Talking Myself Off the Ledge: A Story of a Breast Cancer Scare (Part 2)
Editor’s Note: This is the second of three articles where Courtney Vallejo shares about her journey after finding a lump in her breast. Though she’s fine, she wanted to share it with you, here, to raise awareness about the realities of breast cancer and the experience of the doctor’s appointments.
The next morning, I went to drop my daughter off at school, trying to act as normal as possible, but the carpool people didn’t help my anxiety level. There is a lane where parents park to drop their kindergarteners off, but because my daughter is PM kindergarten, and the AM kindergarten parents get there and park to pick up their kids (even though they’ve sent home 17 flyers telling them to park in the parking lot and not in the drive through!).
I wanted to get out and start yelling, “It’s a no parking zone, you’re inconsiderate and irritating and I have a mass on my breast and you can’t even let me pull in to drop my daughter off at school?” Luckily, again, I talked myself off the ledge and realized that although my world seems to be on some weird pause mode where everything is in slow motion, with no sound, the rest of the world was still functioning as normal. So I parked in the lot and walked her in myself.
Once in the car again, I rushed to the radiology center that had come up as the closest location when I did my very fancy Google search. I live in a small town, so it was just down the street from my daughter’s school.
I went in to the appointment scheduling desk and told them I needed to make an appointment. When the receptionist asked what for, I couldn’t say the word mammogram out loud. I whispered it, as if whispering it, would make it sound better.
I felt crazy handing her my prescription for the mass in my right breast. I felt like I was waiting for her to look at me in horror, and I imagined what she might say, “But you’re so young, how can you have a mass? How can you have cancer? Did you not to your breast exam?”
Of course she didn’t say any of those things, and instead gave me the first available appointment. This was Friday and they couldn’t see me until the following Tuesday. How they can make someone wait the whole weekend is beyond me! I wanted to yell, “Don’t you see I have a mass? I want it looked at now!”, but I refrained from making a scene, took the appointment card, and left.
So I began the waiting game. I spent the weekend trying to ignore the mass. That didn’t last long, and so I began talking myself off the ledge. It’s just a tissue lump, it’s just confirmation that I have a thyroid problem, it’s benign, etc…. anything I could do to NOT let myself think it was cancerous.
Then, I began thinking about the biopsy, and how they may just remove the lump. I started to worry because I had heard that after lump removals, you can’t lift your arm for a few days and my husband was getting ready to leave for a business trip. How would I manage? Had I bought the trip insurance they offered me, in case he had to cancel his trip or would we end up having to front the cost of the whole trip?
My scenarios stopped there, because the idea that it was the C-word, and I could lose my hair or leave my kids without a mother was not something that I was willing to even consider. I would deal with that if and when it ever got to that point.
Right then, it was just a lump of tissue. And if my brain wasn’t racing enough, I even began to think, “Well what if it’s nothing? Are you just waiting for it to be something? How do I move on from this if they tell you everything is fine and send you home?” I just had to stay calm and push it out of my head until Tuesday.
In an attempt to ignore the mass, I began to battle with my anger. I had to fight my temptation to ignore prayer and to cut myself off from God. I could blame Him. It would be easy, but was it going to help?
I thought I’d try shopping, figured I’d buy whatever I wanted to make myself feel better. After all, if I was dying I wouldn’t need money. But if it was benign, how was I going to rationalize the spending?
I went to Mass that following Sunday and the priest was reminding us how the Year of Faith had just ended. Really? Seriously? We’re gonna talk about that again? I was done with the Year of Faith!
The house we were renting got foreclosed on during that Year of Faith, we lived with my in-laws all summer while waiting on a job so we could move home, I was faithful, I stayed the course, and now what?
The encore to the Year of Faith is A MASS! Then if it couldn’t get better, my parish priest tells the parish that they’ve decided to put the Year of Faith into action and so they’ve claimed the theme for the upcoming year, for our parish as Duc In Altum,“Go out into the deep.” Really, go out into the deep!!!! No thanks, I’m good, check please!
Again the attempt to talk myself off the ledge: I realized if there’s any way I’m going to get through this, it was to turn to God, cling to Him and wait out the storm. I was just hoping my umbrella would open this time!