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And of course, some freebies:
Happy birthday to me. Here's some other people's thoughts on the subject.
And of course, some freebies:
A handful of elderly friends and family died at various times during my youth. I knew these were sad occasions, but I was not particularly affected. The first serious death took place when I was in 10th grade, when news shot around school that Joe Price from Haines had drowned while diving for sea cucumbers.
Again, while a sad report, this news didn't particularly move me... at first. However, within some 30 minutes, I walked into sophomore biology, began to put my books on a table, and... *BAM* felt literally awash in sorrow. This was an entirely new experience for me - the sorrow was more physical than emotional, and wracked my body. I'd gotten to know Joe and, while not a close friend, enjoyed his company. The guy had even drawn a corny cartoon in my pink address book at the close of summer camp.
The school attendance secretary was compassionate, and allowed us a free pass for the asking. An odd group of students from various grades and social circles gathered at a table in the commons to just... talk. And talk and talk and talk. We may later have gone to someone's house to talk some more. The shared sorrow, I realize now, was important in grieving, especially for a peer - so young!
In the next couple of years, my great uncle would die from a fall, and my great aunt soon after, from old age. Having had my grandparents pass on when I was quite young, these two were surrogate grandparents. I was confused and saddened. Perhaps not so much as I had been for the loss of Joe, given their old age, but still regretful that I wouldn't have them anymore. Later, with the birth of my first child, I was sadder, still, for the inability to have them enjoy each other's company. Later I would fantasize about them meeting and playing together in heaven.
The next eventful death was that of my mother-in-law's (from my first marriage). She died painfully from a cancer and, as usual, much too young. While I grieved, I was also comforted in my role as a supporter - to be the strong one for my [ex-]husband and our small family.
The next one was the SERIOUS one. Clearly, we're not supposed to have our children precede us in death. However, my nearly-3-year-old son was killed when we were rear-ended at high speed on the freeway by a vehicle that was passing emergency vehicles, and whose owner was talking on a cell phone and, if measured under today's blood guidelines, would have had DUI-levels of alcohol in his system. Understandably, the grief that followed was the most complex and lengthy, and I'll spare the detail. Sixteen years later it seems to have been someone else's life, particularly since I've essentially begun a new family since then.
I think the array of experiences has left me a fatalist to some degree. There's nothing I can do to prepare for a loved one to die, because drowning/falling/aging/cancer/collisions lay in wait. While that credo sounds deranged, it also gives me freedom to "live as if each day were my last." Perhaps that explains my penchant for bursting into song upon inspiration from a passing phrase. And explains why I'll voice my opinion or suggestion without fear of rebuke, no matter how far-flung my point may be.
With these fatalistic realities, I take some comfort in that there's nothing I need to do prepare. At the same time, I realize how human we all are and on some late, sleepless nights I shed tears for fear that the unknown can and will happen to me and those I love.
I, too, have a birthmark. ("Too"? Remember that these posts are inspired by theEncyclopedia book. Read it if you need to understand my references.)
I've had a quarter-size birthmark on my right shoulder since I can remember. It used to be dark brown and fuzzy, like a peach. My mother dutifully had it inspected at my annual pediatric appointments.
One year, while on vacation, half of it turned an unsightly greenish color, and I think my mother may have panicked; that half was removed and biopsied almost immediately. The results were negative (in other words, positive for good health) - no cancers, no infection - nothing but a mole (or, as my mother's family called them, "Wyllers").
Back at home, we scheduled a visit with a specialist to have the entire thing removed. Careful to preserve my back-modeling career, we also met with a plastic surgeon who had a procedure for taking skin from behind the ear to graft over the surgical area. The result would be blended skin instead of an unsightly 1-inch scar.
Unfortunately, the graft never "took" and I have a puffy slightly-larger-than-a-quarter-sized red mark on my back. Yeah, way better than a linear 1-inch scar.
It's a great ice-breaker at fancy dress parties where I wear strapless dresses, or at the pool when I put on a swimsuit. It always gives a new massage therapist pause; just wait 'til they touch it!
When I was in middle school, I wrote a poem about it, entitled, "The Devil on My Back." I illustrated the work with pencil drawing of a fanciful tree burl... with satanic horns. Did I mention I was a middle schooler?
All-in-all, it doesn't bother me as an adult. I only remember it's there I attend the aforementioned parties or pool events and another guest makes a small, compassionate gasp. It's as much a part of me as my hand eczema or the way my connected nerves make my finger web and throat tickle at the same time.
I live a sexy, sexy life.
To start at the beginning (a very good place to start, as Julie Andrews would suggest), I've had chest pains since I was 11 years old. They were alarming and my mother had doctors run tests, but my heart looked good. Except for the brief mind-shocking spasm of pain, everything was normal.
This spring I began experiencing the pain on a regular basis. Several times a day I was nearly jolted to my knees with a pain that shot from my breastbone outward, lingering with an ache through the front of my ribcage. I decided this might not be normal and visited the doctor. She assessed me, taking into account a history of multiple heart tests that proved negative (reminder for the medically illiterate - "negative" is a positive thing when it comes to testing for stuff). Her diagnosis? Costochondritis, an inflammation of the joint between the breastbone and ribcage. It's non-threatening, though obviously painful, and treated with anti-inflammatories and ice.
Such a diagnosis was reassuring. It's good to know I'm not going to keel over with a heart attack at age 36. I mean, who would make sure that the husband's and 8-year-old's lunches included protein, fruit AND vegetable?
A week after the diagnosis I visited my doctor again, this time for my annual exam. In the course of it she performed a manual breast exam (sorry boys, but it's not the exciting activity you might imagine) and... located a small mass in the area from which my chest pain seems to stem. Given my age and a history of paternal aunts with breast cancer, this sort of finding suggests I hurry myself over to a mammogram center.
For an odds-maker, it's still a preventative measure and not necessarily a worry. A lump can be a great many things, though Susan Koman might have you think otherwise. Being the reasoning sort of person that I am, I left the doc's office, scheduled my appointment at the Milgard Center, and decided I wasn't going to mention it to family or friends since it was certainly no big deal.
Several hours later, my nerves crashed and I changed my mind.
Perhaps, as my beloved, my husband might like to know that I'm mentally spazzing and envisioning my ultimate demise. Sure, I'm a fatalist on these things (when I die, I die, and that is that), but there's such a great deal to organize with husband, family, friends and home. The possibilities overwhelmed. Given all this, the stretch from Thursday to Monday is a very, very long time. I highly recommend keeping a store of Valium on hand for just such a wait. I wish I had.
With Monday finally at-hand, my husband picked me up from work (he offered!) and waited for me to have my tests. First we waited in the waiting room (go figure - great name!), then I (women-only) waited in the nothing-but-a-bathrobe room, and then a technician took me in and guided me in a series of hugs and squeezes with a tree-sized machine. I'm not entirely certain the large-scale tortilla press did anything - there were no ray blasts, no loud zapping sounds, and no sizzling flesh scent. Nuttin' but the technician and me-n-my nerves... definitely nerves pinging.
I'd originally thought the nerves would subside after the mammogram. Granted, I was relieved that "The Big Squeeze" didn't hurt so much as I feared, I was still hunting wild butterflies in my stomach as I waited in [another] nothing-but-a-bathrobe room.
Let me interject here with an observation about the NBAB. Thanks for the reading material, but we're all too nervous to hold our attention on a printed page. And while there's something a little off-the-wall about our choices of dressing (breezy!), we're really not in a frame of mind to make small chat. I appreciate the soothing "spa" music, but we could really use some brain-rotting television as a diversion at this point. Just a thought.
Anyway, the wait was for my appointment with a sonogram technician. Since I was referred for a lump, they prepared to run the full slate of tests. The preliminary assessment of the mammogram was negative (reminder: that's good!), so this was to check and make absolutely-for-really-sure that there were no miniature burrowing gnomes in my flesh. Or something.
The sono tech (by now I'm ensconced in lab-speak, afterall) set me up in a fashion not dissimilar to that of having my baby ultrasounds many years ago. With similar baby-doc thoroughness, she "wanded" the bump area up, over, around, under, and nearly through. Impressive when one considers how tiny the suspect area was (the lump, not the breast).
Preliminary assessment was, again, negative. OK, finally my nerves can take a much-needed vacation.
The rest is uneventful. I dressed, I rejoined my husband in the fully-clothed-waiting room, and went back to work. A few days later my doctor sent me the test results with a summary of the radiology readings - everything is normal. We'll continue to monitor the area and the pains, but for now, it looks like I'm not going to have an ABC after-school special written about me.
Oh, and as for the title of this post? It's true. Really. We estimate I have about 49 years to live.