We have returned from taking Offspring the Third to orientation for college. He seems quite happy with the whole event, and much less nervous about the idea of college. And we brought back gifts for the family, including for elderly three-toothed dog, who looks quite dapper in his new finery.
Herself speaks. It was a very long week, waiting for the results of my follow-up testing after my mammogram. I received no phone call; I waited, as patiently as possible, until the results were posted on the patient portal yesterday.
The short of it is: things are OK for the moment. That is, there are Things, but they appear to be OK Things.
(There was, as to be expected, a certain amount of hedging in the report, which included mentions of density, homogeneity and heterogeneity of tissue, as well as a disclaimer about 10-15% false negatives. I understand that this is not at all an exact science; yet therefore, the relief gained from receiving good results is tempered by a certain "nothing is certain" thought. Nevertheless, the Zombie Apocalypse could also happen tomorrow, so we do our best to ignore the "nothing is certain".) New probably benign complicated cysts in both breasts. [One 1.3 cm, the other 1.6 cm.] The likelihood of cancer is greater than 0% but less than or equal to 2%. Recommendation: return in 6 months for bilateral breast ultrasound.
I also received a letter today, stating:
Your recent mammography examination done on the date listed above shows an area that we believe is benign (not cancer). However, in 6 months you should have a follow-up mammogram to confirm that this area has not changed.
It seems that for now, all I can do is Assume All Is Well (along with Not Worry, and Hope For The Best). Perhaps a bit easier said than done. I have many, many Feelings on this situation -- too many to parse. I feel tremendously fragile, and a little afraid. Perhaps Time will attenuate the fear.
Please, Universe. Let this all work out well. I have things to do, places to go, and people to love.
I had the pleasure of seeing Wonder Woman for a second time. It was just as enjoyable, and just as meaningful, as it was the first time. And it was easier this time to see why Wonder Woman is so moving for women of a certain age. We are One.
Once upon a time, I was much like the young Diana as she leaves Themyscira: well-educated in languages (here, Greek, Latin, French and English), as well as other vital subjects -- not hand-to-hand-combat, certainly, but rather, science and math, classic literature, music, arts, history: all the important subjects to forge a future. I believed in the power of knowledge. And I was young, and so very naive. I believed that the world was bright, and that people were inherently Good, and that with the exercise of some brain power and the Truth, there was no obstacle I could not overcome.
It took a long time -- for I am a slow learner, and have been somewhat sheltered from the world through self-isolation -- to come to understand that everything is not black or white, and that terrible things happen, and that terrible people cause these terrible things. There are so many things I cannot change, and infinite things I cannot control. There is greed. Selfishness and prejudice. Ignorance. Callousness. Rage and cruelty. Sadness beyond measure. We cannot heal the world.
Diana realizes -- as all women do, and as I have -- that the World will always break her heart. This disillusionment requires finding a new source of strength to keep her inner fires burning. And her only choice -- the choice of every woman, knowing what we each know -- is simply: love anyway.
If we look through, between, and beyond all that is terrible, we can see the beauty that lies therein: the face of a sleeping baby; ice cream; snow flakes. Music and dancing (or 'swaying'). Knowledge that there is good in the people who are willing to try, and fail, and try again. That sometimes they succeed. And that it is all worth the struggle.
I used to want to save the world, to end war and bring peace to mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learnt that inside every one of them there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves - something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know... that only love can truly save the world. So now I stay, I fight, and I give - for the world I know can be. This is my mission now, for ever.
When Cherished Friend lived in this corner of the desert, I kept a particular rectangular basket on the kitchen counter. He would put his keys and other accoutrements in it while over at the house for dinner, movies, Scrabble, whatnot. I always thought of it as being his own small personal space in the world of the household. When Cherished Friend moved away, I relocated the basket to a shelf of sentimental items in my study. It stays there most of the time, along with the coffee cup that is usually reserved especially for him.
Cherished Friend came for a visit this weekend. No particular reason, no special occasion -- just a marvelously ordinary couple of days which included dinner, a movie, Scrabble, whatnot. I put the basket back on the counter for his things. He fit seamlessly into the workings of the household, as he always does. We had the pleasure of his company, and I had the added enjoyment of seeing him interact with my other favorite people.
My phone rang this morning, and I was momentarily occupied so let it go to voicemail. When I checked later, it was a message from an unfamiliar phone number:
I am calling about the results of your mammogram. Please return my call at....
Alas. When everything is fine, they leave a message: Your results are normal.
I called back, and although I did not get many details from the physician's assistant, the short of the matter is that I have doctor's orders for a "diagnostic mammogram" (as opposed to a regular screening mammogram), as well as for an ultrasound.
I like to think that the odds are in my favor. I nursed the Offspring, cumulatively, for five years; that has to lower my risk of breast cancer. With the exception of a rare occasion here and there, I don't drink alcohol, and thus have lowered my risk again. I was a late bloomer, and perhaps that swings in my favor as well.
The physician's assistant did mention that the issue was that there are small calcifications in both breasts this year, that were not there last year. She did not provide enough detail to me about whether they are macro- or micro- calcifications. Many calcifications are benign. Some are not. Odds of the calcifications being this or that depend on their size, and clustering, and such. I'll read the radiology report once it is available to me.
I try to derive comfort from the fact that both sides are involved -- it's quite rare that spontaneous breast cancer pops up bilaterally. (This does not, of course, exclude the possibility that one side is perfectly benign, and the other less so.) We shall see.
I find it hard to believe that there is something *wrong*. Sometimes, I know that something will be a certain way -- for example, I had a gut feeling that Offspring the Third would be a cesarean birth long before I hit the ninth month of pregnancy -- but I do not have any such specific feeling here. Yet. Perhaps the possibilities are too difficult to imagine right now.
I will say this: as tricky as it has been sometimes to be an amply endowed woman, I cannot imagine myself any other way.
It's that time of year again: mammogram time!
Usually I have no problem with this annual event -- it's a mildly uncomfortable procedure, but falls firmly into the "knowledge is power" category, and so, off I go to be squashed.
This year the technician had difficulty getting everything just right. (She was pleasant and competent, and I suspect it was primarily a size/volume issue.) It took quite a while, and a fair amount of handling, to position everything properly into the machine. And one of the sticky markers (the small guide wire taped to the skin to show where underlying lumpectomies occurred years ago) did not adhere well, necessitating a repeat of the film for one side. I tried, unsuccessfully, not to look at the digital readout which indicated the pounds of pressure (25 pounds! Sweet mother of pearl!). Ow.
After the technician finished, she sent the digital images to the radiologist, who then requested a repeat of that same side. Perhaps it was the second sticky marker on that side that had slipped, I told myself. I tried not to think about the possibility that there might have been Something in the image that the radiologist wanted to see more closely. I am low risk, I remind myself. No sense worrying.
I am back from a Trip Back East in honor of a relative's 80th birthday.
Offspring the Third and I went as the representatives of the southwestern branch of the family for the occasion. He was stoic, and helpful, and a very good travel companion. His enthusiasm for the museum we visited on our last full day was refreshing. He is a Good Egg. Well done, Offspring the Third.
During the trip, I saw many people whom I had not seen in a long time -- some for a year, some for three years, and some for twenty-three years -- and as enjoyable as it was, it was also difficult. These are the people of my youth; and I was acutely aware of the passage of time since then. So many changes; goals met and unmet; dreams gained and lost and set aside.
My siblings were there, magnificently familiar, and I felt acutely the pang of knowing that time spent with them will always be too small because of our divergent paths. (It is easy to forget how much you miss someone when you do not see them terribly often -- but then, with rare visit comes the recognition of the loss, and it washes over one's heart like the filling of an arroyo after the desert rain.) My parents, too, were present -- eternally the same, and yet a tiny bit more deaf, a little bit more elderly. I try not to think about the fact that they will not live forever.
Sometimes, I wish I had the capability to turn off my feelings. Or even the capacity to turn off the world for a little while, so I can feel, and accept, the full depth of these emotions without the minutiae of daily life clamoring for attention.
I am sad.
I will go read John O'Donohue - To Bless The Space Between Us (A Book of Blessings). His words are always soothing. Perhaps there is a blessing for the weary of heart.
It moved me. To actual tears, quickly hidden.
It was magnificent, in ways that this middle-aged woman's heart cannot explain.
Thank you, Wonder Woman, for being the hero I didn't know I needed as badly as I do.
(Photo found here: https://moviepilot.com/posts/3430005)
It was twenty years ago this time of year when I moved here to this desert land.
Beloved Husband and I had been married just under six years; Offspring the First was four years old, and Offspring the Second was two. Our only pet was Peacock (who traveled on the plane with us, much to the consternation of other passengers who could not determine from where that occasional bird-chirp issued).
It was a difficult transition: I had to say farewell to my colleagues at the only job I had ever had after graduation (at the time, I did not know that I would telecommute, and periodically interact with these colleagues again, for the next seventeen years). I left the state in which I grew up. The southwest was an Unknown.
New region, new house, new life.
I had my 30th birthday shortly after we arrived here, which was difficult, too, in its own way -- it was an indication that I was no longer a youngster, but a full-fledged adult. I had to find a preschool, a pediatrician, the local library; the grocery store, the post office; the right place to purchase inexpensive clothes for the growing Offspring. It was tricky, learning to navigate the mundane details of a new environment without benefit of GPS or of guiding advice from local women (for I knew none).
It was very hard at times. But it got easier.
Here we are, twenty years later. Since the move, we have added Offspring the Third, and all three Offspring have grown up well in this desert land. I have witnessed Beloved Husband's love of this city on a regular basis, and have watched him flourish professionally and personally in his favorite desert. We often visit my lovely in-laws who live in this city, too. I do not see much of my extended family, but the internet, e-mail and text have made keeping in touch easier than it was in the beginning. I have made a friend who has enriched my life tremendously. And I have found my way -- or at least a way -- through this desert land.
I do not feel as old as I am. I still feel as though I am a youngster, finding my way.
With a bit of luck, there will many more years, and many more adventures, both within and outside of this desert land.
NinjaHead resides with a sesquipedalian woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains solely a minuscule and rather cranky middle-aged chihuahua. Someday, there will be more critters, for she loves them tremendously.