Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Girl, interrupted

February 26, a year ago.
I'm in the shower, shaving an underarm, and my fingers slip in the soap, down just a couple of inches. It feels like I have a knot, like a raised bruise, only it doesn't hurt. I check the other side--no knot. I say aloud: "Shit." Just doesn't seem normal.

Out of the shower, I put lotion on Noah's fingertips, place his left fingers over the knot, his right on the knotless other side. He feels it immediately, nods--but sure, of course, that it's nothing.

February 27, a year ago.
I call the faculty clinic. My voice rises, a little shrill, when it looks like I can't get a same-day appointment. But it works out.

Fibroadenoma. That's what Dr. Sapkin says, after finishing the exam. "I'll refer you for a mammogram to be sure. Don't worry if they also do a biopsy--they are abundantly cautious at the breast center."

A year ago today.
In previous days, I've had my first mammogram ever. The knot showed up as suspicious, so I've also had an ultrasound and biopsy. Also suspicious, but then I had to wait several long days for the lab results. Now I'm back at the Norris Cancer Center, Noah with me for the first time in the series of appointments (since we've been sure, 'til now, that it was really nothing). We're still waiting to hear "fibroadenoma" confirmed, and we've planned a celebratory lunch afterward.

When the nurse comes in, she's surprised to learn that we are there for the results. I'm asked repeatedly for my family's cancer history. We're shown to an exam room, I'm put in a gown. We wait.

Dr. Silverstein, the surgeon, surges into the room, all breezy confidence. He examines me, leaves the gown down like I might not even notice, draws a boob on the whiteboard. (We quickly realize that he spends his days drawing boobs. Every exam room has some of his boobs on the board.) He leaves to check the labs, and no one has said anything to reassure us, and we look at each other, and I am finally scared.

Then he comes back, still breezy, and announces it just like that. "The bad news is, that thing is cancer." He points with his pen, like a sword. "The good news is, we're gonna cure you." Noah and I lock eyes across the room, jaws hanging, faces pallid.

Talking follows, lots of it, the 40-minute crash course in breast cancer, the first dozen decisions made in fog and haste. We meet my oncologist, talk about surgery in 2 days. After an hour in the maelstrom, the medical staff all leave, and we're alone in the exam room, with pictures of boobs--front, side, whole circles, circles with pie-shaped wedges removed, circles with a dark blotch of tumor on the right-hand side--looking back at us.

I say to Noah, "My life is gonna suck."

We go to the lunch anyway, and I taste nothing.


rebecca said...

I got shivers just reading this, Jen. Your last post still worries me too --- what is "the update on the Scare last month?" This is not a NEW scare, is it? Post soon and tell us all!!!

Anonymous said...

IVPOY re: "e"! And very, very moving. Whenever I read your blog, I can't help but think, "that poor, poor kid." IRS, IRS, IRS that this ever happened to you. At least it's led to these incredible blog entries, though, for which, again, IVPOY.

Anonymous said...

hi, you know i named my blog 'girl, interrupted' but of course the domain was already taken so i had to use some version of it...was doing a google search to see if ppl would find me :p.

anyway, i'm a 27 yo who recently was diagnosed with brain ca and had to have surgery...i have had a very hard time dealing with everything and thought that online blogging for myself would help. it's interesting to find others out there who have also had such life-altering health scares so young. how are you holding up? it's been 1 year for you. i have a friend who had bone cancer at age 26, 3 years ago, and it's taken him a while to get back to normal.

anyway, just wanted to say hi and that i'm rooting for you!