Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Storms and Biopsies

The Morning After

Yesterday a storm poured through the Mid-South. Schools closed early. A first grader commented, "They’re closing the school for rain?" And I had to think the same thing. Where’s the snow and ice? We have always been on the tornado circuit, although most tornados leap the Mississippi and land a dozen miles on the other side. And the clouds were lava black yesterday as this long strip storm sped across the river like a noisy Indianapolis race car going who knows where for what reason, victory over something, I guess. A warm storm like this in mid-winter is surely an example of global warming. As well, the Ecuadoran volcano Tunguruhua located between Quito and Guayaquil has stirred up and is spitting fire, and Hilary Clinton won the first primary. Hoorah. Having been a door breaker when I was the first woman ordained to Holy Orders in the southern cone of South America, I am pro women as political leaders.

Yesterday a small storm pushed into my life. I’ve lived through a number of diseased (malaria, the serious hepatitus, both when I returned from Africa in ‘62, and others unmentionable) but have felt healthier and stronger this past year at 67 and 68 than in anytime in my life. When I go in for annual mammograms I shrink not, even when they flip and flop my boob in such a way I wonder if the technician has had a bad day. I was told by good doctors in Uruguay that I don’t have cancer-type breasts. I nursed my three children 26 months total. I eat blueberries and strawberries and broccoli and am a vegetarian of sorts (no meat or chicken). I don’t drink or smoke or gamble (not even slots) and drink only one cup of coffee and not always daily. (I irritated my father because I usually only drank half a cup and left the rest.) I’ve used aluminum free deodorant for thirty years (that may be to stop alzheimers). I take a ton of pills to stay alive (like Lipitor and CQ10. I exercise and deep breathe and stretch and climb stairs (when I can find them) and have great faith in God that nothing is wasted in our lives if we grab the ball when it comes our way. My mantra is the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary. But, I reasoned, maybe it’s my time to hit the fan, so to speak. There is nothing so special about me that suggests I shouldn’t have to go through the female blight called breast cancer. I’ve thought about it every time I see the color pink.

The biopsy yesterday was tedious and mostly waiting and wondering why I was waiting. My close friends Mike and Novella drove me under tomentous skies to the Women’s Center and were willing to sit it out with me, but my daughter arrived and took charge. It seems everyone I know has had biopsies, including both of my daughters. So we sat in the squares of rooms in pretty comfy chairs and I read The Whale Warriors by Peter Heller. I was wrapped in two robes both opened toward the front (one for biopsy, one for warmth - although with 70 degree temperatures outside and air-conditioners not adjusted, I was too toasty) like everyone else present in the name of mammogram or ultrasound or biopsy, both good and bad news. The place was packed. '

The Doctoress (Doctora in Spanish) is suspicious about this tiny moment that has invaded my boob - it’s like Let’s Make a Deal - Door one: it could be something sounding like paladapolus - is that a Middle Eastern bread? - which is not cancer but would have to be removed before a couple of months passed (I didn’t ask why). Door Number Two: a tiniest of a cancer tumor which can be cut out and probably without the falderal of chemicals that usually wear one’s spirit down. (The Doctoress herself had a tiny tumor cut out in the ‘90ties.) Door Number Three: it could be nothing and we just leave it for posterity. I’m confident it’s whatever God is ready to throw at me now - and I’ll deal with it like I deal with most challenges. I’ll listen, I’ll pray, I’ll prepare and run to win whether I do or not.

A biopsy of something so tiny is done with ultrasound. It took a number of passes to find the thing. The breast is numbed with novocaine - sort of like going to the dentist - and they get to work. Alcohol was dabbed all over the place. And some jell. Then a needle was inserted to make a path for the digger (my term). It’s relative if you are oozing or bruising because that can interfere with vision. I oozed. Then a weapon was made ready - I didn’t dare look at that, hearing the Doctoress and the Nurse talking about it, sounded like a shark gun - they find the target and shoot the hook in and it grabs a fish and pops back out. Why a gun? Because the Doctoress asked, Ready to fire? And when the target was exact, she said, Fire. There was a definite pop and then a sigh of relief. It wasn’t painful because I was numb. However, it was repeated two times more to get three good samples. (Seemed to me if it was so tiny, couldn’t they have taken it all?)

Meanwhile you hold your left arm (left side) over your head for about a half hour as this procedure is endured (I suggested they put handles on the top of the chair-bed to hold on to). There was no silence during the biopsy. Everyone chatted - sort of meaningless things. About mutual friends. About living on the river. About when I could return to exercise. A nurse named Pat who had advised me on the front end about what would happen held my hand. I hope I didn’t cut off her circulation. She had one of those angel voices that seeped through the chatter.
A plain old band-aid was put over the wound. An ice pack followed. I had to press myself for a while. Keep ice on it the rest of the day. Wear an exercise bra to bed. Don't lay down for eight hours. There were lots of "ifs" as well but the best solution was pressing hard against the wound and icing up. Because I had oozed and bruised, I wasn’t to resume exercise for three days. I was told I could not lift anything the rest of the day - nothing heavier than a coffee cup.

Have you ever thought about that? My purse is heavier than a filled gallon jug. So are my car keys. But of course, I couldn’t drive. My sweet daughter became my pack horse and chauffer. As the black clouds hovered over East Memphis buildings, we headed out to the grocery just as the rains came. Ha. Have you ever imagined how heavy a grapefruit or cantaloupe is? Or a carton of milk? It was hard for a "do it yourself" person to have to ask someone to do it for me. I couldn’t even lift the dog bowl. But part of my family, loyal as we are, went to the Grizzlies - Lakers basketball game to celebrate Elvis’ birthday (?) and eat popcorn.

Primarily, of this experience - the results of which I should know today - is everyone’s prayer and love was felt deeply in my heart. And the emails of encouragement and confidence as well. I’ll spend these days correcting, re-writing and adding photos to my blog. I apologize for the errors but I did not have an editor and I was mostly in a panic to get the blog off when there was a moment of Internet. (During my trip.) I will also bug the Geek Squad as I await the return of the saved data from my laptop that crashed. It’s been two and a half weeks. Waiting. Breathe Deeply. Believe.

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