Life Under a Microscope

Denial. It has its place.  It calms.  It centers.

I finished treatment for breast cancer five years ago.  My follow-up plan is to have alternating MRIs and mammograms every six months.  Two weeks ago after my MRI, I recognized my breast surgeon’s voice on the answering machine.  Call me; it’s just something very small.  An MRI showed a tiny change in a nodule in the other breast.

My doctor sent me for an ultrasound and, if necessary, a biopsy.  The first ultrasound was canceled by the blizzard.  A week later, the ultrasound showed nothing.  Nothing to biopsy by ultrasound.  My doctor strongly encouraged me to have an MRI-guided biopsy.  Or, I could wait six months.  And wonder.  I waited four days for an appointment. Last Friday I had the biopsy.

Over that two-week period, most of me was calm.  Strangely calm.  I’m watched under a microscope.  Unlike most of the female population, there are many, many internal images on film of my breasts.  I had three thoughts:

First, if it is something, this is the first time it has been picked up, so I’m going to assume it’s small.  I’m going to assume at the worst it’s a surgery and maybe radiation.

My second thought was false positive.  I’m alive; I’m aging; I see changes on the outside – and the complex parts are all on the inside!  Surely internal cells and nodules will change as well.

Finally, I thought about the system of observation.  It’s working.  Something changed and now we investigate.

I denied the possibility of an all-out big lump of cancer.  Of statistics guiding my future.  I had passed the five-year mark.  I quietly celebrate at the beginning of every season opener of American Idol.  Every mid-January I’m as delighted with the show’s theme music as I was in 2010 when I had had my last round of chemo.


Because my kids aren’t ready to live without me.

Because Bill isn’t ready to parent without me.

Because there are many more words to come out of my fingertips.

And I move to denial via statistics.  Statistically speaking, I have more of a chance dying today by getting hit by a bus while being distracted by the thought of cancer than I do from dying of cancer.  This statistic has been with me since I was diagnosed in 2009.  Today, I’m more likely to get hit by a bus than die of cancer.  I convince myself that there could ever only be one day when those statistics could swing the other way.

Yesterday, snow day Tuesday, I’m full of denial and making lists of ways to better our lives.  And, again I’m soaking in this once in a lifetime Northeastern snow event.

The phone rings and caller ID says it’s my doctor’s office.  I carry the ringing receiver to the toy room doorway and lean heavily against the door frame before pushing “Talk.”  This time, the voice on the other end – to my relief – is not my doctor.  And I know before she says the word.


(More life under a microscope... The Eye of the Storm.)