Tuesday night, after that diagnostic mammogram, when life shifted into high gear, I came home stunned and silent. At some point during the night, I sat down to my computer and began to read up on 'biopsy'. One site showed pictures. Reality reared up and bit me hard. I realized that even if I dodge a bullet, even if that biopsy comes back cancer free, I am going to look different. Way different. Without being too graphic, allow me to say that my form will be altered. Substantially. I stared at those pictures, shocked, speechless. I could think of one thing only. Last month, coming out of the grocery store, Tim walked at my side. I was chattering away, like I do, and he kept giving me sideways glances. I finally stopped in my tracks and said, "What?!!!!" and he got a wicked little grin on his face, and leaned in to say, "Man, you've got a nice rack." I hissed, "Geesh, Tim, hush now!" and he smiled his way back to the car. That's all I could think of. It hit me that this experience is going to 'mark' me for life. I'm disgusted with myself for even worrying about such a thing, but there it is. Plain and simple. This is a big lump. Getting ready for bed, I stood in front of the mirror for a moment and measured that lump with my fingers. I'm going to lose a substantial amout of tissue. If I'm lucky that's all I'll lose. As reality sunk in, so did the emotions.
Tim is quiet. He was raised in a home where no matter what happened, the answer was, "Have faith, and it will be alright". The girls used to joke about it. "Momma, momma, my head's been chopped off." and one or the other would call back, "Have faith, it will be okay," in a soothing voice. Nothing wrong with that answer, except that momma wasn't listening, not really, and there was no problem solving being learned. Tim's father didn't allow them to talk when he got home. He did not like chatter. So I am married to a quiet man, who loves me dearly, but isn't all that good about expressing himself. Usually, I deal with that just fine, being a pretty self-contained unit myself. Until now.
I had gone to the radiologist's appointment straight from work. Tim had come straight from his work. We had missed each other, and I was already in when he got there. When the radiologist came in, I was asked if I wanted my husband there. "No," I said, "he's not here," never realizing that he'd arrived. So I got the news alone. While I dressed, I stared at myself, marveling that I looked the same. I felt quite different. But I looked the same. What the heck was up with that? When I walked out, and saw Tim in the waiting room, staring woodenly, I didn't know what to say. It wasn't really bad news, but it was definately not good news either. So, just as woodenly, I gave him the facts. Just the facts. He walked me to the Mercedes. We did not hug. We did not touch. "Are you hungry?" he asked. "Not really," I said. "But if you are, I'll have an iced tea while you get a bite." "No," he said, "We'd best go home. I've got to get the chimney cleaned and start the wood stove. It's pretty chilly." And he was right. I'd been shivering all day. So I drove him to his car, and headed out in my own car. I drove carefully, thinking 'pay attention...don't let your mind wander...you'll have an accident'...sensible things like that. And when he got home, he cleaned the chimney, and then heated up spaghetti in the microwave. I answered the phone and handled the changes, and answered the questions and agreed to arrangements that were being made way too quickly. And then it was quiet again, and we had nothing to say.
So I got on the internet, and scared the bejeesus out of myself.
Tim told me to have faith and everything would be fine.
24 hours later, his wife was an emotional basketcase, weeping while he stood there with a blank look on his face. And when the crying did not stop, when the wine was gone, it was tee totalling Tim that went out and bought another bottle. After three glasses, the hiccupping sobs subsided a little, and we talked, finally, and I realized how helpless he felt, and he realized how afraid I felt, and we both fell asleep in exhaustion on the sofa.
Tim's not going with me today to the surgeon's office. My request. My oldest friend, Mary, is going with me. Her husband Danny is leaving work early to drive her school bus. They had their own scare with this a few years back. Danny got so woozy they made him sit down before he fainted. On our own, we decided that this is no place for husbands, they being merely male. Tim will come home from work and wait at our house. Mary will drive me home.
It may seem strange. Tim was quite upset when I told him how it was going to be, crying my eyes out. He's so intent on 'business as usual', as if ignoring these grim things will make them less grimmer, maybe. I don't know. All I know is that I am not sure what is going to happen today, but the thing I need to know, with no doubt in my heart is that if I get really bad news today, I want to know that I've got someone with me who will know exactly what to say, and who will talk to me, not respond with some quick little sermon about faith. I want to know that the hug will be immediate, and heartfelt.
This is a hard time for Tim. This is a hard time for me. This is uncharted water. We've never been this far out before. We struggle in currents that threaten to overwhelm us. When it is said and done, I know that I have my 'port in the storm' waiting. But when you're drowning, that port is not nearly as comforting as having someone dive in who knows how to swim.