I don’t like surprises. I hate it when someone (usually my husband) says something like “Hey, guess what! Oh, never mind. I can’t tell you.” It makes me crazy, and I don’t need any help with that.
I don’t know why this is, or where it came from, but it has become a fundamental part of my psychology. And now I’m being forced to deal with in a very uncomfortable and frightening way. Last week I went in for a physical. I haven’t been in over 3 years (for a variety of good and not-so-good reasons), and while I was there, the doctor did a breast exam. She found something she didn’t like and sent me to have a mammogram. My, but that’s an unpleasant experience. I’ve had one before this, and the result was that we learned I develop these water-filled cysts that are utterly harmless, just mildly annoying. But this time something is different.
I was pulled out of class this morning by our receptionist. Both the doctor’s office and the hospital where I had the mammogram done had called my home and my work trying to track me down. The x-ray revealed something anomalous. I need to have an ultrasound right away. I asked the nice nurse on the phone if this wasn’t just another one of my funky cysts. She put me on hold, conferred with someone more knowledgeable, then returned with “Not likely.”
“What is it then?” I asked. “We don’t know, that’s why we’re doing the ultrasound.”
“And what if that shows something weird?”
“Maybe a biopsy.”
I have spent all day, the better part of the last 14 hours, trying not to worry – but the fact is I’m terrified. I know very little of my family medical history because I was adopted. I do talk to my biological half-sister now and then, and I figured this was a good reason to call her up. The good news is that there is no history of breast cancer on my biological mother’s side of the family. The bad news is, we have no information about my biological father or his family.
So now it’s 2:00 in the morning, and I’m awake, and my muscles are twitching with anxiety, and I have to be to work in six hours – pretending that all is right with the world. At 2:00 tomorrow afternoon – a mere 12 hours from now – they’ll perform the ultrasound. And then we’ll see. But I want to know now. I want to feel that I have the necessary information, that I can take appropriate action, that I’m in control, even just a little bit. I saw a tee-shirt once that said “Control is an illusion.” I believe that. But I still want it.
The final blow in all of this is that I’m leaving on Saturday morning with my family for a vacation in Mexico. It’s easy to say, “Well, good, you can just relax and forget about it,” but the truth is that I won’t. I’ll obsess. I’ll rotor, as my friend Colleen used to say. It will be embedded in my brain, spinning around like a washer stuck on the spin cycle. I don’t want that to happen, but I know myself well enough to know better.
Yes, I acknowledge that there is a good chance that there is nothing wrong, that this is just some funky cyst that looks worse than it is. The plain fact is that I don’t know what it is, and that’s what is so agonizing for me. Not knowing is worse than knowing. If I know something, I can do something. Not knowing leaves me helpless and feeling vulnerable, and who really relishes that idea?
For now, I try to console myself with the idea that I will know SOMETHING in just a few more hours. Knowing that is better than having no idea at all.
I’m off to bed now. I have to teach in less than six hours. No doubt, tomorrow’s plans (or today’s I guess is more accurate) will include a nap. And maybe tequila. I’ll let you know.