This week I learned that an old friend has cancer. Her kids are about the age of mine, and so this news--after the initial shock of envisioning this person with a life-threatening illness-inevitably put my mind onto the unspeakable fear that every mother has: what if I die before my kids are grown? Because I know that's what my friend is thinking. That's one thing that comes with motherhood: the fear of your own death actually becomes secondary--to the fear of losing your children before it is time. It's a cliche, but it's true: you love your children more than life itself.
So when the call came from the mammogram folks, the ones I'd seen earlier this week for my usual yearly visit, I was primed for a freakout. The test has gone smoothly; I'd left thinking I'd gotten the all clear. Not so. "We saw something unusual," the lady said. "The doctor wants you to come back to another picture." Which I did. And then: "We still can't see it very well; we want to do a sonogram." And then, in a moment in which I felt myself disassociating from my body, I heard the words, "We want to do a biopsy."
I hit the internet the minute I walked in the door, before I dropped my coat. From it I learned that 80 percent of biopsies turn out to be of benign breast conditions. I learn that the survival rate for cancer is very high, especially if it's caught early. And it doesn't matter, because then the fear descends--the fear that something bad is about to happen, that I will have to leave my kids before I want to.
I spent some time this afternoon on the kitchen floor, sobbing. Now that freakout is over, and I am keeping it together, with the help of one or two good friends. Something here is getting me through, I don't know what, but I'm grateful for it. Somehow or other, it's gonna be okay--and by that I don't mean I'm confident I don't have cancer. I just mean that, cancer or not, it's going to be okay. At least, that's where I am at this moment. There's a 90 percent chance of another freakout in the next few days, but: one day at a time. Which is what I hope my friend is thinking, too.
If you are sending out good vibes, send some to her. And while you're at it, send some to me, too.