The pre-diagnosis was in a lot of ways worse than the diagnosis. When you get diagnosed, you know what you have, and you get a plan, with dates and goals and a definable awfulness. Before diagnosis, you just get to worry. My worst was the MRI biopsy. I was reciting Lady Lazarus in the MRI, which in retrospect… Plath was perhaps not the way to go for comforting poetry. While in the MRI for the biopsy, I started thinking about what mom went through and how she died, how she was treated…. I was crying by the time I came out of the MRI, and then they BORE INTO YOUR BREAST like you are a maple tree. The nurses and the medical fellow were very nice and professional, but I was inconsolable. Afterwards, they gave me a blanket, and I sat there in shock. I felt like I had just survived an assault.
I had to go to the waiting room and stay there for … something. I was still crying, and the other women in the waiting room were talking about all the horrible things they were going through with cancer, and how to get through. It was terrifying. I didn’t make eye contact. I don’t want to talk to anyone or make a connection. I want to get the FUCK out of here.
After diagnosis, I had to go back to the breast center for a lymph node biopsy. Lesley was there, but the nurse said that she would have to wait in that awful waiting room where I went through at least a dozen tissues in as many minutes. No. Lesley will stay with me. Can Lesley stay with me? I cannot relive Mom again while I am alone. Please please please, can Lesley stay? The nurse says no, but she can see the wild eyed fear in me.
The nurse says, “they NEVER let anyone stay. I will ask, but they will say no. I will ask, but I told them you would go quietly.”
“That is right. I will go quietly,” Lesley agrees. She looks at me worried. I do not look like I am ok without her.
“She won’t cry. Or scream,” I add helpfully.
“Or beg. Or go limp,” Lesley says.
“Cuz dead weight is so much harder to move!” Cue giggling and reenactment of trying to move a limp body.
The doctor comes in. Lesley is in the corner on a window ledge. Lesley is sitting agains the wall. Lesley is behind some carts. Lesley is pretending she is a plant. Maybe they won’t notice Lesley. The doctor turns to her. This is luckily after we had a few minutes of giggling and charming her and generally endearing ourselves. See how adorably positively calm happy we are? Lesley is 100% definitely a plant.
The doctor turns to Lesley, not fooled by the plant ruse. The doctor is clever. “Are you going to throw up?” She asks.
“Nope!” Lesley says confidently.
“Are you a fainter?”
Lesley laughs, brings herself under control quickly. This is not a laughing place. “No. Absolutely not.”
The doctor gives her a hard stare. “You REALLY want to be here?”
Lesley gestures to me, lying supine, exposed like a paint prepped French girl. “She wants me here.”
The doctor looks at me as I nod and offer a big hopeful smile. See how strong and brave I am being? She sighs, resigned. “If you faint, we won’t help you. Try to fall on the ledge sideways instead of down on the floor.”
Lesley stayed, no one fainted, and there was WAY more giggling than expected through lymph node agitation, three passes with the needle is a LOT of agitation. And thus begins the cautionary tale, where I think that being cute and friendly and charming and agreeable puts me above the law. Dun dun DUN!