Friday, January 31, 2014

ordinary event

I got a mammogram and a check-up today. They are ordinary events. Well, they used to be...until I had cancer. Now, they're part of a muddled emotional experience that starts the very moment I pull into the parking garage. Every time.

As I park the car, it brings back memories of my first appointment, just days after I was diagnosed. Apprehension sort of begins to describe it, but really, words fail me here. The apprehension was mixed with a great deal hope and gratitude. I was going to see one of the best cancer teams around. I was an "easy" cancer case. They got this. Heading to surgeries, starting from that same garage, I felt the same emotional mixture. Now, I've reached the point where I feel twisty inside every time I'm in that garage, and I'm there a lot, relatively speaking, with surgeon check ups, oncologist visits, mammograms and whatnot. There's only one way past the garage twisty feeling: carry on, get out of the garage, and get lost inside the hospital. Yes, three years later and I'm still getting lost. Seriously.

I have found that there are (at least) two schools of thought with people I speak to about cancer: those who only view cancer as a real problem if it's incurable ("Oh? It was only Stage 1? That's nothing!" Seriously, that was said to me.) and those who look at even just one cancer cell as one too many. I'm in the latter group. In cancer treatment, it's all about the numbers. Like it or not, there are statistics associated with everything. During my treatment, my surgeon consistently reminded me that cancers like mine have a 98% 5-year survival rate. Yes, that sounds fantastic...and it is. Unless you're in the 2%. Being a rational person, I rarely panicked and stayed very positive...about 98% of the time. The other 2% of the time I was in full-blown panic. It didn't last long and my rational side took over quickly, but that sense of panic still comes back every single time the elevator doors open and I see the sign for the cancer center. I have to take some serious deep breaths to get a grip.  I HATE it there. I hate the waiting room...worry, fear, hope and every other crazy emotion echoing between everyone waiting there.

And yet, I LOVE the people who work there. Like, really-want-to-hug-everyone-but-that-would-be-weird kind of love. I am in awe of what they do and who they are. I am in awe that there are people who have dedicated their lives to helping all of us...the "easy" cancers and the scariest kinds.  They treat us all equally and respectfully. I am in awe that they can all invoke a sense of normal and calm when they work in a place that is anything but that. And I will be forever grateful.

Mammograms scare the hell out of me now. I'm not gonna lie. I go, of course. All of those lovable people keep making fantastic technology for early detection possible, so I'm certainly never going to miss one. I just keep the rational side of myself talking about the positives to drown out the 2% voice, with all of its yucky feelings, while I'm there. Yeah, it's still an emotional day for me, but so far, it's working. Amen to that.