I'd had a routine mammogram the week before, and had expected each day since to come home to an 'everything looks great!' letter in the mailbox. Instead, the phone call came in, telling me I needed to come back in as soon as possible for further images.
It was paralyzing.
We think we are made of stone, and in a second, we can be smacked hard with the reality of how vulnerable we actually are. The rest of Tuesday and the following Wednesday morning, I operated on auto-pilot to get through the necessary routines of the day. To my friends I maintained disposition, "I'm sure it's nothing, just a second look to be sure." To P, I expressed the truth - I was terrified. And then, it was Wednesday afternoon, and I was back at the imaging center for an ultrasound of the right breast.
Overall, I'm very healthy person, and I feel blessed every day for it. The idea, even for a fleeting moment, of becoming sick is such a worst-case scenario for us all. My only solace as I sat post-ultrasound, waiting on the doctor to come in and tell me the results, was that if something was wrong, chances were that it was very early point and I'd be okay.
If you have ever been in this position, then you know, as I do, how long ten minutes can be, sitting and waiting. Then the knock on the door, and you steel yourself to handle whatever is about to be said.
My news was good. For a moment, the world floated around me. The past twenty-four hours of anxiety faded into the bliss of 'I'm okay'. It was simply a lymph node, and the second look was a precaution, just to be certain.
I took my son for ice cream afterwards.
Watching him, talking to him, and thinking of the overwhelming joy combined with the often frightening amount of responsibility that being a parent, especially a solo parent, involves, I realized the importance of taking an aggressive approach to maintaining my health.
I love holistic healing and the idea that we are largely responsible for our overall general health...but I'm coming to realize the value of routine tests, screenings, and trusting that medical professionals are here to help us. I see the benefit in combining traditional medicines with modern practices. I see the need to be pro-active in every area in our lives to ensure we are healthy and happy.
Breast cancer is a frightening thought for all women, so frightening it leads them to avoid performing self-exams and mammogram screenings for fear something will be found. But truth is, early detection saves lives. It could have saved mine, had my results been different. It could save yours or the life of someone you love one day. In the interim, however, along with being vigilant about changes in the breast and health checks, we can also all strive to reduce our stress levels and create more peaceful flow and routines in our daily lives. Stress makes us not only depressed and dispirited, but it also makes us sick, bottom line.
The author of one of my favorite blogs, Saimaalife, writes about this beautiful in a recent post on breast health, and one of my favorite lines from this post is, "I think constant stress caused my breast cancer”, my former colleague said to me years ago. Some things stop you and make you think. They function as a catalyst for change. That sentence was a wake up call for me. It made me to really think about my stressfull job. It also made me to seek up more information about the negative impacts of a constant tiredness and stress on wellbeing. I begun searching the way out of the lifestyle that was making my mind and body ill."
Being vigilant is important, but so is committing to a simple, joyful lifestyle which reduces overall stress level by removing the constant pressure we often allow life to heap upon us. Stepping up, removing negativity from our lives, finding the wonder in the day to day...
I will close this somewhat sensitive post with photos of the rest of my Wednesday afternoon, which I spent outside, to ground myself and remember what was really and truly important. What began as a simple walk around the block near my parents' home ended up the discovery of a new trail and a lovely creek to explore.
A beautiful afternoon, full of nature and sunshine and gratitude.
Take care of yourselves... :-)