It’s That Time Again

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Please fill out this paperwork.

Date of the last mammogram?
Ultrasound?
MRI?
Personal Cancer history? No
Mom breast cancer? Yes
Aunt breast cancer? Yes

Same questions-every year-sometimes every 6 months. And this time, in the middle of a pandemic.

Here I sit-blue hospital mask. Waiting to hear my name.

Kelley? Dressing room 4. Put on your cape. She’ll come to get you in a minute.

Here I sit-blue hospital mask and floral cape. Waiting again.

So glad I wore my blue earrings today. They’re my favorite!

Seems silly, but somehow, they make me feel a little less nervous.

I’ve done this a million times. And I know it can be lifesaving. There is no other option.

I can’t help but think about the brave women I know who have fought breast cancer. Many won their fight, some did not.

And yet, at some point on each of their journeys, they sat where I’m sitting. Being proactive, preventative. But also wondering, what if there’s something there this time. The thought can’t be helped.

That’s why I sit here, waiting. Wearing my blue hospital mask, floral cape, and favorite blue earrings.

My turn.

Don’t breathe. It is a 4-second test. Breathe. Repeat x 4.

Wait again. Possible ultrasound. Usually, what happens to me. This time, I mentally prepared for that one. Who am I kidding?

It is worth all the waiting and anxiety of this moment. Because it will either provide peace of mind or the need for a plan of action.

Kelley? Bring your things. Follow me.

Ultrasound. Press and click what seems like x 50…

Everything looks stable. See what your doctor says. Otherwise, see you next year.

Walking out into the fresh air, I want to shout to the skies.
Get your mammogram! Do not wait!

Cues

Cue-a signal (such as a word, phrase, or bit of stage business) to a performer to begin a specific speech or action.

When I think of the word cue, it is usually about music. As a pianist, I’m very good at giving and receiving cues. For example, I might follow a singer’s breathing or lead them into an entrance with tempo/musical changes. The cues help us stay together, resulting in beautiful music.

This week, I’ve been forced to listen to a different kind of cue. It actually took several days for me to even recognize that it was a cue. 

If only it had been a musical cue. 

But no, this was an emotional cue manifesting in a physical symptom.

The first time it appeared was around 5:00 p.m. I had planned to cook dinner-homemade meatballs, roasted veggies, and pasta. 

All the ingredients were ready.  

Suddenly, I began to feel a little nauseous. “Hmmm, that’s weird,” I thought. I immediately began to worry about getting sick. But I hadn’t been anywhere, and it was not likely. I almost changed dinner plans to take-out.

But then, I decided to push through. We needed a home-cooked meal. It would surely make us all feel better. So, I cooked. It was yummy. I even baked cookies. When the cookies were done, I realized the nausea was gone.

The same thing happened the next day, at the same time. Curious. 

“I wonder if this is stress?” I asked myself. This time, my daughter and I took a short walk around the neighborhood. Guess what? Nausea once again disappeared.

That night, I told my husband what had happened. I also expressed that I thought it was a reaction to stress over all the changes occurring right now. He agreed. 

Somehow, just sharing how I was feeling helped.

As I thought about this more, it made sense. I may be putting on a good front, staying calm, and saying I’m not worried. But truthfully, these are unsettling times and they are affecting my emotions. This little cue was trying to get my attention. Trying to tell me it’s ok to not be ok.

The time of day also made sense. Each time I noticed this feeling, it was around 5-5:30 p.m. This is the time of day we would normally be getting home from work. Everyone would be sharing about their day, talking about what went well and what didn’t. Talking about students and what we were planning the next days, weeks, etc.  

That has all changed. We are together most of the day at home. Not knowing when we will go back to work. Worrying about our friends and family. Worrying about our students. All things that are out of our control.  

No wonder my physical cue was nausea.

The most important thing about cues? They require a response. How could I respond to this one? Well, I’ve found a few things to be helpful.   

  1. Take a walk
  2. Tell someone how I’m feeling
  3. Cook
  4. Play piano

This experience also made me think of our kiddos. How do they react to stress? What is often their first complaint? “My stomach hurts.” I guess some things never change. 😉   

Take care of yourselves, friends. Listen to your body and pay attention to your emotions. Don’t be afraid to say how you’re feeling.  ❤ 

Pink October

I received a phone call from my doctor’s office this afternoon. Insurance previously denied the claim for a breast MRI I had in April. There were two levels of appeal, and today’s call informed me that our final appeal was not successful.

This news was disappointing. After all, my doctor is a specialist. She weighed all my risk factors before ordering this particular test. I was so confident that information would change the decision.

My risk factors included family history (my mom is a five-year survivor), extremely dense tissue, and my use of hormone replacement therapy. Over the past eighteen years, I’ve experienced extra mammograms, ultrasounds, two MRIs, a lumpectomy, and multiple needle biopsies-all benign.

Rehashing these details did not help. My frustration only grew. And then my sweet husband called. He calmly reminded me that I could not change this outcome. The MRI had provided peace in a moment of uncertainty. And that was more important than money.

Writing through my frustration brought transformation. I am left feeling thankful. Thankful for my mom and my current health status. Thankful for an expert doctor who is comprehensive and thorough. Thankful for a husband who knows what I need to hear just at the right moment.

Our first outing after her mastectomy. ❤

I do find it interesting that this decision came during Breast Cancer Awareness month. The month in which we celebrate and encourage survivors. A time to remember those no longer with us. Time focused on raising research funds and seeking a cure.

Who knows? Maybe it came at just the right time, forcing me to write.

I will see my doctor later this month for a checkup. My prayer is for continued positive results. I will not live in a spirit of fear for what might happen in the future but will continue to be diligent where my health is concerned.

So in the middle of this pink October, here is my reminder-Early detection is the key! Don’t delay in getting your yearly mammograms!

Like an Avenger?

This morning I knew where I was going. I got lost on my first visit to this destination.  I would not get lost a second time. After all, the first visit was only a week ago. https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2019/07/10/journey-to-somewhere/

I had not expected to be back so soon. It seems a bit surreal. I am not complaining. My doctor leaves nothing to chance when it comes to breast cancer awareness, prevention, and early detection.

Waiting for my name to be called, I witnessed her speaking with a family. Wearing scrubs and hair cap, she must have come from surgery. She approached the waiting family with confidence and kindness.

Observing this scene increases my confidence for today’s adventure.

As a result of last week’s mammogram, I am having a diagnostic mammogram on my left side, possibly followed by an ultrasound. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I’ve been here before.

Would I rather be somewhere else? Most definitely!

Surprisingly, I feel calm. Prayers from friends and family bring peace. Yesterday there were moments of panic, but those have faded.

A text from my husband. Perfect timing. ❤

He always makes me laugh!

A sweet lady named Carolyn took my initial pics. She was kind, and I appreciated her procedure. During a mammogram, there’s a moment where the technician says, “Ok. Stop breathing and don’t move.”  But Carolyn continued speaking, “only four seconds.”

In those three little words, she acknowledged the pain and offered reassurance. Her voice gave me a focal point.

Back in my room, a text from my mom. 

My mom is using emojis!

More waiting. Will additional pics be required? An ultrasound? Not going to lie, my vote is for no more pics. But if necessary, I will take a deep breath and close my eyes, remembering each lasts only four seconds.

A quick phone call from my friend, Marina.

Carolyn returned with news-no more pics! However, ultrasound has been ordered. So, I wear my flowery Avengers’ cape a little longer. Once the ultrasound is complete, I will happily trade it in for some non-hero street clothes. 😉

All done! Results? The radiologist recommends repeating today’s tests in six months to make sure there is no change. Reports will be sent to my doctor. For now, I wait for her follow up instructions.

Why am I sharing the details of this personal experience? To encourage women to get their regular mammograms. To offer reassurance concerning additional testing. No, it is not fun. Yes, it is uncomfortable and sometimes scary. More importantly, it is life-saving. Early detection is key! 

And thinking of that flowery cape in terms of an Avenger? Well, today it made the whole ordeal a little more bearable. 

What a difference one week and a little humor can make!

Journey to Somewhere…

When making a journey, it’s helpful to know the name and location of the intended destination. When my day started, I thought the needed information was in my brain. I soon discovered it was not.

Today was mammogram day. It seems like I did this only yesterday. With the extra MRI and ultrasounds of this past year, that is not far from the truth. https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2019/03/31/a-pink-letter/

Because I now see a specialist, mammograms are done at a different place. Today was my first visit to the new location. I headed out with confidence, knowing where I was going. Except, I did not.

My short journey turned into quite an adventure. After finding a spot in the parking garage, I exited the elevator on the wrong floor. This mistake was not realized until I had walked to the opposite side of the hospital.

Asked directions and I was back on track! Except, I was not. I had asked directions to the wrong location. Now an awareness that I did not know the physical location or the actual name of my destination.

Thankfully, a kind nurse helped me find my way. After explaining exactly why I was there, she made a phone call, walked me out in the hall, pointed me in the right direction. She went above and beyond.

Finally, I knew where I was headed. Of course, now I was running late, and anxiety started to build. The elevator took forever. And the reassurance from that kind nurse began to fade.

After arriving on the new floor, I signed in and was told to have a seat. Everything was different. Not what I expected. Feeling unsure, I double-checked with the receptionist. Yes, I was in the right place.

My name was called! But after being checked in, I was directed to yet another floor. Great! Back at the elevator, feelings of nervousness returned. Where in the world was I going?

Then I spotted a lady holding the same paperwork. She smiled and we began to chat. After briefly sharing my confusion, she kindly guided me to the office where the mammograms actually take place. From that point, it was a piece of cake.

Needless to say, I was relieved to put this little journey behind me. Why had I not been better prepared? Why hadn’t I double checked the details? That would have been the logical thing to do.

Time for reflection.

My lack of planning, though not recommended, did leave me with some positives. Two different women, on their own journeys, took time to help. They did so with kindness and patience. Without these two strangers, my path might have been longer and more stressful. Their simple actions had a profound effect on my day.

Hopefully, I will not return to this place for another year. Next time I will know the routine. The name and location planted in my brain. More importantly, I will have the opportunity to remember today. Most likely there will be someone there feeling like I felt.

In the meantime, there are other journeys to take. Some short, some long. Some fun, some not so fun. All filled with opportunities. All filled with people. People who feel uncertain. People who need a friendly smile. People who need help getting somewhere.

More Waiting

Wednesday did not go as planned. Yes, I had a moment of clarity which encouraged me to be patient and focus on others. My mood improved and I felt prepared to face the rest of the day. At least, I thought I was prepared.

After being in pre-op for more than two hours, my dad was informed his surgery was canceled. Apparently, previous surgeries had taken longer than expected. A new anesthesiology policy would not permit the procedure to begin unless there was a guarantee of being finished by 5:00 P.M. What?!

Although the doctors were sincerely apologetic, I was extremely frustrated. You can imagine how my dad was feeling. I could not simply walk away without advocating him.

I not so quietly reminded them that Dad is 75, diabetic, and had been on a liquid diet for five days in preparation for this surgery. This was not acceptable. The doctors agreed and offered other possibilities, none of which were “best scenario” options.

Returning to the waiting room, I informed the rest of the family. By this time, I was angry. I shot off several texts to friends and family, expressing my frustration. Let’s just say, that patient attitude I had reclaimed earlier-well, it was gone.

Some dinner and quiet provided time to think about the situation. Maybe dad is not supposed to have this procedure right now. Are there other options to pursue? I don’t know. I do know we will do some more waiting. And for now, that is ok.

Waiting provides time for praying, researching, and asking questions. Which hopefully means the waiting will lead to wisdom. Which brings us back to patience.

My sweet dad with his youngest granddaughters. ❤

On a positive note, we were able to enjoy the Fourth of July. A small family cookout and some fireworks at a local park. For that I am thankful.