In Sickness and in Health: Getting Through a False Alarm
The appointment itself went fine, especially since I knew not to look down this time around. And the rest of my birthday was lovely. But the next day I got a call from the doctor's office saying something was irregular with my left breast and I needed to come back as soon as possible. Irregular and as soon as possible…even left breast are not words you want to hear from a doctor's office. You don't want a breast singled out. Breasts come in pairs, and when all is going well, they are treated as pairs.
I immediately began seeing my life as a bad TV movie. I would be a bald bride walking down the aisle, and everyone would be saying how brave I was instead of how beautiful and happy. I imagined the wedding planning getting derailed by doctor's appointments, maybe even the wedding itself getting derailed, maybe the wedding being moved up so I could get married before I left the planet. By the time I called my fiancé at work (40 seconds later), I was in tears and practically writing my obituary.
This was not the first time I'd assumed the worst when it came to my health. At 15 in the town where I grew up, Tulsa, Oklahoma, I'd secretly plotted for a week about how to get to Planned Parenthood to see if I had a sexually transmitted disease. I finally rode my bike there (not a short ride) to learn not only that I didn't have the disease but that I had not even had sex. Or "penetration," as the nurse called it. When I asked what that meant exactly, it became clear to her (and me) that the naked fumbling I'd done recently did not count, and to add insult to virginity, she said the blister I was concerned about was most likely from my thighs rubbing together when I walked. So I had cellulite, not syphilis.
Despite that early lesson about not jumping to conclusions, I leaped. In my mind, if not in my breast, I had cancer. Or at least, the possibility of cancer. And in that uncertainty, I understood what it meant to be terrified. To know that one test, one call from a doctor, could change your life forever. Fortunately, my fiancé calmed me down. He said, "Not on my watch. Nothing is going to happen to you on my watch." That was so sweet and comforting, and as he held me in his arms that night, I thought, "Who the hell does he think he is? A superhero?! You can't stop cancer from happening, no matter how much you love someone!"