Sunday, March 15, 2020

Tick Tock

Last month ended up being a little more trying than usual. In a lot of ways, I felt like I had my life on track. I was staying on top of things at home better. Being less of a screw up and setting a better example as a parent. Keeping up with German lessons and guitar practice and my new fitness routine. Taking a break from my novel only to work on a collection of short stories I need to complete before May (assuming the cause of the proverbial fire under my bottom doesn't get cancelled). More on that next month.

Everything I'm working for became threatened Mid-February. I'm positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation, which makes me high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. I've had mammograms since my twenties. I worry every year, but this year felt different. It felt different in the way receiving the results of my genetic testing felt different. For all my freaking out beforehand, I'd never really expected a positive result. That's what the freaking out was for; as long as I set myself up to look like an idiot, I'd be fine. But as soon as I walked into the building, I knew. 

I had a similar sense of 'oh crap' for lack of a better phrase when I went to the radiology clinic this year. I felt a little better after my mammogram. The images didn't appear notably different than last year, but the radiologist saw something she didn't like so back I was sent for an ultrasound. I had a hard time viewing the screen the way the room was set up, but when I glanced back I just saw her measuring cysts. 

No biggie.

What concerned my radiologist turned out to be one of those cysts, but the ultrasound technician caught something else. Now I was being asked if I wanted to schedule a biopsy or stick around and see if they could squeeze me in. I wanted it done sooner rather than later because a delay only meant extending fear over my health and the procedure. Better to get it over with before I had too much time to think about it.

They almost squeezed me in an hour later, but a late arrival showed up for their scheduled biopsy; it wasn't for several more hours that I had a core needle biopsy. It involved giving me a numbing shot, making an incision, and inserting a larger spring loaded needle to remove tissue samples. It was...unpleasant. After the first painful shot all I felt was pressure, but the sound of the spring was awful, like 'tummy stapled after a c-section' awful. 

I wore an ice pack home, and didn't bother with any ibuprofen. I still went to work the next day even though my husband wanted me to stay home to relax (uh). That night I had a panic attack. I felt a little foolish the following day when I received my results. It was benign. 

But I also realized something.

While some family members underwent surgery following their own positive genetic tests, I wanted to hold off until something happened, and not because my femininity felt threatened. I carry a lot of resentment towards the emphasis placed on the body part over the person (literally the only form of cancer where that's the case), and I think it plays a role in the negativity toward women who take preventative measures. Mostly, the thought of surgery felt like too great a reminder of mortality, the equivalent of having one foot in the grave. 

And yes, I know that's counter intuitive and irrational, but it's how I felt.

What I've realized is I don't want to chance my health and wait until my back is to the wall, but I have some goals I'd like to reach first (to say nothing of financial concerns). 

Right now I'm working toward a green belt in karate. If I maintain my current pace, I can be a third degree brown belt by next summer (unfortunately that just became a bigger 'if' in light of current events). At that point, it's a matter of reviewing everything I've learned so maybe taking a month or two off classes to recover from surgery wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Plus that belt is actually red, my favorite color. Missing the gym would hurt a bit more, but surely I wouldn't have to skip as many leg days as long as I avoid certain exercises?

I only work out two to three hours a week with an emphasis on strength training for building muscle and strengthening my core to protect bones and joints, and to increase endurance and striking power. And as much as I'm predisposed to dislike routine, it's important for my mental health to maintain one, and it throws me off when it's significantly disrupted (like now). 

But some disruptions are greater and more permanent than others.

So much to do; so little time.

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