Session 1: Week 3
I have known many troubles in life but few have come to pass.
– attributed to Mark Twain
For many years this quote graced the front of my refrigerator, in my face against worry. The truth is, the other shoe has fallen so many times that I’m giving Imelda Marcos competition. Shoes of all sorts just keep falling from my sky.
My twist on the quote would have to be “I’ve known many troubles in life and many have come to pass.” Take this week for example, three days before Thursday’s Session 2 with Nate. In an effort toward extending camaraderie and sympathy to the countless women I’ve had the privilege to mentor, I’ve often said, “There’s only two things I haven’t experienced: prison (in society’s government sense) and cancer. Other than those two, whatever challenge you can imagine, I’ve likely experienced it and understand the associating emotions. I hope to always be able to say I’ve not faced those two challenges, but . . . . Monday was a my regularly scheduled annual mammogram. It’s not uncommon for me to be called back a week or so, after an annual visit, for a second scan. Many women with fibroid-cystic breast are accustomed to a call back. So, while Tuesday’s call to return for 3D imaging wasn’t a huge surprise, I was a little taken aback that the call had come so quickly and that the Dr. Radiology wanted those 3D images taken the next day. Oookay.
Tuesday, after the 3D imaging, the technician said, “Before you change, the doctor would like to look at your scans. Ooooookay. Of all the second-round imaging I’d had in previous years, this was a new twist. I waited—not very long—and the technician reappeared and said the doctor would like me to stay so he can talk with me about his findings. WHAT?! That quick electric-like feeling shot through my body. How does one respond to such a request except to simply say, “Ooookay?”
I hardly had time to consider the possibilities before Dr. Radiology appeared, extending his hand and introducing himself, though I didn’t catch his real name. Everything about this experience was moving way too fast for me to think it through while he was talking to me and drawing pictures on one of those 4 x 6 scratch pads. I needed everything to stop for a minute so I could catch up—those superhuman moments like you see in a movie when everyone and everything around the main character suddenly freezes in place and she’s the only one able to move, look around, hear, consider what happening. Everything Dr. Radiology was saying to me fell deaf on my buzzing ears. Everything in me was searching for an escape route back to normalcy. I’d suddenly been thrust into a twilight zone where my own thoughts were competing with the doctor’s words I was only partially hearing and drawings of dots clustered together. Thinking back, I realized he had drawn the same pictures for me three times. I recalled that he had ripped after another scratch-pad paper off, and each time had redrawn the same dotted pattern, describing the clusters as “calcifications” that had appeared in the 3D images of my left breast. It wasn’t until much later that I wondered why he had not simply shown me the scans instead of trying to draw them on a little notepad. Nonetheless, the point is that I was in a daze of surprise and unable to catch the details he was throwing at me.
What was very clear to me (aside from a potential cancer issue) was his manner with me. He was THE most kind, caring, attentive, personal, personable, gentle, patient, upbeat . . . doctor I had ever encountered in my many years. He had an INCREDIBLE manner. It felt like he’d known me all of my life and that if there was anyone on earth who should be telling me these concerns and conclusions, it should be him. Strange as this may seem, he made the whole encounter sound like I had just won a trip, though it might cost me something, and he was going to get to go with me. He had me on board and asking, “Where do I sign up?” He was that good. He had sat very close to me and even occasionally patted my knee. Later I wondered if his pats might have been his efforts to more fully get my attention, but I rather like to think they were his kind touches of authentic caring that matched his tone and positivity.
By the time I made it from the changing room to halfway down the glass-walled corridor of the hospital, the return to reality was stinging me and I suddenly felt too tired to move. I stopped and placed all my stuff (coat, sweater, purse, book bag) on the extra-wide inner ledge that jutting from a wall of glass and ran the length of the windowed corridor, giving visitors and staff a full view of the outdoors. It was only 10:00 a.m., but dark gray
and pouring rain. I sat down on the ledge, feeling ‘udderly’ exhausted from head to toe and inside and out, and joined the heavenly weepers while I dialed my husband.
“It’ll be okay hon,” he soothed quietly. I wasn’t so sure. He always said that, and somehow we always made it through life’s challenges, so he must be right. Have I shared yet that my husband is an angel? I mean a real angel. There are two conclusions I’ve come to about my husband of nearly 28 years: he’s either an angel and doesn’t know it yet, and won’t until he steps into glory and finds out, or there’s a secret angel code that prohibits him from telling me he’s an angel. There are many human and biblical accounts of angels on earth, so (since meeting my husband and marrying him), I’ve come to believe he must have been given this extra-long assignment (to live with me), dedicated to see me through torrential downpours of dropping shoes.
A few texts later to my closest prayer warriors, I had even less energy to get up and move out of the corridor, out of the building, and to my car. I pressed my extra-warm, tear-dripping face against the cool glass wall’s dripping face and we continued to commensurate together for a timeless period. The sky was too dark in the morning’s mourning for me to gauge the passing of time, but eventually I propelled myself up and out to carry on the rest of my day as usual, wondering how I was supposed to do that “usual” part. I felt myself shifting inside as though I had been picked up and tilled, and everything in my spirit was sliding sideways.
In yoga, we’re constantly—I mean in every sentence spoken by the instructor—reminded to BREATHE: “Deep cleansing breath in through the nose. Exhale slowly, from the throat.” In fact, we hear these precise instructions so often through each 1.5-hour class that taking “deep cleansing breaths”had become a more-common method of breathing for me outside of class. I would find myself at various places and times taking Ujjayi (oo-jai-ee) breaths (“victorious breaths”), especially when I’m trying to go to sleep. In the months since beginning yoga, my lung capacity has increased and my exhales are no longer jagged with quivering. I can now inhale deeply and can slowly exhale with strength that feels empowering and calming. So, as I stood up to say to Dr. Radiology with resignation, “Ooookay,” it was without thinking that I inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly in succinct rhythm as I made my way to the dressing room. My thoughts, however, raced as I sluggishly dressed. I wondered how long I would have to endure the agonizing slowing of time that always occurs when one is in the waiting zone. Would I be safely exonerated from everyone’s worse fear: cancer? The air in the dressing room suddenly felt too thick for Ujjayi breaths.
Standing once again at the front counter in the waiting room—to gain a biopsy appointment—I was surprised to learn that it would take place on Friday morning; in 24 hours. Wow . . . these people really do take potential cancer seriously. I felt like I had boarded China’s Shanghai Maglev without purchasing a boarding pass and was being sucked into a vortex of confusion and uncertainty.
At this writing juncture, I’m recovering nicely from Friday’s stereotactic biopsy and looking at the interminable days ahead until the jury returns with a verdict. I’m wondering if I’ll be changing the blog site’s name from “My EMDR Journey” to “My EMDR & Cancer Journey.” Sure, the doc said he’s ninety percent certain the results will be negative, and while that’s encouraging, that other ten percent can feel pretty weighty in the waiting. And WHY, in heaven’s name, must “positive” test results mean bad news and “negative” results mean good news? I know, I know . . . . , it’s the science behind it, but still it sound bassackwards: “I have positive news, my test was negative!” Pretty oxymoron.
I have a tendency toward crass, dry humor. As my mom used to say about bad news, “I can either laugh or cry.” So, either way the dice rolls, here’s the humor posted in the dressing room of the Women’s Diagnostic Center: “Friends are like bras: close to your heart and give you support.”
Support is a blessing on my long list of gratitude: a large, closely-knit family (sperm donor dad the exception), a really solid group of prayer warrior friends, and a host of caring acquaintances and even strangers. I recognize that the positivity of these relationships are not happenstance but flowers and petals grown through a labor of commitment to extend and receive the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.¹ I received these fruits in spades by Dr. Radiology and his staff. And I must continue to work to extend these to others and to be willing to graciously and thankfully receive them.
That evening, a friend asked me the doctor’s name and I looked at her blankly and said, “I have no idea!” She looked surprised and we both burst into laughter at the absurdity. The next morning, when I was talking with the Womens’ Diagnostic Center about insurance stuff, and thinking how superbly and uncharacteristically attentive and personal and kind and encouraging the doctor had been, I asked, “What’s the doctor’s name?” She replied, “Dr. Cross.” Ahhhh . . . , that made sense; the irony of his name was not lost on me. He had behaved exactly as I would imagined Jesus would have if He had been the one giving me the news. ♡
Love well and receive love,
Wisteria Cove, North Atlantic