Will A Health Scare Change Me?

The lump was there. I could feel it. After three days of having pain in my groin area, I could finally feel a distinct, semi-hard lump.

My heart fell into my stomach.

I wanted it to simply be a hernia - many women in my family have had those.

But the lump wasn't on the outside where I'd seen my niece's. I could feel it on the inside of my labia.

I remembered a plastic piece of breast tissue I had gotten in a breast self exam kit. It's purpose was to show women what a breast lump would feel like. It felt like a tiny bee-bee. It wasn't fixed in one spot; rather, it would move a bit when touched.

Oh shit, this is what my lump felt like.

I had Hubby feel it. For once, he didn't have a medical opinion. I have him look at weird bumps and moles and the odd things I seem to get all the time, and he always brushes them off. "Oh, it's just such-and-such-of-a-medical-so-and-so."

This time he didn't. His brow furrowed - just slightly - but enough to really worry me.

"You should call your doctor."

And I did right away.

In the days leading up to the appointment, I thought about how my ovary on that side always hurts so much. I thought about how my mom had to have hers removed.

I thought about all the fertility drugs I have taken. I thought about how I have been stuffing my face with sugar and carbs for the last nine years. My twenty pound weight gain the last three years. My depression, my grief, my stress. The lack of sleep and exercise that I am allotting my body.

Had all of this finally worked it's way into the cells of my body, twisted it, diseased it, manifested itself as cancer?

I'm ever frightful of another one of my boys getting a shocking diagnosis. I've been having mini-panic attacks about losing Baby E lately.

But I never thought those feelings could be about me.

I walked around gingerly for five days. I felt broken, scared, angry at myself for not taking better care of truly the most important person - me.

I noticed the pain all the time; and when I would touch the lump to see if it was still there, I would recoil back at the touch.

The days leading up to the appointment I hugged my kids a little longer, read one more bedtime story, cuddled a little longer. What if I am sick? What will this do to them?

As I sat in the doctor's office with the sheet over my lap, I aggressively rubbed my worry stones - a green one in honor of Joey and a beautiful clear one with an angel inside that my friend Diane had given me when Joey was sick.

My doctor began her exam, and I began my laundry list of pains and symptoms. I had never been a laundry list kind of patient. "Nope, everything's good. No symptoms, no illnesses, feeling great."

Aside from my fertility issues and pregnancies, I've never even been hospitalized or had surgery. But all I could think of was chemo, radiation, losing my hair, getting sick, lumps that metastasize.

I squeezed the rocks even harder as the doctor tried to feel the lump. She couldn't locate it at first, so I had to show her where it was. As she felt around, her brow furrowed in the same way Hubby's had.

"Well, it's not a hernia," she began. That had been my golden ticket. The simple answer.

My heart dropped again.

She asked me to sit up, and began her medical talk. What it was, what caused it, what to do about it.

It is a cyst and blah, blah, medical jargon.

"So basically, if we leave it alone, it will go away on it's own."

I finally loosened my grip on my worry stones.

She told me it was caused by some kind of trauma. (Could it be a toddler who is just the right height to head butt me in my special area?)

She sent me away with a smile and no suggestion of a follow-up appointment.

As I walked to my car, I felt a mixture of relief and irritation.

What have I been doing to myself? I am not so young anymore. I heard someone my age describe herself as "middle-aged" the other day, and it's true. I am half-way done with my life.

But my boys have all of their lives ahead of them. And I want to see them unfold.

I will be almost 60 years old when Baby E graduates from high school. I want to see where he goes from there. I want to be around for his - and all the boys' - joys, successes, triumphs, failures, heartbreaks. I want to clap at their graduations, meet the loves of their lives, dance at their weddings, and hold their babies. Babysit and spoil and be the grandma instead of the mom.

I am not the young Kathy anymore who took for granted that she was healthy. I know people my age who have gotten cancer, who have died from heart attacks.

It can happen.

But is this health scare enough to make me change my ways? To eat more healthfully, to make exercise a priority, to go to bed when I am tired?

Time will tell.

But I have to stop thinking I have all the time in the world, because time does run out eventually. For all of us.

I'm going to work on stretching mine out as long as I can.

Do me a favor, though. When you see me, ask me how it's going, hold me accountable.

And check yourself, too. Get to know your body - all the lumps and bumps and tiny weird things. Know how your body feels, what it looks like from all angles. Notice changes. And never be afraid to make that doctor appointment.

We owe that to our families.

We owe that to ourselves.
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