Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love from Unexpected Corners

I went for a mammogram a couple of weeks ago, my first. I'd been thinking for a while that I wished my fertility centers, like CCRM, required them. There is no proven link between fertility treatment and breast cancer; slight elevation in risk instead seems correlated with the mere fact of infertility, especially among those who have not had children. Still, I longed for some reassurance, especially since I've had some strange breast pain (which is typically not associated with cancer) since the pregnancy/the horror of my milk coming in last year.

On the day I went, I was a bit of a basket case. I guess you could say I've developed some sort of PTSD in the wake of this last, supremely awful pregnancy; I am awaiting the falling of another shoe. How do you carry on after years of living beta to beta, the cortisol steadily dripping through your veins creating a perpetual state of alert? If you're like me, you start worrying about twinges and pain. You ask your new gyn for a pelvic ultrasound in addition to the mammo, to investigate that cyst-like pain you have in your pelvis.

I can't emphasize enough the extreme state of unabashed panic I had myself in before this ultrasound. Being on an ultrasound table with a wand between my legs does not lead to good things for me, friends. I was convinced I would get horrendous news, like maybe my ovary had twisted itself into a ball in protest. I had myself worked into quite a dither. On top of it all, it turns out that when you're not pregnant, it is even harder to get any kind of indication of anything from ye olde ultrasound tech. She was Fort Knox. Said I'd have to wait until my doctor got the report...which could be two days. Somehow I convinced her to get the radiologist to send it that day.

Meanwhile, onto the mammogram. This felt like a walk in the park compared to everything else. The test itself, while not something I'd opt to do for fun, was really nothing. The tech showed me my girls on TV. Then I told her to please tell the radiologist that I've had this pain in that one place, and that I had a pregnancy last year. And then, before I knew it, we were sharing sad stories.

Hers was a late-in-life surprise after adoption, which was the best thing she'd ever done. At 12 weeks, she went in for a routine ultrasound and was given the terrible news. She was alone.

I felt acutely vulnerable, half clothed in my cotton robe, shedding tears. Then she said something I desperately needed to hear.

She said, you have two paths you can take. Don't take the bitter path. Don't shut down every time someone announces a baby. I did that for a while, she said, and it was so disingenuous. It wasn't the real me, and it hurt me while not accomplishing anything.

It felt a bit harsh to hear, like the sound of the truth often does. It was as if she could see inside my shadowy heart. She could see where I've been headed lately. It felt a little bit like a judgment, but I needed to be judged.

She's right. I don't want to be that girl. I don't want to resent, covet, begrudge. I was an enthusiastic liver of life before infertility and loss had its way, and I'll be damned if it's going to take some essential part of me in its stormy path.

So thank you, mammogram lady. Thanks for being honest about your story, and for the little correction you dared to pass along.

The ultrasound, by the way, was normal. As was the mammo. Apparently I've got some dense breast tissue up in there, so I have to go back for an ultrasound just to be sure. But apparently that's pretty normal, too.

PS - On this Valentine's Day, I'm spreading the love by encouraging you to get a mammogram, too. My new gyno (more on her, and the experience of a gyno-only, pregger-free waiting room, later) says the risk is now one in seven, with no family history. One in seven, girls. Think of your seven closest friends. And if they're 35-40 or have family history, tell them to get their baselines, too.

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