Category Archives: dentist

Growing Pains


“Am I going to have hair on my butt when I grow up?”

This is a question I recently fielded from Dylan sandwiched between “Can I have popcorn?” and “Why do I have to take a bath?”

On one hand, it was a silly question from a silly kid. On the other hand, it was an inquiry about one of several ways his body is going to (gulp) change as gets older.

This is what I refer to as the deep end of parenting. It’s where we sink or swim (or scream for help). New mothers should receive sashes with instructions on how to earn patches for accomplishments like getting a diaper bag packed and a newborn baby out of the house in less than an hour, cleaning a poop-up-the-back explosion in the back of a car, surviving pacifier weaning, attending a Fresh Beat Band concert, keeping a four-year-old distracted while changing a tampon in a public bathroom stall at the airport (not that that happened to me or anything), convincing a stubborn kid to poop in the toilet, making school lunches with the flu, and answering questions like “Where is your penis, Mommy?” or “Why do we eat eggs if there are baby chicks inside?”

Admitting to my son that he might have hair on his butt when he grows up felt like confessing that his heart will eventually be broken, there is evil in the world, and not everyone becomes a dot-com billionaire by playing Minecraft. I didn’t want to disappoint him any more than I wanted to imagine him all grown up and hairy.

“Well,” I stumbled, “Everyone grows hair in different places on their bodies when they grow up.”  Ugh.  “Eventually, you’ll have hair under your arms, on your face, on your chest, on your…”

“I don’t want to have hair on my butt!” he interrupted. “I don’t want to grow up!”

I don’t want you to grow up either! Can you please stay eight years old forever? For Pete’s sake! Why must mothers suffer the injustice of imagining their young sons with hair all over their bodies?!

Although he started the conversation, he didn’t want to finish it any more than I did. “Listen, “I said, “You’re still a kid. Don’t worry about it. Let’s finish your homework so you can play, okay?”

As if the prospect of butt hair weren’t painful enough for everyone involved, Riley is having actual growing pains. Not Kirk Cameron “Growing Pains,” but genuine throbbing aches in his legs.

One morning, after a bout of middle-of-the-night pain and sobs that I regrettably slept through, Riley let me have it. “Mommy,” he said pouting with wet eyes, “why didn’t you come when I called out for you?”

(Note to self: Save that guilt for a later date when you have time to truly savor and soak it in, like in 2027 when you’re a depressed, menopausal empty nester.)

Since anything these days can send Riley down a rabbit hole of “I’m not going to school because…you ran out of pancakes or it’s Wednesday or I already know everything (my personal favorite) or because my legs hurt and you didn’t come when I called for you,” it’s important to be supportive and sympathetic, but also to redirect his angst (a difficult patch to earn).

Enter Daddy. He scooped Riley off the floor, and said, “Oh, Riley, you’re having growing pains! You’re growing up!” Apparently, growing pains are to be celebrated like soccer goals and good report cards. And then, “Let me look in your mouth. Are your front teeth coming in? Is that a tooth I see? Oh wow!”

I took a peek in his mouth. No teeth. Not yet, anyway. Riley had his front teeth pulled when he was four as a result of an unfortunate face plant. I mourned the premature loss of his baby teeth when the extraction happened, but funny enough, the empty space in his mouth has come to represent his everlasting role as my squishy little boy. He turns six in a month, but as long as he has that gap, he’ll never grow up. (No sir! Not him! So there!)

On the precarious drive to school that morning, I initiated a game where whatever the boys said, I repeated in song. If Riley said, “banana idiot butt,” I sang, “banana idiot butt!” in my best worst operatic voice. If he said, “whale shark poopy train,” I sang, “whale shark poopy train!”

This foolish sing-song game went on and on as we waited in the turn lane for traffic to pass so we could make a left into the school parking lot. While we sat, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw both of my boys in a fit of giggles. Dylan, at age eight and on the cusp of rolling his eyes at such ridiculousness from his mother (even with the normally forbidden potty talk), couldn’t help but laugh despite his fear of things, including but not limited to, butt hair. Riley, at age five, laughed so hard that he gave himself the hiccups. Looking at his huge, toothless grin made me want to sit in that turn lane and sing “banana idiot butt” forever because, in that moment, there were no growing pains to be found.

But I didn’t. I turned left when the traffic cleared, entered the carpool line, and let my boys climb out of the car and disappear into school (another patch for my sash).


Filed under boys, dentist, hair, motherhood, parenting

Monday Morning Memories

It’s been ten years since my molar pregnancy.  I hold on to so many memories of that harrowing experience, but the one thing I’ll never forget, or let go of, is the ghastly sensation that there was something inside my body – first the botched fetal material and then the cancer – that wasn’t supposed to be there, that I had no control of, and that caused me harm.

After a barrage of invasive medical procedures, including vaginal ultrasounds, a CAT scan, and surgery, it was around this time in February 2005 that I spent every Monday morning for eight weeks at the gynecologic oncologist’s office receiving chemotherapy injections to destroy the malignancy inside my uterus.

On my first Monday, there was an older couple sitting in the waiting room with me. The woman wore a scarf over her head. She looked tired and was quiet. The man looked nervous and was talkative.

“What are you doing here, young lady?” he asked me as if it were absurd for a woman my age to be sitting in the same room with them.

It was absurd. I wanted to scream, As luck would have it, shit happens to us youngsters, too! Instead, I explained my molar pregnancy as best as I could because I still didn’t understand it and as quickly as I could because I didn’t want to cry.

They looked shocked.

I was, too.

We must’ve had the same chemo schedule, because I saw this couple every Monday morning, and every Monday morning the man was eager to talk about his wife and her cervical or ovarian (I don’t remember which) cancer while he (we) waited. I felt bad for them – for his wife who was sick and for him who was powerless to help her – but I dreaded seeing them. I didn’t want to think about what was inside her body. I didn’t want to watch him sit alone. I didn’t want to imagine their future. I didn’t want to do any of it because it was terrifying, and I was too worried about myself to have any perspective that my condition, albeit crappy, was curable and that my future, unlike theirs, was a sure thing.

Eventually, I stopped seeing them, but it wasn’t because they were done with their cancer journey. It was because I was done with mine. I’ve thought about them periodically over the years. Did she survive? Is he alone? My memories of them usually creep up during a medical procedure, like a colonoscopy, a skin biopsy, or a thyroid ultrasound, that probes for something below the surface of my skin.

I thought of them on Monday while I waited to get a mammogram.

I have no family history of breast cancer, but I turn 40 later this year and because of my medical history, you’ll never catch me avoiding an examination, test, or procedure that could help me avoid sitting once again in the waiting room of an oncologist’s office.

For better or for worse, my molar pregnancy taught me two things:

1. It taught me to be afraid. It’s been a decade since that clusterfuck of a pregnancy, and I’m still convinced that every lump, bump, tingle, or pain is a cancer that’s going to kill me.

2. It taught me to take care of myself. The upside of my PTSD is that I go to the doctor more than most people I know.

I never skip a cleaning at the dentist or a Pap smear at the gynecologist. I get a wellness check-up with my primary care doctor twice a year. I also have several visits each year with a dermatologist, endocrinologist, and hematologist. My next (and third) colonoscopy will happen in 2017, I had a follow-up thyroid ultrasound done a few weeks ago, and last Friday I added an orthopedic hand surgeon to my Rolodex of doctors.

In early January, I discovered a small, hard lump underneath the skin of my right hand. Google attempted to assure me that it was most likely a fluid-filled and benign ganglion cyst, but it also disclosed that, although very rare, some hand cysts were malignant sarcomas that could spread to other parts of the body. Despite my outward attempt to not freak out, you can probably imagine the diagnosis that haunted me in my sleep while I waited five weeks for my appointment. Fortunately, my little lump was a benign cyst. Crisis (cancer) averted.

I’m (trying) not (to be) overly worried about the results of Monday’s mammogram, but it was an emotional day. There’s no place to hide when a big machine takes pictures of what you can’t see inside your body. It’s normal for these kinds of tests to cause anxiety about one’s future. For me, though, they also trigger difficult memories of my past, including the couple I met ten years ago while waiting for my Monday morning chemotherapy injections.


Filed under breast cancer, cancer, colonoscopy, dentist, health, molar pregnancy, thyroid