*Carry on Tuesday: A few of my favorite things

English: Breat Cancer ribbons

Wherever I go, I arrive early. Not on time like most people but about twenty minutes before my scheduled appointment. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no rush to be in any doctor’s office, especially this doctor. I think ‘I just want to be there and get it over with.’ The walls are pale pink, the chairs alternate between fuchsia and plum, first one than the other, all around the room. When I am here I just want to re-arrange the chairs, put all the fuchsia together and then the plum or put all the chairs in the middle of the room and stack them up. I know this room well. This morning I sit in the waiting room with a woman named Mary, she is here alone too. Once in a while a husband, boyfriend, lover, brother comes too. I sit here with my anxiety waiting for the nurse to call my name.

My doctor is the product of two old hippies, his first name is Pond. No really, I couldn’t make that up if I tried. Pond enters the examining room and I automatically sit straight up, with the blue hospital gown open in the front. He is a breast surgeon that I see every every year. He examines my breasts, first one than the other; I wish he would close his eyes but mostly he stares into space. He starts talking about his vacation in the Hamptons and I shush him, telling him to concentrate. He laughs and says “It’s a good thing I’m not chewing gum, right?” I say a quick, terse yes. I am waiting for him to say, the usual breezy, “it’s all good” but this time he goes over and over one spot on my right breast and kneads it as if he is making bread. I become perfectly still and feel freezing cold in less than one second.

I pick up on another vibe in the room that has changed; I know something is wrong. He straightens up and in his bright blue eyes there is a new hue of concern. His face is still unreadable but his forehead now has deep wrinkles. I have never seen that before but I have always dreaded it. “There’s a mass, ” he says. He has me feel what he feels, but I barely want to touch my body since there seems to be an intruder there, a most unwelcome guest. This is a feeling I had before when I needed a biopsy of a lump, thirty years ago. I was very young then and very naive.  I remember my parents drove up from New York to Boston to stay with me while I waited for the results. Dear God, those feelings of fear and panic come back immediately.

Now, I am a postmenopausal woman but before I was a youngster, a youngster in shock. I remember going to the doctor with my best friend. ‘It would be nothing,’ we thought but I ended up needing surgery though the lump turned out to be benign. I remember staring into the mirror and drinking coffee, day by day, early in the morning of my one bedroom apartment and wondering how I could still drink coffee normally and function at work with this huge secret.

I have to focus now but I can’t; crazy things go through my mind like the scene in Mary Poppins with the chimney sweeps dancing. I see Lassie in the closing credits where he puts his paw up and remember that my sister and I always loved that part the best. I try to remember the lyrics of a song I just bought on iTunes that reminds me of my teenagers but my mind goes blank.

The nurse schedules me to come back in a few days for a needle biopsy, that is familiar too. I try to remain perfectly still, trying to clear the thoughts and panic clouding my mind but it is virtually impossible. What can I focus on, I ask myself? My daughter’s blue eyes, my son’s olive complexion, my husband’s kiss on top of my head, my sister and I posing for photographs on a rooftop in Brooklyn Heights, my mother’s soft hands. I try to picture my puppy Lucy but the images change to my deceased dog, Storm, who died unexpectedly and dramatically of cancer of the spleen. I can only try to remember highlights of my past favorite things. It’s my only chance of survival: I remember the free trip to Hawaii when we were upgraded to first class, the small town of Roses near Barcelona, Spain. My favorite memory, sunsets at  Cape Cod when the children were young, when we were all young. I try to imagine these things to steer my mind away from the doctor and nurse talking to me about scheduling a possible biopsy of my breast tissue yet I can’t remember one thing they said. As soon as you feel like you are a patient, you become one. I feel weak and tired, sore, and very, very cold even though it is 93 degrees outside and humid.

I need to drive home, alone, in my car down the parkway that winds and bends dramatically. How can I calm myself down enough to do this and not crash my car into a tree? I have no idea. I turn on the engine and on automatic pilot, I just point my car in the right direction. Luckily, the car seems to take over and I am just a passenger at the wheel, driving slowly, steadily, on my way home.

*I wrote this last night before my appointment. While some of the facts are true, the end and some details are all FICTION.

Going Crazy Fast

Crazy Gia
I want to drop, like a rag doll, on the wet-soaked grass, kick my arms and legs, up and down and scream. Holler. Curse. I want to have a tantrum worthy of an overtired three-year old child that has had too much sugar and not enough sleep and way too many unanswered demands. No inhibitions and no one, not even “The Nanny” could try to calm me down because I can’t be talked down today, no, not today.

Things are closing in on me and I’m having a meltdown and I feel like I’m going crazy. It started as soon as I woke up way too early this morning. My seventeen year old daughter slept her day off from school while I walked the dog, purchased my cherished coffee from Starbucks and tried to absorb Vitamin D, my head pointed towards the sun on an old, run down wooden bench. The world seemed tilted left, all too much to one side, off-balance, like a triangle gone awry, unsteady.

There are those days, now far too common, when the whole day and night feel off. This evening I had a scare, in front of my dog, when she was scratching herself viciously and I felt a lump in her fur and then I couldn’t find it again. How could I not find it again? I kept looking but I didn’t feel it or see it and she looked at me with those melting, trusting brown eyes. I was ashamed I couldn’t find it again and worried so I cried a little, gave her a cookie, nuzzled her neck and she was happy. I felt only a bit better but still not quite right. I’m worried about her so I will calm down and take her to the vet next week so he can calmly examine her.

My feelings scared me tonight.  I brought home a piece of shiny, honey drenched baklava from the diner so I can drown my sorrows in sweet syrup. Believe me, yes, I will resort to that low or that high, depending on the way you look at things. I will spare no expense to body or mind to make myself feel better tonight and to promise myself a better tomorrow. I know it doesn’t always work. It didn’t help at all, there are too many issues going on at once.

I have been stuck in this one room with the whole family for three months now and the walls are closing in on me. Our house is not ready to move back in yet but closer than before; maybe all the tension is starting to release now, now that it looks like the house may actually get fixed in real time.  Maybe I am starting to breath now instead of holding it in and the anger is starting t0 come out.

I want to sleep all the time, because right after my dreadful birthday in October the clock moves straight to here, the horrible time period: my deceased father’s birthday on the 13th 0f November straight through to Thanksgiving and Christmas, Chanukah and New Year’s Eve, the night he died and then New Year’s Day, my parent’s wedding anniversary. I kick it up a notch and remember January 5th, my grandmother’s birthday (my father’s mother) and the day we buried my father. Come January 6th, deep in the winter months I can start to breathe, that is until next year. But, as an insightful person and psychiatrist once said: ” I guess every November stinks for you.”

Genius.