She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.
I had to take the day off of work today. Not in the fun, play hooky, vacation way. Today was not that kind of summer day. It started one month ago at an appointment with my new primary care physician.
In February of 2016, my husband and I moved from California to Massachusetts. Since then, and even before, I haven’t been to see a doctor. I’m in my early 30s with no medical issues and for over 2 years, my focus has been on my husband’s health. On his addiction, his treatment, and his recovery. HIM. Have you loved an addict? Then you KNOW what I am talking about.
Addiction’s gravity pulling life into its black hole with such force that all light was consumed, leaving me trapped and invisible. Celestial death in an exploding star.
I ended up ignoring my own care. Lovers of addicts, YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS.
Today my husband is 319 days sober.
So a month ago, I found myself a doctor and set up a routine physical. I felt so satisfied that sunny Friday in July as I drove to her office 15 minutes from my home. Finally my life was manageable enough that I could take care of my health like a functional adult. I had time, money, and energy for a pedicure, manicure, and doctors appointment. After the visit, I would pack and get ready to go to the beach for a week long vacation at the shore. Some real adult happy-life shit, you know?
For a long time I didn’t believe I would experience this kind of life.
Adulting is not always fun. My new doctor doesn’t have the best bedside manner. She also maintains eye contact for an uncomfortably long time while asking personal-medical questions. During the breast exam she stated she thought she felt irregularities, possibly lumps, and wrote me an order for a mammogram and ultrasound. She reassured me it was probably nothing, but wanted to make sure. The dread hatched in my gut, a minuscule, almost undetectable parasite.
The Big C. Cancer. Bye bye happy-life shit. It was fun while it lasted.
Today I had my first mammogram. I have been clinging to the “it’s nothing” thought these last weeks before the test. Not denial, but survival mixed with rationality. Then there’s my husband. He is not great at emotions. His response was more nonchalant than I would have liked, also sticking to the “it’s nothing, there’s no need to worry” line. Again survival, but this time mixed with repression.
Today I had my first mammogram and today it hit me. This is a test to aid in the detection of cancer. The parasite burrowed in my gut. I was unable to eat, and I felt shaky, alone, and afraid. I had been here before. To this emotional place. I battled my husband’s addiction. I still do. I am a survivor.
Today I had my first mammogram. Today I was manhandled by a tech, my breasts were flattened and pressed, as the tech told me to relax, then repetitively shouted to me to stop breathing in a husky monotone script. Once it was done, I was instructed to wait for the radiologist in order to complete the ultrasound and analyze the results. As I sat in the surprisingly comfortable chair, manually securing the gown around my chest and torso (because who the hell can figure out all of those straps, holes, and belts), I texted my husband, I prayed, and I thought. I thought a lot. We are beating the insidious, cunning motherfucker that is opioid addiction and now this. Now this. Now cancer. It got dramatic. It got scary. I have been there in addiction. I am a survivor.
Unlike my PCP, the radiologist had a fabulous bedside manner. She was gentle and compassionate. She explained everything she saw in a way that demonstrated her awareness of my intense vulnerability. When I left she did something unexpected, especially in Massachusetts. She hugged me. It was a simple and profound act of kindness.
This brings me to another (and better) Big C. Connection.
We live in a complex time; in a world that feels more and more disconnected, material, and inhumane. In the United States, we recently witnessed a violent brand of hatred marching in our streets. Divisiveness a commonly uttered word in the modern American narrative.
Connection between people is powerful. I know it’s healing properties in addiction and I have written about it extensively here. I felt it today from a stranger. Connection in her kind words, in a listening ear, in a gentle touch, in a loving embrace, and in a simple hug.
As for the imaging, the radiologist saw nothing. No lumps. Just normal fat, muscle, glands, and connective tissue.
My chest a beating heart and connective tissue.