Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Knock, knock! Who's there? Cancer."

As my forty-second birthday is rapidly approaching, I am beginning to ponder the concept of my imminant mortality; not in a morbid, Fellini-esque manner, but more as a means to gradually acclimate myself for that moment when I shuffle off this mortal coil.  I know most people say that "life begins at 40", but unless your the fucking Highlander then I am inclined to differ.  To be honest, talking about death makes me about as uncomfortable as Shaquille O'Neal flying coach but it isn't like ignoring it will make it go away.

A large portion of the crystal-wearing, Prius-driving, Wiccan community would like us all to believe that death is not to be feared or stigmatized, but rather embraced as just another part of life.  These hippy-dippy bastards don't understand why we portray death as terrifying and cruel.  Well, that's a tough one, Stardust McDolphin, but I'd say it's because it fucking KILLS you!  But hey, if you want to view your demise with acceptance and peace then who I am I to begrudge you?  Just don't expect me to hold your hand on that E-ticket ride.  Your death may be a glorious journey into the sacredness of eternity.  My death, on the other hand?  A freaking clusterfuck of angst and terror.

Now that I'm in my 40's people my age don't die from basic dipshit moves like bodysurfing on top of a Winnebago at Burning Man or mixing Vicodin with Jagermeister.  No, we tend to die from the things that require extensive reconstructive surgeries and the kind of pharmaceutical-grade drugs that would make Anna Nicole Smith flinch.  In my family, if you're a woman, you get cancer.  It's just the delightful little genetic legacy that my Danish ancestors have passed down, along with a scathingly dry sense of humor and a propensity for inane dickery.  Every time I feel a twinge, pinch or pang I'm certain it's the big C making it's cameo appearance.  Legs a little extra achy after that run?  Thigh cancer.  Belly a little 'floopy' after that questionable tamale from the food trucks?  Stomach cancer.  Weird dark spot on my chest?  Skin cancer.*

*That one actually turned out to be from an M&M that fell down my shirt. . .shut up.

Cancer awareness is certainly in the forefront of political activism, but quite frankly most of the Breast Cancer PSA's are a lot like Dr. Phil: pointless, overdramatic, and most of the country has learned to ignore them.  But not me.  I perform regular self-exams, partly because of my strong family history and partly because I'm the only one tapping that these days.  I perform them regularly.  I never find anything.  Until I did.

It was small, about the size of a Skittle...*

*And, no.  Before you ask, I did NOT drop a Skittle down my shirt.

...but big enough to strike an overwhelming feeling of HOLYSHIT into the very marrow of my neurotic bones.  Never one to suffer in silence, I immediately called my friend, Kelly.

KELLY: Where was it?

ME:  On the right side, down deep.  I was just lying there, thinking about Jeremy Renner's abs, and BAM!

KELLY:  Wait. . .what?  Don't get me wrong, Jeremy Renner can get all up in my "Hurt Locker" any day, but does Nathan Fillion know you're cheating on him?

ME:  I tell you I'm dying and THIS is the takeaway you get?

KELLY:  Let's not organize the candlelight vigil quite yet.  Have you gone to the doctor?

ME:  This morning.  I have to go in for an ultrasound this week.

KELLY:  Good girl.  You're sure it wasn't another rogue M&M, right?

ME:  I hate your face.

The day of the ultrasound arrived and I spent an anxious morning being even less productive than usual; no small feat for a lazy bastard such as myself.  Just as I found myself mindlessly photoshopping pictures of myself without hair...*

*For the record, I can't rock that look. phone began to chirp.

And this?  Right here?  Is why Misty is the wind beneath my goddamned wings.  Unfortunately, as she lives on the other side of the continent, my sister Holly agreed to blow off work and go to IKEA accompany me for moral support.  Sitting there waiting for the tech to arrive, Holly eyed the mammography machine with thinly-veiled contempt.

HOLLY: Did they already squeeze your tits in there?

ME:  Just the one.

HOLLY:  Did it hurt?

ME:  No!  It doesn't hurt.  It's like wedging your feet into cute shoes that don't fit.  A little pressure, a little discomfort, but worth it to look hot in the end.

HOLLY:  Jesus, it hurts the hell out of me.  Probably because I don't have boobs.

It was at this point that my sister proceeded to yank down her tank top and give me a private "Girls Gone Wild" show.

ME:  Whoa, 'Miss Jackson If You're Nasty'!  Let's keep the wardrobe malfunctions to a minimum, 'kay?

Holly shrugged and went back to tapping on her Smart Phone while I laid back on the table listening to the background music playing from the wall speakers.

ME:  Did they just play Michael Jackson's "Beat It"?  Are you shitting me?  (singing) "Breast cancer don't you ever come around here. . .I can beat it, beat it, beat it.  Just beat it, beat it, beat it..."

HOLLY:  I swear to God I heard them playing Coldplay's "Fix You" earlier.

ME:  What, does Pandora have a whole cancer station or something?

As Holly continued to check her email the opening notes of the next song drifted through the speakers.  As recognition dawned, we both slowly turned our heads and gazed at each other in astonishment.

HOLLY:  Wait. . .is that. . .?  

ME:  Yes, yes it is.   They're playing "I Will Survive".   In the breast cancer clinic.

HOLLY (grabbing her phone again):  Aaaaaaannnnd, that just became my new Facebook status.

A few moments later the technician returned.  Her name was Dana and she had already garnered mad street cred with me by making highly inappropriate cancer jokes, talking smack about her supervisor, and allowing me to hang some motivational photos on the mammography equipment.

"My preeeeeeeeciousssssssssssssssssss..."

DANA:  They'll take one last look, but everything looks good.

ME:  Wait, good like "We can keep you alive for eight to ten more weeks" or good like "Holy shit, you don't have cancer"?

DANA:  The 'holy shit' one.  It all looks harmless and clear.

HOLLY (throwing her hands up dramatically):  Thank you, Dana!  Seriously?  Now will you PLEASE tell her to stop freaking out?  And tell her she doesn't have liver cancer too!

ME:  I totally feel twingy right here (pointing at where WedbMD claims my liver is located), and sometimes it just feels all cancer-y.

DANA:  Do you have severe back pain?  Jaundice?  Extreme edema?

ME:  No.

DANA:  Then you don't have liver cancer.  

HOLLY:  Ha!  Told you.  (to Dana) She is such a drama queen.

ME:  Excuse me, 'Beaches', weren't you the one who called me at midnight because you had a headache and thought you were having a stroke?

Holly muttered something indistinguishable and proceeded to call my parents to inform them that I would in fact be attending Christmas dinner this year.

So, crisis averted, right?  Well, maybe.  With our family history the clinic strongly recommended that both Holly and I get tested to see if we carry the genetic marker for breast cancer.  Most likely, we do.  If we do test positive, the bad news is that we have over an 80% chance of getting the disease.  The good news?  It means that insurance will pay for a prophylactic mastectomy: a surgery where the breast tissue is removed entirely and replaced with implants.  Yup, you heard me.  Free boob job.   God bless America.

Take care of yourselves.


Mrs Social Assassin said...

So glad you're OK, must have been a nasty shock. I think that the sadistic taste in hospital music crosses the Pond to the UK aswell....recently I had to have an MRI scan (which freaked me out enough anyway as I hate confined spaces) and they piped music through headphones (mainly I presume to distract you from the groaning clanking noises the machine makes) and the first song? 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. Yeah, thanks for that! Mind you, Kev said it could have been 'The first cut is the deepests', so maybe we should be grateful for small mercies! Love and hugs xxx (PS - I thought M&M's were supposed to melt in your mouth, not down your top?!)

Jen said...

EMILY - Oh God, MRIs are like my own personal Vietnam; I am claustrophobic as hell. The only thing worse than being trapped in a magnetic box is being trapped in there with Kelly freakin' Clarkson. Jesus...

Fearless Fibro Warrior said...

Free titties! You lucky bitch.

Congrats on the great test results-but did you have them check your prostate, too?

Andrea said...

Woo-hoo! I. Made the mistake of flying solo for my frozen pea sized scare (cyst..yay!) there I was crying in the ultrasound room because I was so embarrassed that I couldn't find the pea again to show them where to scan...ugh, just wave that wand over both girls...and any other area you feel compelled to give me the all clear on! (finally found it)

Gia said...

Ugh, SO scary. Glad you're okay, lady!

Shane Morgan said...

Love, love, love your humor. Giving your boobs two thumbs up.

Jen said...

FIBRO - My prostate looks good, but Dana did threaten to bitch slap me if I don't stop lurking on WebMD.

ANDREA - One should always have a girlfriend with them for this shit. For no other reason but to point and laugh.

GIA - Yup, you're stuck with me a little longer, Babe. ;)

SHANE - My boobs and I salute you! HUZZAH!

Nat said...

Jeez, you can't start with a header like that and then make us read ALL THOSE WORDS to find out that you don't have cancer! It's not fair.

Also, I felt totally bad for laughing at the music. Mostly because I still didn't know if you had cancer.

Anonymous said...

At first I was afraid . . . I was petrified . . . thinking I could never live without you by my side . . .

Glad it was just that Skittle. Remember, food goes in your MOUTH, not in your cleavage.

Love ya, babe. Glad you got through it unscathed.

Rachael said...

Woohoo free boobs. Glad we're stuck with you for awhile longer though.

WeezaFish said...

Free boobs? Is that the part I should be concentrating on?!! So glad Dana was able to reassure you. For now ...

Tainted Fibers said...

Nat's right. ALL THOSE WORDS... but since I enjoy your words, you get a pass. And High Five, hell yeah, no cancer! That's a scary road to go down, even when the end is okay. Keep check on it, don't get complacent. I have a friend who was tested for the BRCA gene and had a double mastectomy WAY back in the day when testing was in it's infancy. She was on Oprah and everything. And she is 58 and still good to go!

Jim said...

Glad you're fine. Dealing with a little of that stuff out this-a-way. Good times.

Jen said...

NAT - Probably should have prefaced with an "it all turns out OK" message as some of my family members saw teh post title and lost their shit. Oops.

MISTY - Aaaaannnnnd, now that fucking song is stuck in my head. ((sigh)) Against my better judgment, I love you too. :)

RACHAEL - I'm too damned stubborn to die. Word.

FIBERS - Oprah? Damn, Girl, you be knowing peoples who are all famous and shit! Glad to hear she's doing well.

JIM - I'm so sorry you guys are going through this. Hang in there. ((HUGS))

RemarkableMonkey said...

I can relate... due for my annual mammogram/sonogram next month, to be followed by my annual MRI six months later. Oh joy. Hopefully no biopsy required again this year. So far, so good.

Good luck with your own adventures in breast health! Can't say it isn't at least interesting, right? LOL!

lazysubculturalgirl said...

I'm so resigned to the idea that I'm dying, I'd probably find a lump and go, "Well, that explains that," then calmly continue on my daily routine. On the other hand, I'm a regular at the dentist because my teeth are fucked six ways from Sunday and I may be a ho, but I'll be damned if I'm a toothless ho. I'm gonna die with these beauties still in my mouth, TYVM.

Probably of the cancer I forgot to check up on. Oops. Congrats on being more responsible than me and cancer-free as well.

Killer Cupcake said...

I've had undiagnosed cancer for years. I have hair cancer, nose cancer, brain cancer, liver cancer, throat cancer...

Basically, I'm the fattest cancer sufferer in the entire free world.

I can't read WebMD because when I do, I go over my will, call all my friends and family and tell them I love them, and then wait for Death.

Meanwhile, I'm glad your mammo was clear... YAYYYYY!!!!

Jen said...

MONKEY- I should get an MRI so I can chill the hell out instead of assuming I am a ginormous ball of tumors.

ANDI- Oh Christ on a cracker, I haven't been to the dentist in SIX YEARS. True statement...sad, but true.


Jennifer Clark said...

Can I get a "Hallelujah!"?!? Glad to hear you are in the clear. That's some scary shit, right there.

TheOtherLisa said...

Jen, please please don't get cancer. Not even hair cancer.

Do it for me, a complete stranger on the internet.

Leauxra said...

Fucking lumps and tumors. I am glad you get a free boob job. I mean, if you want one. I guess? Did I ever tell you about the time I was in florida and got a flier for "buy one get one free" boob jobs?

So anyway. My oldest friend has a brain tumor. They say it isn't cancer and she named it after her ex husband, but what the fuck is with everyone having tumors all of a sudden?

Izzy Mason said...

Man that's crazy. Glad you're okay though! and thank you for that amazing collection of puns.