Category Archives: health

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.

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

Impure Thoughts

CoughToothbrushMy husband was sick all week with a really bad case of strep throat. At some point on Wednesday, it occurred to me that he’d been in bed for three days. He was legitimately ill, but I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if I stayed in bed for three days. I’ll never know for sure BECAUSE IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN, but most likely the house would burn to the ground.

My instinct for self-preservation kicked in hard and strong, because I couldn’t get it (see aforementioned house burning to the ground), and I certainly didn’t want the kids to get it, which would only increase my chances of getting it (house on fire!). Swift isolation and containment was my only option. In other words, no one was to be within a three-foot radius of Daddy or else Minecraft would disappear forever.

I’m the primary caretaker in the house, so it’s not like if he were feeling well, he’d be making school lunches at 6am or slogging through spelling sentences at 6pm, but there was just something a tiny bit totally and completely maddening about him sleeping on one end of the house (for three days) while I kept the hamster wheel moving on the other end of the house (for three days).

I confess I had impure thoughts.

Perhaps you should sleep elsewhere? Like at a hotel?

You touched the TV remote, didn’t you?

Wow, you sleep a lot.

Do you have any idea how many times I’ve changed the sheets this week?

Did you just cough on my toothbrush?

You’re not hungry?  You poor thing.

Don’t worry, I’ll feed and bathe the kids, play with the dog, and figure out something to eat for dinner while you wait for your fever to break (i.e. play on your iPad).

I’m fascinated by how much you sleep. 

Surely if you have enough energy to install Minecraft on the computer, you can feed the damn dog.

(I’m sorry.  Now that you’re back among the living, I feel a lot less angst.)

It’s Friday morning and no one has succumbed (yet), but because the universe sometimes has a warped sense of humor, there’s been an outbreak of lice at the kids’ school. The boys left the house this morning with lice-repelling shampoo and conditioning spray in their hair, but I’m telling you right now that if we survived strep throat only to end up with lice, I’ll burn the house down myself.

Do you have impure thoughts when your spouse/partner is sick?

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Filed under health, motherhood