Month: September 2015

The time I cried over a stripper’s boobs.

Last night, Josh was invited to a bachelor party.  NBD.  Josh and I have been together for twelve years; I’ve happily kissed him goodbye to his fair share of bachelor parties.  But as I lay in bed last night in silence and darkness, trying to go to sleep, I turned into a person I never foresaw for myself.

“Josh, I know this isn’t fair,” I started.  “I know that I shouldn’t even say this, but I’m worried about you going to this bachelor party.”

He propped up on an elbow, and I could see his open eyes through the darkness.  “What do you mean?”

“Well, I’m afraid it’s going to end up at a…”  My voice broke.  “…at a strip club,” I cried.

Josh knew exactly what I meant.

Boobs.

“I just don’t know if I can handle it,” I confessed.

Actually, I know for sure that I couldn’t it.  Just after surgery, I was having a talk with one of my best girlfriends (whom I love so, so much and appreciate!) about my concerns regarding Josh and my newly mangled and debreasted body.  I’ve never doubted for a second that Josh would stand by me and love me all the same (even more really) and keep accepting me for who I am, but I felt sorry for him.

Let’s be honest — We’re all adults here.  At least, I hope so! — it wasn’t just me who lost a pair of boobs, it was my husband too.  I worried about how a man would feel going through the rest of his life without ever getting to touch another breast again.  Also, men are much more visual when it comes to sexytimes and stuff.  Plus, boobs are awesome.  We all know this.

When my 93 year-old patient found out this weekend that I was, indeed, breastless (It was a long, windy, dementia-filled road for that to come up in conversation.), he immediately voiced his concern for my husband.

“Nothing for him to touch?”

“Nope, I guess not,” I answered.

“How has he been with that?” he asked with genuine worry.

“He’s fine.  And besides, I’m alive,” I answered as gently as I could.

“But I mean….poor guy!”

“Yeah, well, I’m alive.”

So it’s fair to say that I’ve spend some time feeling a little sorry for Josh (but not too much time because there have been a lot of other worries on my plate over the last year and a half and, besides, what really is most important is that I’M ALIVE, dude!)

Anyway, I spilled all these fears to my friend just after surgery, and she was, naturally, concerned right along with me.  Then, she came up with a plan.

“Maybe, when you feel like Josh needs to, you guys could go to a strip club together, and Josh could get a hands-on lap dance…and he can get it out of his system that way,” she suggested.

Not even for a second did I entertain this idea.  It was the most horrifying thing I had ever heard actually.  The last thing I want to do in life is watch my husband get his jollies from another woman.  Especially if those jollies are something(s) I can’t give him anymore.  To watch him put his hands on another woman.  Umm, no thanks!  That was not the answer.  (And to be fair to Josh, he was equally as horrified.)

I’ve never been a jealous girl, and I haven’t been particularly insecure.  As a matter of fact, before we had kids, Josh was the singer of a band, and women (girls?) would ogle him and flirt with him and throw their underwear at him (Just kidding. I don’t think there was ever any underwear involved.) right in front of me.  I didn’t care.  I really didn’t.

Well, once, I did.  It was when a girl was trying to talk Josh into her over me as I sat right next to him and after I had already MARRIED him.  “Her?” she said looking my way in disgust. “She looks like a librarian.”

It took all I had not to scream, “At least, I don’t look like a whore!”  I’m a lady, and I don’t say such things.  Also, librarians have to use inside voices.  I didn’t have to though because Josh very nicely PUT HER IN HER PLACE.

When Josh went to bachelor parties before, I didn’t really care if they ended at the strip club.  Although, more often than not, they didn’t.  I knew that they weren’t really his thing.  I was his thing.

And I still know that I am his thing.  I just can’t handle the thought of him in a strip club.  Be it good or bad or fair or not, I just can’t, and it really has nothing to do with him.

So when I told him last night that I was worried/panicking a little, he again proved to me why I chose him.

“Oh yeah, you don’t have to worry.  I already talked to [the groom] about it, and it’s not going to be that kind of party.  And if it goes there, I won’t.  I understand why you feel that way.  You don’t have to worry, Heather.”

Again, I get myself worked up over things that I need not get worked up about.

Also, so what if I look like a librarian?  Librarians are hot.  And at least, I CAN READ.

Scanxiety.

Two days ago, I found myself in a waiting room with my husband vacillating between irritation (at best) and playfulness, feeling shaky, slightly breathy, and with blurred vision and a lump in my throat.  I was disproportionately aggravated by the man, a row of seats over, who was “blaring” youtube clips or somesuch from his phone.

“That’s so rude!”  I quipped, and Josh nodded at me tentatively, having already realized that the world — and he — was my punching bag this morning.

“I mean, we’re in an oncology waiting room not…” and I trailed off because I couldn’t think of when it’s not rude to blare video clips from your phone.  “There are TVs here,” which were also kind of getting on my nerves, the way they were all tuned into different channels.  “Or he could at least wear some earbuds.  It’s just so rude!”

And then I looked up at Josh and razzed him about much faster I had done my sudoku, grabbed two word searches from the shelf on the wall, and challenged him to a word-searching duel.

The last word that I couldn’t find was “expect,” and I was frantic to find it before they called me into the exam room.  I didn’t know what to “expect.”  I have come to realize that we shouldn’t “expect” anything, but I somehow felt like if I could just circle this last word in the search, I could regain some kind of control.  Like I might be safer.

Three months prior, inside the exam room, my smiley oncologist looked up at me and said all was well.  I had “nothing to worry about.”  Then I asked about scanning my left armpit to make sure all really was well.

Upon diagnosis, they were almost sure the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes based on a CT and an MRI, which was very “worrisome,” but lo and behold, when the surgeon got in there, he saw nothing, and the node biopsies were clear.  They had no explanation and all but gave me a flick of the wrist as explanation.  My oncologist’s fellow once mentioned following-up on this with future scans.

“So the other doctor mentioned doing a scan or ultrasound or something to follow my left armpit,” I mentioned three months ago.

And as if I had been harassing her for scans, Dr. Permasmile said that I “could have this one, but it’ll be the last scan.”  Umm, I haven’t had or mentioned one since the week of diagnosis but mmmkay.

So I waited and, really, mostly forgot about it until a few days before the appointment when I started picking stupid fights with Josh.

“Why did you just turn?  Grrr.  If you would have gone the other way, we could have saved, like, 4.7 seconds!!” or “Why did you bring me these pancakes and coffee in bed?  You know I’m trying to eat better, and this is just rude.”  So yeah, maybe not my finest few days.

But Josh is cool and grown-up and has better control of himself and stuff.  He says things like, “You’ve been so short with me today.  I don’t understand why you’re so upset…  Oh.  Your scan is on Monday.”  And he takes the day off when he thinks I’ll need him, even when I tell him I won’t.

I always do.

That's me pretending to be scared -- but really actually being scared -- to hear my scan results in two minutes.
That’s me pretending to be scared — but really actually being scared — to hear my scan results in two minutes.

On Monday morning, I went in for the CT scan, which literally takes, like, five minutes.  But those five minutes — going in and out of the familiar tube and hearing the man’s voice ring, “Take a breath.  Hold it.  And now you can breathe again.” — brought me back to darker times.  It reminded me of how vulnerable I am, of how much control I don’t have, of how lonely illness is, of how scared I was last year.

In there alone, it was me versus my body again, and I was terrified.  I had no reason to believe there were metastases — I have been feeling better everyday — but I also had no reason to believe I had cancer in the first place.  Had I not accidentally felt that tiny, little lump, I could have gone on for a while feeling just fine, I suppose.  It was like someone telling me, “Your shoe’s untied.  If you don’t fix that, you’re going to die.”  Huh?  What are you talking about?  I feel just fine…great even!

So I prayed and thought of my daughters as the machine did its job, all the while feeling like it was peering into my soul and was about to spill my deepest, darkest thoughts.  It had the power to make or break me.

When the technician came in the room to tell me it was over, she looked down at my tear-soaked face and asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.  I’m just nervous,” I answered as I stood up, pulling my shirt back over my head.

“Did they tell you if a doctor was going to come in here before you leave and discuss your results?”

“What?” I replied, reeling. “Why?  No.  Nobody said anything.  Why?”

“Oh, I was just wondering.”

She’s not looking at me.  She’s not making eye contact!  Why won’t she look at me?  OH SHIT!  What did she see?

“Do they do that?  I have a doctor’s appointment in two hours.  I thought she was going to go over the results with me.”

“Oh yeah, that’s fine.  Sometimes people want to see someone before they leave.  You can go,” she said smiling but not looking in my eyes, according to me.

SHIT.  Shit, shit, shit.

Josh and I had almost two hours to kill before my appointment with Dr. Permasmile, so we went to a bookstore where it’s strictly forbidden to scream or shout.  (Good thinking, Josh!  😉 ), where I nervously flipped through a People magazine, sent out an SOS on facebook, and unsuccessfully tried not to think of what it would be like if I was rediagnosed at stage 4 that day.  What about my daughters?

Basically, I got myself REAL worked up.

I barely think it’s avoidable though.  I think it’s a universal cancer experience.  Scanxiety is real.  Oh, how quickly things can change.  One minute you don’t have cancer.  The next, you do.  It’s just that easy.  It’s not within your control.

“Heather?  Heather Lagemann?”

My heart raced and I struggled to swallow as my husband and I stood up to see the doctor and hear the results of a scan that had felt like cut me wide open.
20150902_122919NO FINDINGS TO SUGGEST METASTATIC DISEASE!!  ::Like, seven judo kicks and a little air guitar::  I mean, PHEW!  It was literally like a load off.  Walking out of there, I stood up straighter, I felt lighter, and hey look, I’m smiling again.  But why wasn’t that girl looking at me?  Healthcare workers, eye contact is important.  Like, SUPER important, you guys.