I had dinner with a friend last night. She’s only in town for a few days and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to see her because of everything that’s happening. I’m very glad I was able to go, though. I needed to talk to someone outside the situation. We had such a great conversation that I went home feeling pretty brave and confident. She reminded me that women get breast cancer all the time, sometimes more than once, and live to tell about it. She helped me consider all the practical matters. Talking to her was what I really needed at that moment.
The two days between the testing and the diagnosis were chaotic. I could do little else the day after the tests but hang out in bed. The biopsy left me bruised and sore. I was desperate for news, hesitant to leave the house for fear of missing a phone call. The waiting exhausted me. When I realized that I wasn’t going to hear anything that day, I made dinner and let my kids eat it in front of the TV. It was the first time I’d ever let them do that.
I guess I figured no news was good news. I think I felt that as long as the phone didn’t ring, I was safe. Still, I felt vulnerable. I wondered if I did have it, could I make it worse? If I had it, and I had to wait a long time to get treatment, how much worse could it get in the meantime? I tried to read; I tried to watch TV; I tried putting on music, but none of those things could stop the tape playing on a constant loop in my head.
I still knew nothing as I headed out the door with Katie on Thursday morning. She was officially on her spring break from school and I’d promised we’d go shopping. I’d gone grocery shopping earlier and had the whole day in front of me, and I hung around my house an extra hour just to make sure I wouldn’t miss any calls.
What I forgot when I headed out the door was that my phone wasn’t working. I could hear the voices of incoming callers, but they couldn’t hear me. It had been going on for a few days but it slipped my mind as I started my day. We left, and inside, I just knew I’d hear something while I was out.
I was driving. I could have predicted how it would happen, and I was right. I had to pull over at Central O’ahu park to return my doctor’s call, but of course, the receptionist couldn’t hear me. I called the office on my daughter’s phone and let them know to try me on my home phone.
I hate phone tag. I’m not a fan of phones in general. The fact that we still play phone tag in this age is bizarre. Phone tag between two people when one of them is waiting on life-changing news is nothing short of torture. I was panicking. It occurred to me that if my tests were clear, I’d get an email message from my doctor. For ten minutes, I hit refresh on my browser, hoping I’d get email absolution.
I didn’t. She called. She told me to call Ryan and get him to meet me at her office as soon as I could. She wouldn’t give me any details. Katie was angry; she disappeared after we returned home and didn’t tell me where she was going. I didn’t know when she’d be back. I called Ryan. I must have sounded hysterical. I told him I’d drive down to the office. He said he’d pick me up at home. Katie arrived back home just before Ryan pulled into the driveway. She knew something was wrong. There were no more half-true excuses; no more changing the subject. I was about to go back to the doctor for the fourth time in two weeks and I had to tell her why.
I’d only met my physician on that first visit, but I liked her. She’s young and articulate and friendly. I’m surely not the first cancer diagnosis she’d ever given. I think doctors may never really get used to giving them. My doctor was overwhelmed, I think. She rushed through a lot of very scary words, but with a constant smile and a reassuring voice. She was clearly aiming to stay upbeat.
The good news was that treatment was being arranged, as we spoke. I had an appointment with a surgeon the next day and additional testing was also being scheduled. I suddenly had information. At that moment, I knew more about what was ahead of me than I had before. The news was scary, but now I knew it was really real.