Thursday, July 23, 2015

On Being Atypical

Dear John,
 
Today I flunked my diagnostic mammogram and will be getting a needle-aspirate biopsy. It's what I was expecting. Nothing to see here. I have some calcifications that need to be checked out. It will be done at the mammo center with just local anesthesia, so no great life disruption.
 
Remember, right after your lung cancer was diagnosed in July of 2011, when the cancer center counselors were fluffing over us, all worried because we weren't acting upset enough? At first they thought we didn't understand the diagnosis, then they decided that we were stuck in the denial stage. So they cornered me one day over a jigsaw puzzle. They started the tactful probing and I knew what the problem was, so I stopped them and said, "You're worried about us because we're not showing the appropriate stages of grief." They looked startled and said yes, so I told them your medical history and said that we'd done that over thirty years ago. Then they were happy and went away.
 
Long digression, but today was a bit like that. The x-ray tech came and told me that the radiologist wanted to talk to me, and everybody knows exactly what that means. He started explaining what they'd found and what the next steps would be. Then he kept repeating himself and they started looking at me funny, and I realized that they thought I didn't understand because I wasn't acting upset. It was obvious that intervention was necessary. So I told them that I'm a retired critical care nurse, I've been thorough three rounds of cancer with you, and this was exactly what I was expecting. Like the counselors in 2011, they were happy and they went away.
 
I understand perfectly. The lack of understanding isn't on my part. As is usual, what is going on in my head is atypical. First, I know that few biopsies come back positive. Second, I'm a critical care nurse. I've seen worse. Heck, I've HAD worse. Breast cancer has a much higher survival rate than gram negative sepsis. The third reason is one I didn't even try to tell them: My survival instinct left with you. I'm content and happy and enjoying my life. But I'm ready to join you any time. The fourth reason I wouldn't dream of trying to tell them: I know with all my being that whatever God sends is what is best for me, so I have no preference. My little brain isn't very bright. I have no idea what's best. I'll just wait and see what comes, and give thanks for the gift that it is, whatever it is.
 
Yup, I do believe I'm being atypical again. Imagine that. I can tell all of my reasons to you and none of them will surprise you. I'm being me. And I'm just being logical. I'm so glad you liked me this way. You were the same, you know. This aspect of us always puzzled our health care providers. They eventually got used to us.
 
I'll keep you posted. Joe's office has to order the biopsy and get it cleared with insurance. I'll call them at lunch tomorrow, and then try to get this thing scheduled on a day off in order to minimize the disruption. I'll try not to cause too much excitement.
 
You loving, atypical wife,
Joan.

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