Friday, June 1, 2012

A Little Something

It's a gorgeous, sunshine-y  day; I've got the windows rolled down and the radio turned up, and I'm singing along to U2's Beautiful Day at the top of my lungs.  I'm heading into Boston for two doctors appointments:  a routine check-up with my head and neck surgeon and then on to my oncologist to get the feeding tube out.  Finally. I'm thrilled about this milestone and my spirits are soaring.

I even mange to eat a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on an English muffin on the way in.

Life is good.

For once, the long wait at the head and neck surgeon's office doesn't bother me, because I'm not anxious, not waiting for test results, not thinking about anything except being tube-free in approximately two hours.

Finally, he comes in, asks me the usual questions and then starts poking around in my mouth.

"Has there been a spot that has been bothering you in your throat?" he asks. "More than usual?"

I think for a bit, and reply "well, there is this one spot on the left that has always hurt more than the rest of my mouth.  But I wouldn't say it's worse.  It's not better, either.  I've gotten kind of used to it, I guess."

His eyebrows knit together and he gets out his ultra-bright light, magnifying glasses and the scope.  My stomach does a little flip-flop.

"Hmmmm," he says, unhelpfully.

Then he looks at it some more, calls another doctor in to look at it, and by now I'm shaking and sweating; trying to make eye contact with him over my stretched-wide-open mouth is hard.

Finally, he sits down next to me, and exhales a little sigh that I've come to dread.

"I'd like to biopsy that," he says, shaking his head slowly.  "It's probably nothing, but I want to be sure.   We have to put you under for that, briefly, so you'll need to schedule a ride, but it's a day procedure.  You can't get the feeding tube out today, I'm afraid.  In case we do find, you know, something, you'll still be needing that tube."

I gape at him in a stunned silence.  This was not part of today's plan.  Today he was supposed to tell me how awesome my scar looks, give me a fatherly pat on the back and send me on my way to get the tube out.  Now we're talking about somethings?

A nurse comes in to give me a pre-procedure check-up and blood work, and they tell me someone will call to schedule the biopsy shortly.  I beg him to make it as quick as possible, because the waiting is hard for me.  

My voice sounds very far away and business-like to me; there is no note of the hysteria I feel welling up inside.

I make it to my car before I burst into terrified tears.

This is what cancer does to you; it never goes completely away, even if you remain in remission for the rest of your days.  There will always be tests, knitted brows, scans and waiting.  Always.

I clench my fists and shake my head back and forth and sob and sob.  I know I need to accept this, surrender to it, but for now I'm angry.  I'm pissed.  And I'm really scared.  What if they find cancer? What then?  I can't do it anymore, I just can't.

After ten minutes or so my sobbing slows to hiccuping sniffles, and I take a deep breath and start my car.  On the ride home I stare at my fellow drivers, wonder what they're thinking about.  Dinner? A big meeting the next day?  Someone honks and gives me the finger because I'm driving too slowly, lost in thought.  I gape at him - you think that's important? Being late?


When the kids get off the bus and pile through the door a few hours later, backpacks, papers and shoes flying in all directions and chattering away about their day, I feel that old urge to run and  hide.  Don't love me, I think.  I have a something.  I may always have somethings. I'm damaged goods.

"Hey Ellie, do you know what?" (that's Finn's latest thing, calling me Ellie).   He runs up and throws his arms around my legs.  "You're awesome and I love you!!'

My heart sinks and tears come to my eyes as I say, in what I hope is a convincing cheerful voice, "You know what, Finn? You're awesome and I love you, too!"  I manage a smile, listening to Greta going on about her day.

This is my new normal.  I can fight it, or I can accept it.  Those are my only two choices. I know which way is easier, more peaceful, but man sometimes it's hard to accept something you desperately don't want to be true.

"Oh, Momma!!!" Greta exclaims.  "Let's see your tummy!  You got the tube out today!!!"

I give her a small smile and explain that I didn't get it out because they are still checking something in my neck and I may still need it if they have to do more procedures.

Her face falls.  "Is that bad?  That's bad, isn't it? How bad is it?"

"It's not bad or good or anything, yet.  They are just going to do some tests and then we'll see what the next steps are.  I'm trying to tell my brain not to think about it until I know more, because worrying doesn't get me anywhere."  I pray I sound convincing.

"Just like when I worry about Spelling Challenge at school?  You always tell me to tell my brain not to worry about how I did until I get the test back.  That worry is just a waste of time."

"Yes," I smile.  "Just like that."  

 I slip upstairs to my room and get on my knees. Take it, please, I pray.  Can you carry this for me for a while?  Because I can't.  I whisper this over and over until I feel a little lighter.

I make my way downstairs to fix a snack for the kids.  My hands still feel a little shaky, but I feel better.  More present. More free. Less angry. Almost accepting.  Almost.  I'm getting there.


  1. oh, Ellie. i'm so sorry you have to wait for another biopsy. the waiting for the doctors is one of the hardest parts. i'm sending all sorts of good thoughts your way. cheering for you. hang in there.

  2. Ah Ellie...I understand your every emotion. There are no right words here to respond, so just sending love and prayers.

  3. (((Ellie))) That sucks out loud. Thinking of you.

  4. I am praying for you my dear. It's going to be ok. (((HUGS)))

  5. Hugs Ellie! It will be fine, I'm sure. Again, it's the only acceptable option.

  6. Just fuck. I so badly want this to be all okay for you. Consider me carrying part of this, too.

  7. A few years ago, I had a stomach tumor removed that, by the grace of God, was benign. Everytime I get a stomach ache, I get nervous. When I get them back to back, I go into denial. I've had them for weeks now, daily. I was going to call the doctor if I woke up with one today, and I didn't, by the grace of God.

    They like to be cautious. That's all it is. At least, that's how I prefer to think.

    Much love and good thoughts.

  8. Oh man, Ellie, dang it all...

    maybe there is no real respite or relief. maybe we just go along worrying and internalizing and doing what we must to keep the dragons at bay..

  9. Pardon this but...well...damn it all to hell.

    Okay, that said, I know that this will be NOTHING and soon those feelings will begin to ease. Not go away but ease.


    Oh fuck. I'm praying.

  10. WTF! I am praying for you, and think of you often, only down here in CT if I can help.


  11. Big hugs, Ellie. Praying for peace of mind for you,


  12. Days like today there needs to be a pill called FUCKITALL.

    I'm so sorry. It's just shitty, having to go thru the waiting again. Similar situation with my friend who recently had surgery to remove thyroid cancer - they thought they got everything, but "something" showed up in the lymph node biopsy... More tests, more waiting. It is just a big pile of shit.

    Prayers for you, for strength.

  13. Oh, Ellie. I wish so hard that all of this was over for you. It's amazing what life throws our way. Sometimes I get tired of hearing that phrase "life on life's terms", but boy, I can use constant refreshers on dealing with it. Prayers coming your way.

  14. Sending you so much love. Please keep us all updated.

  15. Ellie, I pray you can feel this weight lifted from you so you can enjoy your children right now. Worrying steals the day from us. Praying this is nothing but overly cautious doctors. Sounds like you have some good ones. Take care.

  16. I'm going to go ahead and get on my knees with you for this one. I'm going to take some big breaths and hold some of the heavy scared so you have more room for faith. I'm going to take some of that weight.

    I love you.

  17. Oh, that just sucks. I'm sorry. But I believe that no matter the results of this little something, you will realize that you are even stronger and braver than you thought.

    Sending positive and healing thoughts your way.

  18. Love winging its way from my little island to you. And when things get too rough sometimes and the worry starts to pile up, take one of these:

    You have some amazing friends, girl. Friends who love you. Friends who are praying. Prayer offered in love, even when whispered, pierces heaven's heart. You are not alone... and while waiting really sucks, I'm so thankful you have such thorough and attentive doctors.

    Why do I have "My Heart's a Stereo" going through my head right now...? :)

  19. Much love to you during this time, we are all banging down God's door asking for some relief for you.

  20. Damnit!
    Ellie, that sucks so hard! I am so , so sorry.
    Sending love and support as usual and a whole wad of the foulest nastiest language, because. why the fuck not? It won't help, but it's something different. I have learned in sobriey when things get bad or crazy or scary or even just something different.
    While you're doing something different, I'll help everyone else keep those laser like prayers ad thoughts and good juju headed your way.
    You just BE. And keep us posted!

  21. I'm here. I'm getting so familiar with the view from my knees. It's a terribly uncomfortable good place to be and I'd do it for a thousand years for you.


  22. Bloody hell ....all I can say is we're praying here in Ontario and the power of prayer is remarkable

  23. Well, crap.

    May the time of waiting be short.
    May you be serene and peaceful as you wait.
    May the tests be easy, the results all good.

    Hang in there, Ellie!

  24. Dammit dammit dammit! DAMMIT!

    OK now that that's over... I'm sending my positive vibes that worked so well the first time over there stat.

    Love you lady!

  25. oh, what an awful shock. Just one minute, one hour, one day at a time.

    I'm so impressed with how you told the kids: not hiding anything, not dramatizing anything, it's just a 'something' for now.

    In my head right now is the story "Footprints in the Sand"...sending good wishes your way!

  26. That sucks. Praying for you.

  27. I join with everyone in praying with you for a false alarm. I want these trials to be behind you so badly... Praying for speedy good news and serenity for you.

  28. Hi Ellie,
    I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus. I too am praying for a quick test, quick results, a false alarm and no more somethings. One moment at a time......

  29. I stopped by to see how you were doing. Ugh!! I want to say lots of four letter words, but I'll reserve them. I'll join the others and be positive, but man...hon, I'm really sorry...

  30. Oh Ellie, I want you to sing at the top of your lungs and be free from the friggin' feeding tube so much. I pray this is just a something that is a nothing. I'm sure we're all anxious to hear that. My thoughts are with you. Joanne

  31. Oh Ellie, my heart stopped reading this.

    Love and light, friend. Love and light.

    (carrying what I can, too.)