When my dispassionately calm and very competent rheumatologist called rather than putting the results of my MRI up on the portal, I thought–uh oh (and immediately put my cell phone on speaker for my husband to hear too.)
With an uncharacteristically shaky voice she said that the MRI she’d sent me for showed a mass of indeterminate origin. “You need to see your Ob/Gyn ASAP.”
My WHAT? I’m a 71-year-old woman, I responded. The last Ob/Gyn I saw was when we lived in Mexico City from 1995 to 2000, or as I think of it–four moves ago.
Nevertheless an abnormal mass focuses the mind, so my husband and I reached out to our Village Hill neighborhood and Northampton Neighbors via the ListServs to ask for recommendations. For as those famous British philosophers called The Beatles expounded, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Within a couple of hours, I had two candidates to contact the next morning.
On calling the doctors’ offices, the words “they found a mass…” brought rapid action by the Ob/Gyn doctors who referred me to Ob/Gyn Oncologists where I was quickly scheduled to be seen within days. So fast that further testing wasn’t back when I saw the doctors.
As my right brain kicked into overdrive imagining different storylines, my left brain told it to stop catastrophizing, for as Sherlock Holmes said, “Data! Data! Data! I cannot make bricks without clay.” So I’d just have to wait for the data to imagine what protocol might be necessary.
Seven days after that first phone call and two consultations with two oncologists later, the choice is clear as mud. Something abnormal or unusual appears to be near my left ovary. If it is a nothingburger cyst, it could be a simple clip, remove and zip me up. If poking around finds a nasty malignancy, it will be removed and more poking about will happen to ensure it’s all gone. In the worst case, they will cut me open like a spatchcocked chicken to find and remove all of the malignancy, a full abdominal hysterectomy.
Why on earth am I choosing to share this nightmarish medical “Choose Your Own Adventure”? Because navigating words and paragraphs is how I get my brain to focus rather than fall into hysterics, with salty tears that always blur the vision of my glasses.
And life happens to everyone. Whether the good, the banal or the terrifying, we all live through things and I want to believe sharing these moments might help others endure theirs too.
The glorious fall weather we’re having in Western Massachusetts has certainly helped my attitude. As I go outside my home to refill and cull the neighborhood’s Little Library, leaves crunch announcing fall’s fall. Though these leaves irritate some of my neighbors, who prefer trees not to shed leaves on the ground, for me it is all a part of life’s cycles.
So as I countdown the days until my 5:45 am arrival for the surgery, I have pages of rules to carefully follow. No supplements 7 days before, get my pre scheduled Covid test 3 days before, no shaving a few days before, no wine or recreational pot 48 hours before, liquid juice/broth diet 24 hours before and to take a shower with shower brushes (provided) the night before, afterwards sleeping on clean sheets in a clean nightgown. Last but not least, to bring my medical cards and photo ID to the hospital.
My pre-surgery prescription is Carl Hiaasen books, engrossing streaming of shows and DVDs. As I focus on the absurdity of life, on what humanity perceives as reality, I watch pre-code gems like Ernst Lubitsch’s 1933 film “Design for Living” with a menage a trois. Who knew sex had been discovered way back in 1933?
Live, laugh and ignore the dark dangerous corners of life where malignant realities lay. Or, at least, try to, for just as my tomato plants died leaving me with two rather sad small fruits for our shish kabob tonight—nothing lives forever.
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