It’s Wednesday, January 4th 2017 and I’m reclined back on the exam table. I work for Kaiser Permanente, but it looks different from the view of a patient than an employee.
I rested my arms at my side, swathed in my favorite charcoal gray cashmere sweater, and let my knee-high leather boots tilt from side-to-side like windshield wiper blades. I didn’t look around and stared straight above at the ceiling tiles, just wanting to make it through. I groaned upon seeing the happy happy joy joy images on the ceiling tiles directly above me.
I felt anything but at ease while looking at a butterfly flitting about and red tulips. I don’t know what would make me feel better, but these are too bright, too love and light, for how I was feeling. The room was quiet except for the white paper crinkling with each swoosh of my boots breaking up the steady hum of the ultrasound machine.
Both rhythmic sounds fell short in comforting me. I was restless yet contained. I didn’t want the ultrasound technician to know about the infinite thoughts whirling in my head.
I focused on the butterfly, barely able to make out the wing design in the dark room. I blinked as my eyes adjusted, bringing the bright splashes of teal contrasted with the black outlines into focus. Bursts of color in an otherwise black and white shape. I would have done anything to feel that flush of teal in this black and white circumstance.
Cancer or no cancer. That is the question.
The technician prodded and probed around my neck, pressing firmly as she moved around, intent to capture all necessary views for the radiologist to determine why my thyroid has grown to the size of a walnut. It hurt but I didn’t want to say anything; I was intent to remain as frozen as possible.
I closed my eyes to shut the metamorphosed caterpillar out, fuck transformation right now and spring blooms. That felt like a broken promise right now. I breathed slowly in then out and prayed that I wouldn’t lose my shit and dissolve into sobs.
But it was too late. The mere thought wiggled its way through my consciousness and pierced my cool composure, tears rimming my lids. My emotions may have been squelched, but my body betrayed me.
In more ways than one.
Have you ever found yourself in the presence of another, or a crowd, and felt so utterly alone? There in the exam room, while hoping for the best yet acknowledging the potential worst, I felt totally and completely alone. Sure there was a blond haired woman in scrubs in the room, but it didn’t matter.
I realized that not one person could bring the light needed to shine through this dark tunnel. Not one facial muscle twitched, yet the tears continued to trickle out of the corners of my eyes.
“I am alone” resonated through my whole body as it wept. The despair cascading off my arms, chest and legs, rippling out into the room, sterilized and absorbed by the beige walls and efficient work of the technician.
I didn’t wipe them away, nor shut them down. I allowed the crystalline drops to cross my temples and wet the paper underneath.
Why is it when we’re faced with the mere thought of death do the real priorities line themselves up?
Like, you don’t even have to think twice but you just know; the stars align and you’re aware of what you must do and what you must let go.
I discovered the lump a few days prior to leaving for Christmas vacation with my family. The trip was guaranteed to be filled with laughs, cocktails, shopping and reminiscing; good ‘ole family fun.
But despite such distractions, I wanted to know. With a diagnosis I’d have something to hold onto, treatments to consider, courses of action, and processing of how I’d get through. I could move forward rather than feel paralyzed in limbo.
As a single mother, who is the sole income in the household, I was concerned if something interrupted my ability to work. What would we do?
My daughter. The mere thought brought me to my knees as my heart twisted into two. She’s only 8. There’s so much I want to show her, share with her and see her live through. All the “what if’s” unraveled as I realized how much I wanted us to get in more adventures, more snuggles, more shared stories and starfish moments (inside joke for her and I).
Time felt like a precious resource. And I wanted to wring it out with all that I could.
I was thankful to be spending time with my family and, but the magic of the season couldn’t push down this knowing that while I felt I’d be okay, I know that sometimes okay doesn’t speak to the difficult journey ahead.
With my new found clarity I knew I wanted to share special moments with the people I love.
I bought floor tickets for my mother and I to see Stevie Nicks in concert. Because, Stevie. And because I knew what it would mean for my mom and I wanted to share that with her.
I hung out with my dad and let him teach me a few chords on his Banjo Ukulele. I fiddled around with different variations until my fingertips went numb and I finally plucked out Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple. I don’t know what it is about that song, but you hand me a stringed instrument and I figure it out. That song lives in me.
I went snowshoeing with my sisters and hung back to watch them frolic and dance to the song I took a pill in Ibiza in sync. We took flasks of Hennessy and Maple Hill Bourbon for a warm up and shuffled like overstuffed marshmallows in our snow gear.
I rang in the New Year with my daughter, me sipping champagne and she sprite, while we wore “Happy New Year” crowns, eating cotton candy and giggling endlessly.
The year 2017 was here and I was ready, no matter what happened, to show up and continue to work towards writing the novels in my heart, aligning with my soul and loving deeply this messy flawed human being I am.
It settled into my bones that this really is what life’s about: Spending time and accumulating precious moments with those we love.
Back in the exam room, I lamented about not bringing a friend with me to appointment so I would at least have a hand to hold. I can shy away from asking for help, not wanting to be a burden, and be overly proud of doing things on my own. Interesting how “on my own” can feel like alone.
A voice whispered, “You are not alone.” Then a few more chimed in. I felt them surround me, as a slight static electricity touched my left hand.
I knew who they were. This may sound crazy to you, but it’s been perfectly normal for me over the past 7 years… the angelic beings I write about, that energy watches over me; spirit reminded me that no matter what, I’m not alone.
And neither are you. It doesn’t even require your belief, some things just are regardless of one’s awareness.
I still don’t have a diagnosis, but my results came back low risk for cancer and no further testing necessary I hadn’t breathed so deeply the past few weeks as I did right then. The lump is still there, it waxes and wanes, we’re learning to live with uncertainty. Because, that’s life.