Wake-up Call #151
June 17th, 2013, posted by Aimee
Sometimes my life unfolds in a frighteningly clichéd manner. This was one of many thoughts running through my mind as I waited in the darkened room, feet in stirrups and heart pounding, for the ultrasound technician to show up two weeks ago today. After all, if I hadn’t canceled my annual exam to attend that lunch with a USA Today reporter and my client a month ago, wouldn’t my doctor have found the huge “abdominal mass” when it was closer to a grapefruit than a watermelon, as the technician later described it to me? What if I had just taken those ten extra minutes between meetings and client calls to push an earlier appointment? Would I still be in this terrifying and mortifying experience now, looking four months pregnant and scheduling a visit to the women’s oncology specialist? Isn’t this literally the oldest story in the book – the workaholic mom who never misses a beat when it comes to her kid’s health, but neglects her own body?
Yep, so I am guilty as charged – the ultimate Womo horror story cliché. Here’s the lowdown. About three weeks ago, on a Friday afternoon about ten minutes before some friends were due to arrive at our house for a BBQ, I reached down across my belly and allowed myself to notice the hard bulge across my abdomen Nate had been pointing out to me for months. At night, once in a while he had mentioned that I had something “hard in there” … but, thinking I was simply bloated or getting embarrassingly fat, I kept blowing him off, attributing the bloat to a full bladder or part of my disgusting umbilical hernia. I had noticed that my once flat belly now protruded a bit and that I didn’t seem to be able to lose a pound, despite following a strict low-carb diet for months (the same one my husband followed to shed 20 pounds, by the way). However, I was used to being disappointed by my body these days, and who had time for those worries when work was such a whirlwind. And besides, I reasoned, I would just ask my doctor when I saw her for that annual physical in May.
Wouldn’t you know it? The doctor’s appointment conflicted with the lunch I finally – after a year of begging and scheming – had gotten my USA Today reporter friend to take with my biggest client. Annual Pap could wait, bloated belly be damned. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get back on the docket until July – oh well.
Yet, that Friday afternoon I couldn’t deny something was wrong … and then suddenly I panicked. Unfortunately, it was too late to go anywhere but an ER, so I waited. When Monday rolled around, I called in sick for the first time in ten years, and got into the only doctor who would see me. Literally five minutes into the visit, after a quick caress of my belly and a peek in “there,” she pronounced, “yep, you have something really big in there” and ordered me to get X-rays that afternoon. By 5 p.m. the same day, I learned there was about a football-sized tumor growing on my left ovary and wrapped around my uterus. Within 48 hours, I had been scheduled to undergo surgery – a three-hour operation in which the determination would be made by doctor while I was under anesthesia whether the excised tumor was all that needed removal or whether a complete hysterectomy was in order. Oh, and also whether or not I was looking at a cancer diagnosis.
Fast forward a week and here I am – drugged up, couch-bound and cancer-free. The tumor (no one is bothering to refer to it as a “cyst” anymore) was benign I learned upon opening my eyes from surgery to a surge of relief. No hysterectomy had been needed, though my appendix had come out along with the “mass,” an ovary and a tube. And for now at least, a crisis has been averted.
I know with every bone in my body that I need to view this event as a sign that it’s finally time to slow down to listen to my body and take the damn pedal off the gas. I know it won’t kill me to stay off work email and indulge in binges of crappy TV, chick lit and cuddle time with my little dude for a few weeks. In fact, it may even save my life.