Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Most Dreaded Thing

**to prevent any suspense, I'll tell you now that I am still cancer-free**

Three weeks ago, I started feeling really great. I have no idea what changed, but my energy levels are now relatively normal for a mom of three. Around the same time, I admitted defeat and gave up on homeschooling. I found a small, affordable private school which I LOVE. The boys started last week. They love it too.

My house is clean and peaceful.

I've had wonderful one-on-one time with my daughter.

My boys actually like me again, and they seem really, really happy.

It has made me remember how much I love being a parent. The feelings of failure that overwhelmed me the last couple of years took from me all the joy of parenting. Today, my joy has been restored.

My euphoria was abruptly interrupted when I visited my doctor last Friday. I have experienced neck pain on and off for a while now, and it has gotten worse the last three weeks. I wasn't concerned, but I knew I needed to tell my doctor. At which point, I knew he would want to run some tests.

I hate tests and even worse, waiting for the results. There is nothing I dread more. Absolutely nothing.

Damie was with me at the doctor's appointment, and he made me confess to my neck pain. Recurrence is most common in the spine and in the brain (which inevitably lead to death), so neck pain is not a good sign. The doctor examined me. As expected, he immediately ordered scans.

My worst nightmare.
The thing I've dreaded the most.
Days of wondering and waiting and imagining every possibility.
The process of finding out you have a horrible disease is, by far, the most difficult part of having a horrible disease.

I was happily distracted over the weekend, staying busy with loving friends and fun activities. I resolved to ignore my neck pain (which was persistent in trying to remind me of my upcoming tests).
Monday morning I dropped the boys off at school. I dropped Eva off at Damie's office. Then I drove to the hospital to get x-rays.

First mistake: going alone.

I was trying to be rational and not overly dramatic. I thought it would be a quick and simple process, which it was. But after the technician was done taking pictures, she asked why I was getting the x-ray. I told her. She asked if I had ever injured the area. I answered no. Then she went to check the x-rays and make sure she didn't need to take any more.
When she returned, she wanted to take another, at a completely different angle. I panicked. Memories from my first ultrasound and mammogram came flooding back: the way they kept leaving the room to talk to the doctor and coming back and taking more pictures; checking over and over as their faces communicated the horror that they wouldn't yet tell me.

I left the x-ray area and returned to my car. Emotionally, I completely lost it. I knew for sure she must have taken that extra picture because she saw something on the first ones.

I picked up Eva and returned home. And the waiting began...

Second mistake: thinking I could wait alone.

Damie called my mom (he is much smarter than me). She immediately came over, bringing gifts and food and flowers, to spend the day with me.
Every time the phone rang, my heart started racing, my hands started shaking, and I couldn't breathe.
I was relieved when it was time to get the boys from school and I knew I wouldn't be near the phone for a while. I aimlessly drove around after, avoiding the house.
The call didn't come.

I slept well and by the next morning, things were peaceful. I wasn't that worried anymore. The call came first thing in the morning. It was my doctor's nurse. Feelings of relief swept over me. If the news was bad, the doctor would have called himself.
She said, "I have the results of your x-rays here...and they are showing... (breathe)


Huh? I did not expect that.

I asked, "No cancer?"
"Definitely not cancer. But you do have degenerative arthritis in your neck."

Huh. I just kept saying to myself, "huh" and mixing it with an occasional, "hmm."
I once again felt about 30 years older than I am.

I'll meet with a doctor later to discuss the details of my arthritis. But I'm ecstatic it's not cancer. I can deal with arthritis, even if it does make me feel old.