. They brought me a cool drink (sadly, not a margarita) and turned a fan on and I was fine the rest of the time.

  2. Rebecca

    Kathleen I’m praying for you and Harry. Praying for peace and health and love and joy. Praying for Charlie, who I’m sure is not missing a beat of this, and Miles’ birthday and trusting God with His best for your life. I love you and will keep praying.


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