Thursday, December 20, 2007

Houston, we may have a problem...

SPOILER ALERT!! I'm about to tell you the end to this story before I even start. I think that in this particular case many of you will probably want to know how it ends before you actually get there. If not, skip this next sentence: I'm just fine. And now, on to this evening's tale of suspense and horror....

Last week I went to get my first ever mammogram. I had convinced my OB/Gyn to book one for me even though I am too young for the usual first screening by explaining to her that if I ever were going to get another cancer I would like to catch it in the earliest stage possible. Perhaps when that rogue cell was even *thinking* about dividing uncontrollably. ("Gee. I'm bored. And I'm sick of all these rules about the cell cycle. They can't tell *me* what to do! That's it, man! I'm going to divide uncontrollably! Where's my Braveheart face paint? Ready? AAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHH!") So I went in, with Scout by my side, and had my boob smushed a-this-a-way and a-that-a-way while they took pretty x-ray pictures. Not so bad after all. Well, good. That's done.

Until two days later when I got message from my doc. "Hi Megan. Well, they found a shadow on your left breast. It's probably nothing - I'm not worried - probably just a fold in the skin during the x-ray - but I do want you to come back and get a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound." Okay. I'm going to try to be very calm about this. If she's not worried, I shouldn't be worried, right? Besides, breast cancer isn't one of the cancers that I have to worry about with my particular genetic syndrome, so it'll be okay. I mean, statistically, what are the chances of me having two unrelated cancers under the age of 35? Whatever it is, it has to have a 10^-100,000 after it, right?

So yesterday I go in for my second set of tests. On the way from the car to the hospital I feel like I might cry, vomit or shit my pants. Like, all at once. We get to the waiting room and I'm ushered into the 2nd waiting/dressing room. I change into my hospital gown and come out to see two ladies in identical gowns each sitting on separate couches. There is a third, vacant couch waiting for me. Suddenly I feel like I'm in "No Exit". Existentialist hell is waiting with two strangers to see if you have breast cancer. I decide that I'm going to be Inez, the lady to my left is Estelle and the brunette is Garcin.

After a long wait (they were having trouble printing my films from the previous week) I am taken into the x-ray room. They do more films, more angles. The tech tells me to wait in the waiting room. If these show the shadow, too, then they'll do an ultrasound. If not, then they'll assume it was a fluke in the x-ray and I can go home.

So I wait. And I shake. And I'm trying not to cry. I do the Buddhist trick of trying to observe my emotions. At least you take yourself one step out of the line of fire that way. The tech pokes her head through the door, "Megan? Come follow me."

Oh holy shit. The shadow is still there.

She says, "the radiologist is having a hard time reading your scans. Sometimes the shadow's there, but sometimes not, so we're going to have to do more angles? " Okay - not sure yet - I can handle this. So we take more x-rays and I wait in the x-ray room while she takes these new pics to the radiologist. Waiting and waiting and waiting. Trying not to vomit. No vomit, please.

She comes back. "You're fine! No shadows on these new ones at all!"

I high five the x-ray tech, peek outside the dressing room and mouth to Scout, "No cancer!" and then quickly change back into my clothes.

I have a student in half an hour so I beeline back to my office where I suddenly feel very dizzy, plop down in a chair and cry. Big, heaving, wet tears of relief.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Big world and little me

I'm not sure if it's my innate anthropologist or the smashing of preconceptions or the chance to eat unidentifiable foods but, damn, do I ever like to travel. I got back from Japan on Wednesday and the jetfog is just now receding enough for me to write a coherent blog entry. Japan did for me exactly what I had hoped -- got me out of my daily routine, rubbed and opened my metaphorical eyes and reminded me that I should not always believe everything I think. It's less a matter of finding new beliefs in whichever place I am visiting than remembering that other people don't think like me, or like Americans, or like Westerners, or with whichever group I've unconsciously been stepping in line. Oh right! Independence, free will, personal connection to the universal jim-jam! All good things.

I mostly stayed in Kyoto which was old and wise. The maple leaves were showing off their best plumage in red, orange and yellow. The shrines felt sacred and the teenagers felt like shopping. I shared a magnificent view of the city with hundreds of monkeys. I think they were over it, though. Seemed more interested in peanuts and screaming.

And I got to spend time with an old friend. Which very well may have been the best part.

If y'all want to see some photos of pretty colored leaves, along with other random items of interest, click here: