I feel a little uncertain writing about what's going on. It may seem crazy to some to share here, in this space, these intimate details and fears.
But I'm grateful for the urge to write, to come here and put words on a page. I feel like I'm on shaky ground, and writing orients me, plants my feet firmly underneath me.
The next few days are going to be challenging.
Earlier this month, when I first went to see the doctor about my swollen lymph node, in a fit of bravery I also scheduled an annual physical and routine mammogram. I hadn't had a physical in two years, and had yet to schedule my first mammogram, even though I'm 42 - two years over the recommended age to begin having annual mammograms. Fear has always stopped me, before.
The physical was Friday, and the doctor recommended an ultrasound of my neck, as well as an ultrasound of my ovaries; when I delivered Finn they discovered cysts and I was supposed to follow up and monitor them. Six years ago.
My mammogram was on Friday. I knew going into it that follow-up pictures and ultrasounds are very common, so I steeled myself for the call that said I had to come in for follow-up. My doctor even said to me that many women have to have follow-up visits, and - in her words - she advised me "not to freak out".
All my bravado didn't help much when the call came today, asking me to come Monday for more pictures and a bilateral breast ultrasound, to follow up on questionable images that appeared in the mammogram.
Over the next five days, I have an ENT appointment for my swollen lymph node, neck and ovary ultrasounds and an additional mammogram and breast ultrasound.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared.
My rational brain says to me: Good for you, Ellie. You're covering all the bases, looking for answers, facing all of these issues head-on.
Unfortunately, not all of my brain in rational. As I hung up the phone after getting the call about the follow-up mammogram, I was trembling with fear. No more, I thought. I can't take anymore.
On the heels of this thought was a craving for a drink. It hit me like a tidal wave - a knee buckling desire to hide from everything.
I walked to the couch and sat down, taking deep breaths. The craving followed me like an imp from hell, leaping madly about and cackling: you don't have to feel this, you know, .
I sat with the craving for a while; examined it curiously. I can go to the liquor store anytime I want to. The kids are at school, I could have a couple of pops and sober up by the time everyone got home. The imp waved its hands over its head in delight, squealing: yes! yes!
Feeling something almost like regret, I sighed, because I knew I wasn't going to drink. A drink would leave me ashamed, afraid and alone, and none of my other problems or fears would be any better. I know this, but it doesn't stop the cravings from coming. I'm an alcoholic; the urge to drink may always be my default reaction to fear.
I stared at the phone, knowing I should call someone in recovery and talk this through, but I didn't have the energy. Just sit with it for a while, Ellie, I thought. Think it through.
After a while it came to me, what the trigger to hide is about: uncertainty. While I am afraid of a scary diagnosis from any of these health issues, I'm much more afraid of the not-knowing.
What I can't stand is being in this purgatory - this limbo - where my anxiety is free to run wild.
This is what life on life's terms is really about: uncertainty. The irony is that the uncertainty is always there, but it's only when something comes along to knock us off the rails that the full scope of uncertainty comes into view.
It's like we're walking along a flat, grassy plain, the moments and days sliding effortlessly by, when suddenly we round a corner and are met with an obstacle: a rocky mountain path.
We have a choice. We can fall in a heap at the base of the mountain and bemoan our situation, disappear in a drink, a drug or other form of escape, wondering why me? Or we can climb, slowly but steadily, and tackle the mountain one step at a time, instead of collapsing under the thought of its massiveness.
I choose to climb.