An Inconclusive Cancer Screening in the Pinkest Month of the Year

An inconclusive mammogram in the pinkest month of the year is tough.

At this point we hadn't heard about the ventricles yet.

When I was about seven months pregnant, the doctor informed us that the ventricles in our baby’s brain were measuring larger than the standard range.  This was, of course, scary and meant that every couple of weeks for the remainder of the pregnancy we would have to schlep to the hospital for testing.

They couldn’t really tell us what the enlarged ventricles might mean, but that didn’t stop them from telling us about them, scaring the shit out of us, and then requiring expensive, and not entirely comfortable testing (I’ll spare you the details).

When our son was born he was healthy and there was nothing wrong with his brain. We have always joked that our son just had a big brain which is part of why he’s so darn smart.

Several weeks ago, while traveling on business, I received a call from the clinic letting me know that my mammogram was inconclusive and that I needed to come back for further testing. I needed two tests and the only time the hospital could do both at the same time was four weeks away. I scheduled the appointment, hung up the phone and started to cry.

You just don’t want to ever get that kind of call do you? Especially when you’re alone, fighting a cold, and sitting in a hotel room in another country. Or when you have a history of breast cancer in your family. My mother had breast cancer, valiantly fought it, and has been cancer free for ten years.

At the time, Paul was traveling across America on his motorcycle and I didn’t want him to worry. So I didn’t tell. I just sat with the news.

Until I couldn’t anymore, and told a few close friends and had a couple of good cries and tried to compartmentalize. After all, as a friend said “No point in worrying about something until it’s really something to worry about.”

But it’s not easy to set aside an inconclusive mammogram when it’s the pinkest month of the year.

The continual reminders of breast cancer kept shocking me into bad story lines in my head. All the what ifs…

My doctor recently told me that I probably had another 40 years to go. I looked him dead in the eye and said “That’s not fucking helping.” I have never been afraid of dying. To the contrary, I am more afraid of overstaying my welcome. The notion of being so old that I lose my health, or my marbles, and continue to be alive terrifies me.

Yet, I had to admit to myself that I’m not ready. This just feels too young. I want to see what Jesse is going to do with his life once he graduates from college. I want to spend more time empty nesting with my husband. I want to live long enough to see a sane president again in America.

After Paul had safely stored away his motorcycle and Parent Weekend was done, I told him the news. Paul is ever sanguine about these types of things. He stays cool and positive, just what I need.

The day of the tests, Paul said “There’s not going to be anything wrong. It’s just ventricles.”

So off we went to the hospital for the tests. And after about 45 minutes I was told that I was fine. I got dressed and as I walked through the hall back to the waiting room I felt like now I get to go on with the rest of my life. Life as I know it. The life I am grateful to have.

When I opened the door to the waiting area, now full of women, I could see Paul holding his hands, looking down, a little more worried than he had let on with me. He looked up and I said “Ventricles.” We both smiled and as he got up, several of the women in the room looked at me and smiled. They knew.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to go get tested. Because the pinkest month of the year is our reminder to get tested. Get tested for whatever your thing is – breast care, prostate, melanoma – get tested. It’s better to know than not know. And it’s better to know early. Or maybe you’ll get lucky and it’ll just be ventricles.