The Red-Toed Crab

April 16th, 2010 marked my first year away from breast cancer treatment. The day passed rather unceremoniously. Then another date appeared on the horizon. May 25th, the date of my second mammogram since “all that.” Despite my attempts to just keep it as an appointment on the calendar, it burrowed right under my skin and sat at the base of any rational thought I attempted to maintain. And it fed those ridiculous irrational thoughts as well.

I had chemo to kill any tiny cancer cell circulating. I had radiation to kill those that might be lingering in my breast. I’m on the 5-year aromatase inhibitor plan; the test drug that eats the estrogen that fed my kind of breast cancer. But the other breast… could another type spring up on the other side?

A mammogram won’t pick up anything; it’s a formality because I’m an MRI girl. Before an MRI is when I should shake and spin. Not now.

Have I done all that I can for Will, Liam, and Bill? If I’m gone, I want some sort of stability in their daily lives. For the boys to move through the days confidently. At school. At swimming and gymnastics. To love reading more than playing Wii. To get dirty playing outside. What more can I do?

Tuesday, the day before the mammogram, I had a quick pedicure with a friend. Red hot toes are ready for summer. But when I put them up on a chair and looked at them – they were the same toes I remember from June 2009. Sitting in my friend’s hammock waiting for her to return from a walk with the boys. I had my doctor’s appointment and she took care of the boys for me. Leaving that appointment, I knew. And, in that hammock looking upward beyond my toes, it was my first pissy conversation with God. “So this is it, huh? You are putting THIS in my path?” I left the hammock with a strangely confident, pissed-off attitude. It matched my red toes. Perhaps matching the crab shell I was born into, like a suit of armor. I saw the boys coming up the sidewalk, and I left the hammock hissing, “Try it. Just try to pierce this.”

Last Wednesday, tempting fate, my red toes marched me into the compression chamber. Although a tight squeeze, it wasn’t painful. However, the tech said if I got a call to come back it wouldn’t be for lack of compression! I looked in the mirror after I took off the dreaded blue Johnny to see the skin on my chest was a lighter shade of the color on my toes.

Friday afternoon I got the all-clear call while waiting in the hallway at gymnastics. “When does this get easier?” I asked the bearer of good news; the same person I had talked to the day before to say, “This is working on me. I can’t wait for the letter; please call me when you get the results.” She said it would get better with time.

Since in public, the crab didn’t crumble at the news. Although I wanted to share it with my new gymnastic-mom friends, I held back because the bigness of an OK mammogram… well, verbalizing probably would make me cry. Took a deep breath and blew out those daunting thoughts that had been rumbling since the turning of the April page on my calendar, since I had an inescapable dream two weeks ago that I had to have chemo again; since a “hot” spot was found on a friend’s lung a week ago. All that sat more thinly veiled than I realized through every meeting at school this month; behind every laugh with friends; next to me every night while reading books to my boys.

Ack… Yuck… Enough.

Onward as a red-toed crab dressed for summer. Keeping the uncertainty at bay – at least until the flip of the October calendar page, revealing a November MRI.

(The unedited journal of the breast cancer year begins here: Staying Strong.)