Wednesday, December 6, 2017
IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!!!
Or...at least I thought it was. Until I found IT.
I had flown home this past month for Thanksgiving with my family. There was nothing out of the ordinary about that--I fly home monthly. I flew into Denver the afternoon of Thanksgiving. I picked up my twins at their grandmother's house, and then checked into our hotel room at the Sheraton (our home away from home when I am in Denver).
I was exhausted. By the time we were settled into the hotel room that night, I had two kids that were full of turkey, and I hadn't eaten since about 11:00 a.m. that day. I ordered room service, had a quick bite to eat, and went to sleep.
I woke up the next day, and hit the mall for a few things that were not at all Black Friday related. It was mostly items to stock the fridge at the hotel so that my teenage wolverines didn't chew their own legs off in hunger. I went to the gym. I did my normal cardio workout. Then I went over and worked on my abs. I broke that up with my normal weight lifting routine for my arms/back/chest. By the time I got done, I was feeling it. I thought it might have something to do with traveling from sea level in California, up to nearly 7,500ft elevation in the foothills of Colorado and working out.
When I returned back to the hotel room, I massaged my muscles. I massaged my arms, neck, and upper chest to loosen things up. It was at that time that my hand came to a screeching halt.
My eyes shifted back and forth for a bit. I pursed my lips and made a, "hmmmm..." sound. Then I ran my hand over my upper chest again. This time, my heart sank a little.
I found...a lump. The one thing that no woman wants to find on her chest (unless she pays for strategic augmentation that feels more like a water balloon to enhance her "beauty").
My heart sank. I now had a lump in my throat, too. My hand was right at the top of my breast tissue on my right side--right where I could feel my upper ribs start, and breast tissue end.
I immediately went into the loo and did a complete examination of both sides of my chest. I am fairly good at remembering periodically that I am supposed to be doing routine breast examinations, but it had been months--and now I had something that I had never felt before...and it was BIG (3 finger widths). However, to give myself credit, I think I'm better at remembering to do semi-routine breast examinations than I am at remembering to go in for an annual GYN examination. It's horrible to admit--especially since, not only am I a nurse, but I'm a nurse in WOMEN'S HEALTH!! Ugh. I kill me sometimes. I think my last GYN exam was in 2011 when I got sterilized. Super horrible to admit. I could've died from cervical cancer like 8 times by now. It's ridiculous. BUT...we all know that nurses are the worst at taking care of themselves health care-wise. Stating fact--not making excuses.
I checked both sides of my chest so that I had a bilateral comparison of normal vs abnormal--and I definitely had something that didn't match the other side that was going on. My heart sank into my stomach...again.
"Dear God--please don't let it be cancer."
I walked out of the hotel bathroom. I sat on the bed. My daughter asked me what was wrong. She's 15, and we don't keep much a secret as far as our bodies go in my family. I am not of that narrow minded school of thought, and I always want my children to be educated and confident in their bodies and their relative circumstances. That, and their grandfather was a physician, and their grandmother was a nurse, so they get hammered with anatomy and physiology, inadvertently, on a regular basis.
I told my daughter I had found a lump in my breast. She said, "Let me see!" So, I showed her the area of concern, and allowed her to palpate the tissue as her curiosity so desired. She said, "OMG, MOM!!!!...that's HUGE!!!!"
Seeing as though I was out of town, and nowhere near my primary care physician, I decided to do the exact thing that I always tell my patients to STOP DOING--I consulted Dr. Google. And, par for the course, according to Dr. Google, with 100% certainty, I had breast cancer. It was going to be a very relaxing trip...OBVIOUSLY.
I spent the rest of that trip in kind of a daze. I didn't know what to think, and I felt isolated and trapped--states away from anyone who could give me any answers back in California. I had brought it up to my boyfriend. He was sweet, and very supportive. He tried to be reassuring. However, when you are faced with something like this--not even the most reassuring voice of reason can quiet the voice of paranoia and Dr. Google in your head that YOU HAVE CANCER.
On my last night in Denver, I went over to my ex-husband's house. We had been talking about the kids, and commiserating about how hideous, obnoxious, and entitled most children are at the age of 15, but that we love them anyway, and want nothing more than for them to be successful and to turn out to be decent human beings. Then, one of the kids popped off about something, interjected her two cents worth on the topic of my breasts. I didn't take kindly to it (nor did her father), and I ended up having my eyes well up with tears, and everything I had emotionally been holding in for days finally came flooding out in that moment. I told my ex-husband what I had discovered over Thanksgiving break. However, unlike my unruly teen, he was reasonable, sympathetic, and quick to give me a big hug and tell me that things were most likely going to be OK. Then we both tearfully agreed how hideous 15 year olds are, again.
I returned to California late that night. The next day, I called my PCP and made an appointment to be seen. They said they could get me in the next day. It became very real, very quickly, how hard it is to WAIT in situations such as these. It's horrible. It's very easy to let your mind get away from you, and run in 90 different directions--none of which are good for your health, or peaceful.
I went into my doctor's office. I was to be seen by the female nurse practitioner that day. I didn't care. The bottom line was that I needed an order for a mammogram and an ultrasound of the area I found the lump. Nonetheless, as I sat in the waiting room of my doctor's office, I had a blank stare on my face. I just kept repeating, "Please, God, don't let it be cancer." Eventually, I was called into the examination room.
A woman (not my nurse practitioner) walked into my room. She didn't introduce herself. She just started asking me questions. She had a white coat on. She looked legit. But it rubbed me the wrong way that she didn't even say "HI", or give a proper introduction.
She then started asking me a whole host of questions about my health history--all of which my primary doctor already knows BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE I GO FOR MY HEALTH CARE. I finally shut her down and said, "I've already filled out all of my information, so if you need a comprehensive patient profile, you can look it up in my chart. I can't even think straight right now because I am so worried."
She apologized and said, "I'm sorry--I'm a student nurse practitioner, so they want me to ask these questions." I am sure she would've appreciated me being compliant with her interrogation of my health history that the facility already had on file, but I had bigger fish to fry. And I was actually proud of myself that I didn't pop off and say, "Well, if that's the case, we can start with a proper introduction, and a "HI, HOW ARE YOU TODAY?""--which it's impressive that I spared her the lecture on proper formal provider/patient introductions, but Dr. Google said I was dying of breast cancer, so I shouldn't bite the hand that is about to feed me the order for the mammogram I desperately needed, right? RIGHT. Yay me. Sometimes, silence is a virtue--even though it threatens to kill me at times, too.
I took my shirt off. I was offered a gown, but figured the GIRLS GONE WILD approach would be just as effective. The student practitioner palpated my breast and immediately felt what I was concerned about. The legit nurse practitioner then came in, contorted me into 15 different positions with my arms and body, did the same thing--and said she wasn't convinced I had a lump.
AS AN ASIDE: I had taken a step back a time or two the previous week to reason with myself. I thought, "Maybe I have always had this lump and just never realized it.--maybe, like Lady Gaga says, "Baby, you were born this way!" Quite possible. But I needed a mammogram before I lost more sleep--and my mind.
I received my order for my mammogram and ultrasound. The legit nurse practitioner said it would be through a company I had never heard of. I asked her why I couldn't go to my hospital to get it done. She said it was easier for her to order through this other company because their computers interfaced orders with one another. I didn't understand it, but I went with it.
I sat up, put my bra and shirt back on, and felt my eyes welling up with tears again. Then the floodgates opened. All the emotions I had been holding back had manifested in that moment. Both the nurse practitioner and student NP looked like they didn't know what to do. They asked if there was anyone in the waiting room waiting for me. There wasn't. Then they both came up to me and gave me a hug, and reassured me that it was going to be OK. The first real personal interaction I had felt with them since the second they stepped into my room.
I called the imaging clinic they had referred me to the next day. There was man "helping" me with scheduling. I'm not usually a man hater, but I really didn't feel like dealing with a male scheduler for my mammogram. Not only that, but I was having to explain things to him, he couldn't find the order, he had no idea who my doctor was, or where the office was located, and he couldn't find the order. I'm not saying this series of unfortunate circumstances was due to him being a man--I just didn't feel like dealing with him, or his ineptitude at that moment. I was still in panic mode. He then said he would have to contact my clinic for the order, and then he said the closest clinic he could send me to was in Beverly Hills. I told him that I wasn't driving to Beverly Hills for a mammogram--especially not after knowing the imaging center for the hospital I work with is literally across the street from my hospital. I basically hung up the phone on him. I probably could've been more cordial and appreciative for his mediocre efforts with my scheduling, but I wasn't in the mood. At this point, as far as Dr. Google and I were concerned, I was still dying, and he was just wasting more of my precious time.
I called my clinic back and asked them to put in the order with my hospital clinic. I knew it wasn't convenient, but neither was my current frame of mind. Thankfully, they bent over backwards, and got me scheduled for the next morning at 9:45 a.m. for a mammogram and ultrasound. I had to work the night before, so I would get off at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and then wait for the appointment afterward.
I went into the women's imaging clinic. I grabbed my clipboard with paperwork I needed to fill out. I sat in the lobby surrounded by nobody my age, and I just kept saying, "Please, God--don't let it be cancer."
I filled out my paperwork. I was called up to the admission desk. They knew I was an employee of the company. The lady was so nice to me. She could tell I was terrified. I told her I had just worked all night at the hospital, and I had to be back to work that night, so I would be running on short sleep because of my appointment time. She expedited EVERYTHING. She said she would get me back to be seen as soon as possible, and SHE DID. It was SO nice to be so well taken care of.
I went back to the dressing area. They gave me a locker, and some green scrub kimono top thingy that came in one size fits NOT ME (so that each side could open/cover up for the mammogram). I went into a changing room, put the oversized shirt on, and then went and sat in the mammogram waiting room. I was the only one in the waiting room at that time. I could hear crickets chirping--and Christmas music playing in the background. I picked up a magazine. I flipped through the pages. I didn't care about the celebrities, the fashion, or the ads...I kept saying, "Please, God, Don't let it be cancer."
I was called back for my mammogram. The radiology tech asked me to point out where my lump was. I palpated my right breast, and pointed it out to her. She said, "Lift your arm up for me, and show me." So, I did. And she said, "OH! I see it!"
SHIT. For real? You SEE it? That's it--I'm SO screwed. Dr. Google was right. The Titanic just hit the iceberg. Shit's about to get real.
The tech marked my lump with a sticker. She then walked me over to the mammogram machine. If you've never had a mammogram, the only way I can describe it is like this...
If your breast had a face, and your breast's face was pressed up against glass, THIS is what it would look like...
The tech grabbed my breast and assisted it into a squashing device from many different angles. I was told not to breathe as the images were taken. Luckily, there was a radiologist on site to read the mammogram immediately and give me my results. Unfortunately, the tech had told me that the part of my breast that was affected usually did not show up on the mammogram, and that the ultrasound would need to be used for further diagnosis. Then she raced out of the room to show the radiologist my mammogram results--which also freaked me out. I was like, "She wouldn't be going that fast if I wasn't dying. SHIT. Shit. Shit. Shit." (all things that go through your head at times like these)
The mammogram tech came back and told me that the radiologist had cleared me from that standpoint. She asked if I was OK. My eyes welled up with tears, and the floodgates opened again. I couldn't hold them back. She said, "Oh yeah, the office told me when they scheduled you that you were really nervous and scared."
Awesome. At least you knew I was coming. I grabbed some tissue from the tissue box. Next up was my ultrasound.
I was escorted back to the waiting room in my unruly kimono that basically showed a plunging neckline and was hanging off my shoulders. I thanked God that the mammogram was negative, but walked in a blind stare to my chair in the waiting room, and sat down to wait for my ultrasound. I didn't even grab a magazine this time. However, God has little ways of showing me He is present...even in my loneliest and most terrifying moments. Mele Kalikimaka (the Hawaiian Christmas song) was the song playing on the sound system--which is my favorite Christmas song...EVER. But, I wasn't alone this time in the waiting room. There was another woman sitting in there. She was reading a magazine. We were wearing matching kimono tops. She seemed so composed, and reading away. She then was called for her mammogram--only it was her second of the week. It was a repeat because they saw something on the previous one. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath--for BOTH of us. That waiting room--although the decor and amenities were super hospitable, felt like the most terrifying place. It feels like a myocardial infarction in there--the feeling of impending doom. It's indescribable.
As I sat with a blank stare on my face awaiting my ultrasound and listening to Christmas music, the woman that had been in the waiting room prior, returned from her repeat mammogram. She was awaiting her repeat ultrasound--but this time, she was in tears. My eyes welled up again. I didn't know her. I don't know her situation. But I'm also not stupid--there was a reason why we were both there. Something wasn't right. And it's terrifying. At that moment, I said a little prayer for both of us.
I was called back for my ultrasound. I was shaking. The tech ran the machine over my sticker marked area from every direction. I could hear her taking pictures of the area with the buttons on her machine. Each click made me grow more paranoid. I could barely hold back the tears.
She finished her procedure, and left the room to show the results to the radiologist. In that moment, I felt like I had every thought running through me. "How am I going to deal with chemo? How do I hold a job? How am I going to pay my bills? Am I going to die?"
These are all very REAL questions that you face in the moment. That one moment when your world can go from normal, to totally terrifying in a matter or seconds. Not only do you have to come to face with your own mortality, but you have to face that some things are totally out of your control--and we are all mortal...regardless of age. Life deals out a bunch of curve balls...but cancer SUCKS. It is like a hammer...or a wrecking ball. It comes in...uninvited...unannounced...and it delivers a huge, devastating blow.
My ultrasound results came back negative. By the grace of God...my ultrasound came back NEGATIVE. Maybe it's just more muscle tissue on that side since that is my dominant side. Perhaps it's some other sort of fluke. The ultrasound tech said, "I'm glad we have good news for you today, Ms. Madison!"
My boyfriend had texted me during the appointment. I called him afterward. I broke down in tears. I had an entire week of struggle prior to that conversation. I couldn't hold back the tears. I just cried. I was happy...relieved...and sad for those who hear otherwise. It was emotional overload. I was driving home talking to him. He was supposed to be in San Diego on business. I had no idea he was waiting for me at my place when I got home. It was just what I needed.
I can't imagine being the nurse or tech who has to tell someone they have cancer. I feel so lucky right now. This whole experience has been so terrifying. I am a nurse. I realize I deal with things people can't fathom. I help people bring their babies into the world, hold their babies as they die, or try to save mothers' lives in pregnancy/childbirth. And that's what I do...and I CAN do that. And it is heartbreaking, but I feel like that is part of my calling in this life. However, working in a clinic where you have to tell people they have cancer?...I don't know if I'm strong enough for that. Nursing is so funny that way. We are all cut out specifically for a purpose--or calling. And we can't fathom it any other way.
PLEASE...please...make sure you are doing your monthly breast examinations. Do not ignore your health. Health and health care can be very scary, but please take the time to know your body, and address abnormal findings with your healthcare provider. There is a lot of amazing life to live out there.
We've got this.
(: CHEERS. :)
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Social media is a strange and wonderful thing. It can also be cruel and unusual punishment. It is certainly a lot of different things to different people. But one thing is certain for almost all of us--we are drawn to it like moths to a flame.
We enjoy social media. We go on there, often. We wake up, yawn, stretch, open one eye, and reach for the phone to check our notifications. Good thing--cuz the whole world might have blown up since the last time we were on there!
I had a recent encounter with someone from my past who had found me on social media. I didn't remember a whole lot about him. We shared some school memories, but I honestly could barely remember who he was. I remembered that, by the end of highschool, he had made some pretty poor choices that had landed him in a lot of trouble. I'm not passing judgment--I made my fair share of poor choices at that time. They just landed me in a different kind of trouble.
As conversation progressed with this "Facebook Friend", he quickly took things in a different direction. He told me he had a crush on me. I told him that I had a boyfriend. He told me that wouldn't last for long if he had anything to do with it. I didn't really know this guy from Adam, but he seemed to have it all figured out, and had us surfing off into the Cali sunset together already.
I've struggled with this concept with numerous men in the 8 years I've been divorced/single. Guys get in touch with me. Conversation starts up--friendly from my end, as per usual, but I don't get that vibe on the other end from most of them. It's something I like to call the simplistic rationale of "You're single, and I'm single, and we're older, and both single, so that must mean this is destiny." Either that, or the blatant, "We should just sleep together."
Back to my story of surfing off into the sunset (his idea--not mine). So, this guy was going nowhere fast with me, and ended up getting frustrated, and instigating fairly heated conversations with me on a couple of occasions. He had barbed comments to leave on my Facebook posts. Apparently I wasn't giving him the undivided attention he needed, or that he had deemed himself worthy of as my middle-aged knight in shining armour. Not that he was a terrible person. He was nice enough, I guess. At least he was when he wanted to be. I never said much in response, but I did end up direct messaging him at one point, and telling him how disappointed I was in him--right before I blocked him. One of his final sentences to me was, "You just go on ahead in your perfect little world that revolves around you, and live happily ever after." Not sure what I had said to deserve that one, but the only response I had to myself in my head was, "Sounds good to me!"
I'm keenly aware that the world does not revolve around me. I don't think I would be impressed if it did. It would be rather boring. However, the older I get, the more I look at my life and reflect on the things that I have learned. The conclusion that I have come back to time and time again is that I'm too intelligent to repeat the past, and I'm too excited about the future to live in the past.
This is why I chose the meme that I did to represent this blog. I'm not at a point in my life where I am going to apologize for being a strong, smart, focused, determined woman. I've learned how to fight through my battles, and come out better for them on the other side. I've learned how to back away from situations that aren't worth my time, effort, or energy. I have good self-esteem, and I won't apologize for it. I know what sadness, pain, struggle, and misery feel like in this life. I also know that there is a bright spot in every part of all of those experiences, and that there is purpose and beauty in the struggle that we often can't see until we overcome the situation and are able to reflect.
I recently had another encounter with a man from my past. It was someone that I fell head-over-heels for as a teenager. I allowed this man to take a virtual wrecking ball to my life when he broke up with me back in the day. Because of it, I created huge obstacles and struggles that I would have to battle through for the rest of my life. There were years of picking up pieces, and building my life into something that was not only structurally sound again, but it became a mission to build and create something that was a personal empire of sorts. Something well-rounded, and independent that would be nearly indestructible in the future.
Anyway, he came back into my life via social media. I was more vulnerable than usual at the time because I had just gone through a breakup. We spoke on various occasions. Conversation was good. I could picture him as a friend, but the, "You're single, and I'm single, and we're older, and both single, so that must mean this is destiny." thing reared its ugly head again. But I realized something--I have not only overcome my past. I have blown by and burst out of it at supersonic speed. And I'm not going back or letting anyone drag me backwards.
When I would talk to this guy, his past would always come up. He was super talented in many areas, but the nagging voices from his past would underlie many of the conversations we had, and it became a tiring turn-off. Whether it was ego, or body image, I just couldn't help but think, "The last thing I have time to do is glue somebody else's pieces together!!! I'm a busy girl--I can't take on more projects! I only have enough glue left to get my kids through highschool, and through their issues in their 20s!!!"
But because I didn't want what he wanted out of the "friendship" he wanted nothing more to do with me. He walked out of my life as swiftly as he had reentered it on social media. Par for the course, I suppose. I wouldn't have expected anything different from him, really. However, it did trigger a few moments of reflection...
I looked back on the absolute destruction I had once allowed him to cause, and how hard I had fought to overcome it. I saw firsthand that some behaviors don't ever really change--and that is OK, too...as long as they don't drag me down and keep me stagnant and miserable with them. Oh, and I actually did a victory dance in my head--I'm no longer taking applicantions for human wrecking balls at this point in my life. My fortress is well protected these days.
My friend sent me this meme a while back. I find it very true for my life. As a matter of fact, and as I have said many times, "I would rather stay single forever than to settle for less than what I know I need/want/desire for my life." However, there is still hope for me, friends (because I know a lot of you do care, and I appreciate you for it)!!! As a matter of fact, I have big plans for my future!!! Most of which mainly involve not knowing where my future will take me!!! BUT I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO THE JOURNEY!!!
(: CHEERS :)
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Friday, February 10, 2017
I AM IN VEGAS!!!
Whaaaaaat???? Couldn't be further from my comfort zone, but I am here, and it is CRAZY.
So, I arrived at my hotel, walked into the lobby, and this was my response shortly thereafter:
(you can follow my ridiculous Snapchat videos on www.instagram.com/whitneythesnapchatdeer)
Apparently, I've lived a very sheltered life. Yes, I'm the new kid in Vegas.
I have sensory overload at the moment. So I had to go to my hotel room and do yoga. Not even kidding. Then I busted out the wine.
Just going to wing it, and have a kick-ass time!!!