Friday, February 8, 2013
The Return Of FrankenMom
As I've gotten older, the cracks in my seemingly strong edifice have begun to show. A little weakness here, a little less ability there, you can feel things begin to slow down and creak as you move forward, some days more than others.
As much as I hate showing any weakness at all, the reality is that I am stronger for going through all of this, whether I want to admit it to myself this morning or not.
The latest bit of reality is that I had a lump removed from under my breast yesterday morning. The same breast where a precancerous, rapidly growing, estrogen-feeding dysplasia was removed several years ago when The Peanut was just 3 months old. This older lump was about the size of a golf ball, and terrifyingly buried deep within the breast tissue itself. It was something I only found because I was nursing at the time.
Who thinks they need a mammogram at age 35? Not me, that's for sure. That will teach me for not paying attention to my family history.
If you don't know your family history for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer? You should absolutely ask -- now -- for your own sake as well as for your children's medical histories down the road.
The newly removed lump from yesterday morning? Was too close to that old lump area for my comfort level given my history. Even though it is almost certainly a benign cyst (she types hopefully), it is better to have it out and tested than to constantly wonder about it, since no one could get a good read on it with mammogram and ultrasound technology and the only way to really know was to take it out and test it.
Sometimes, you just have to take the leap. And so I did.
I now have a new set of stitches to amuse The Peanut. She dubbed me FrankenMom when I had my melanoma surgery a while ago. We're calling this "The Return of FrankenMom" this time around.
You have to find a way to laugh, don't you? Otherwise what is the point, really.
The thing that is looming, and honestly scaring the bejeebers out of me, is that I also have to get a PET scan next Tuesday. Lymph nodes can be tricky after a melanoma diagnosis and mine are sticking out a little too much, a little too close to what could be connected to the original incision area. Even though my melanoma was really shallow, and we are almost positive we got everything out with the surgery...you just can't be too cautious and careful with this.
The complicating factor for me is my lupus issues. So, are the lymph nodes irritated because of the usual lupus overreaction that every person with this autoimmune disorder deals with on a day to day basis? Or is it something more sinister, the "C" word rearing its ugly head again?
This time around, The Peanut is old enough to know that something is going on and that Momma and Daddy are a little on edge because of it. We've decided that being up front with her is important, that we are not going to hide the ball or pretend that something isn't going on...but we also are not going to overreact and scare her (or ourselves) until we know if there is anything to worry about after the testing.
She's an extremely bright and perceptive child. Lying to her seems both pointless and cruel, and so we aren't even going to bother. But we also aren't going to over-exaggerate the potential downsides unless and until we know we have to face them -- which is not only good advice for her as a child, but good for me to keep in mind as well, eh?
The lesson you can learn from all of this: stay on top of your health issues.
If the melanoma has not spread, it will be because I immediately went in to have my doctor look at a weird-looking mole instead of deciding to ignore it. And if it has spread? We'll still be on the front edge of this because I've been medically vigilant all along, and willing to have several more biopsies since my surgery for other odd-looking spots just in case. (Everything has been benign, but better safe than sorry is my new mantra.)
This sort of constant vigilance? It comes with a hefty price. I am exhausted and emotionally drained, and earlier this week had a crying jag for an hour and a half because I just could not deal with one more stupid test, one more piece of flesh being carved out for testing. The endless string of test after test after test, and checklist after checklist of symptoms to always be on guard against, and dietary considerations (for and against for every single piece of food I seem to ingest or consider)...it takes a toll on you after a while, to be honest.
I have been lucky thus far. Knock wood, but I have managed to mercifully catch things early. I know that cannot possibly hold out forever -- something gets us all in the end, right? -- but I'll keep trying to stay ahead of this curve for as long as humanly possible.
So instead of wallowing in self pity or burying my head in the medical sands, I pulled on my big girl panties and dried my eyes and went for my biopsy anyway, just like I'll go for my PET scan next week. And I'll schedule another mammogram, even though I know I'll likely have even more biopsy nonsense to deal with from that as well.
For anyone else dealing with this over and over again vigilance, how do you cope any better than this? How do you manage the bits of fear or irritation or whatever?
Because I'd love some advice on that aspect of all of this.
My response thus far has been to make my day to day diet choices better ones. If something does happen, I want to be able to say I did something to try to stave this off.
Am I doing everything I can? No -- I need to exercise more and eat even more healthfully. But to be frank, my mind wants to rebel and say "The hell with it. I want junky comfort food."
So, if you have slogged this path as well, riddle me this: how do you sustain the better choices for yourself and your family regardless of what is going on around you? How do you keep making the "good" choices, even when your tired and scared gut is saying "pick the Ben & Jerry's, and bury yourself in comfort ice cream." If you found an answer for yourself, please share in the comments.
Also, if you don't mind, a few good thoughts or prayers between now and Tuesday would be much appreciated.
Take care of yourself. If you have been putting off that appointment with the doctor, that mammogram, that test that needs to be done? Call and make that appointment right now. Early detection really can save your life -- I've had too many friends who have benefited from that, and have that lesson engraved in big, bold letters on my brain. So please, make your appointment now. You can thank me later.
(Photo by Christy Hardin Smith. All rights reserved.)