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Saturday, July 27, 2013


August always makes me ancy. It's the end of summer. It's the back to school grind. It's hot and sticky and muggy and the pool is not as exciting as it was two months ago. It's also the three year anniversary of my diagnosis of breast cancer. I can still taste the phone call...the one that I lied to get information on. Joseph was in Afghanistan and I am home with four kids, two of them toddlers. I am already feeling like a one armed bass player (thank you Dad) just managing kids and house and squeezing in, pardon the pun, a mammogram was not my idea of a good time. Paying a sitter $15 an hour so I can place my breast in what feels like a car door slamming on it was an expensive way to spend an afternoon but I'm a safety girl so I went. Shortly after they asked for more film. Thinking whatever, I took my now terrified breasts and went a second round. Within a few short days I got the letter...the one that says you need to come back for an ultrasound. Still oblivious, stupid, incompetent techs; I complied. When the nurse said the radiologist would like to see me, I put my trash tabloid down before finding out what happened with Brangelina and walked in. A very polite Asian man with the single thickest Chinese accent ever spewed out in short detail that he suspects cancer. Um...cancer? Did he just say cancer? I beg for him to repeat it. Repeat it again. Now, write it down. Surely he said something else, I mean come on, accent and all. Cancer he writes. The room is closing in. How can you know this with no biopsy??? I use my flash card medical rights knowledge and demand to know. He shows me the ultrasound which by then looks like a black and grey pizza with too much salt on it. You see the salt? Yes, I do, I say. It shouldn't look like that. No salt at all? No, he says. So, no salt...but there is a lot of salt. We both knew what I meant, but he allowed me to hide behind the innocuous. So, you will remove the salt and test it? Yes. When? Now, we can do a needle biopsy now. To check the salt? Yes. He comes back in and uses an ultrasound guided missile, shaped like a needle and detonates the breast. It felt as though my chest was exploding. Pulls back out and disappears. I am left laying there, and the salt. When he returns, I can see it in his face. What's next I say. Wait for the official results. In a week. Try and relax. Yeah...I'll be sure and do that. Talking to Joseph about the war and his 15 hour days, shells and bombs even I can hear, holding my breath and my heart; hanging up and crying my eyes out. Going to bed, waking up to four kids with needs...knowing somewhere deep inside me, the salt is the enemy that I can't do a fucking thing about. I wait four days. I called the commander at Walter Reed Breast Center. Sir, my husband is in Afghanistan and is about to go into a mission where I won't hear from him for two weeks (lie). I will only be able to talk tonight (lie) and is it possible I can get my final results now so I can speak to him if needs to come home. Mrs. Smith, I can't really do this on the phone. Please, sir, I am unable to travel there with the kids...okay, he says. I said, wait. Just say yes, do I have cancer? Yes. Room commences to spin. I walk outside. Sun hits my face. Deep into August. I don't cry. I don't move. I don't even breathe. I let the salt transform itself and I wait...the feeling in my stomach, the chest pains, the immobility of my body - The book I am trying to read, fast forwards to the end. It's there now. Awake and alive and in my body, holding me hostage. Yes, the salt is done. From here forward, call me cancer. Thank you, I say to the commander. Wait, he says. I'd like to go over this with you...I mumble the baby is crying and I have go, will call back... And I wrap arms around my legs on the front lawn, bow my head, and for only one time in three years, I let the cancer take hold of me and I repeat cancer in my head for several minutes. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. And then I go back in, make dinner, and plan my next move. August 2010.