one more blessing

I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago counting my blessings. As most of you know, I lost someone I loved dearly to cancer this summer and finding happiness has been a challenge. I hoped outlining some of the wonderful things in my life would help with the grieving process, especially since my late friend always urged me to focus on the good. If you read the blog, you might have noticed the absence of “good health” on the list. This was not a mere oversight, but a purposeful omission as I was afraid being healthy was not something I could count among my blessings and didn’t want to jinx myself.

I had my annual mammogram in late June. Although the mammogram was normal, it was suggested I have an ultrasound because cancer is difficult to detect in a mammogram on someone with “dense” breasts like me. The ultrasound picked up a minuscule (less than .5 millimeters) spot on my right breast and although the doctor who reviewed it was not concerned and instructed me to schedule another ultrasound in six months merely as a precaution, my own doctor thought it would be prudent to see a breast specialist for a second opinion. Although my doctor assured me that consulting a breast surgeon was merely a precautionary measure due to the density of my breasts, and the likelihood of it being anything serious was very slim, I freaked out.  My best friend died of cancer only a month before. My newsfeeds lately on Facebook are littered with friends mourning the sudden and tragic death of friends who were seemingly healthy only a short time ago. How could I be so confident my friends wouldn’t be posting these things about me? My fourth novel is set to be published on December 2nd and as excited as I am to release this book, I worried I wouldn’t be around by then. What if the cures for cancer, i.e. chemotherapy, resulted in my organs shutting down like what happened to my friend? I knew I was getting WAY ahead of myself and was told as much by others, but I was seriously spooked. This is why I didn’t feel comfortable including “good health” among my blessings.

My mother offered to tag along to my doctor’s appointment as moral support, an offer I eagerly accepted. We discussed having lunch afterward and making a day of it. I also had dinner reservations with some friends that evening and had taken the following day off from work. I tried to look forward to the long Labor Day Weekend and the fun plans I had made, but it was difficult with the weight of my doctor’s appointment on my shoulders. The location of the doctor’s office inside the cancer center at Beth Israel only added to my fear. My mother tried to make conversation while I completed a questionnaire rivaling the eHarmony application in length, but tears were already forming in my eyes and all I could think about was my friend Alan and how much I missed him and hated cancer for taking him from me. I used to say I would follow him anywhere, but I meant in the physical world. As much as I miss him (terribly and constantly), I’m not ready to die. But neither was he. These were my thoughts as I waited alone in the cold examination room.  

After careful review of the ultrasound results and a thorough clinical breast examination, the breast surgeon assured me the tiny spec located on the ultrasound was nothing of concern and sent me home with instructions to simply keep the six month follow-up as originally directed. She further appeased me by saying even a six month appointment instead of the usual year was probably being overly cautious. When I returned to my mother in the waiting room, she knew I was okay by the huge smile of relief on my face. We embraced fiercely once we got outside and I told my mother I could now add “good health” to my blessings. I only wish my dear friend was as lucky. While I continue to mourn him daily—not a single day has gone by when I haven’t cried over his death—I am forever thankful that, at least for now, I can begin to truly appreciate the good things in my life and look forward to what I hope will be a long, healthy and happy one. I know it’s what he would want too.

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Updates

Hi everyone!  I’ve been falling a bit off of my weekly blog schedule due to time constraints but thankfully not by too much. 

The past week has been craaaazzy!!  First of all, do you remember when I told you that after my first mammogram, I was called back because the images were unclear?  I was understandably nervous, but was told that it was completely normal and that most women had to get additional images taken after their first mammogram.  Unfortunately, no one told me this until after I got the call back and by then it was too late because I was already freaked out!  Well, last Tuesday was my follow-up appointment.  My mom came into the city again to be with me and this time she made it on time!  Of course, it was not without issue.  She was taking the express commuter bus from her home in Rockland County and since she had never taken it before, she had no idea where the bus would drop her off.  She thought it was on 42nd and 5th and so I walked from my apartment in the 30s to 42nd and 5th to meet her even though the appointment was in Union Square (downtown for all of you non-New Yorkers).  Well, I get to 42nd and 5th and she calls and tells me to meet her on 40th and 5th. I walk to 40th and 5th only for her to call and tell me to meet her on 42nd and 5th.  Oy!  I was already anxious about the appointment and I was on the verge of losing my mind to boot!  Long story short, the bus dropped her off on 48th between 5th and 6th and she walked to 42nd and 5th where we proceeded to catch a cab to Union Square.  She was too tired to take the subway. I didn’t blame her one bit!  I have to say that I was really glad she was with me in the waiting room because we ended up chatting about other stuff and I barely had time to be nervous before I was called in.  The first thing the technician said to me is that I shouldn’t be nervous because it was completely normal to be called back after a first mammogram and that I was more than likely fine.  Terror was apparently written all over my face!  So she takes another mammogram of just my right breast (the original image taken of the left was fine) and tells me that they are pretty certain the spot they saw is just a lymph node but they want to be sure.  The spot they saw? I had no idea they saw a spot in the first place and was very glad I didn’t or else I would have been even more nervous.  After she finished, she dropped me off in another waiting room and said she’d come get me after she showed the new mammogram to the doctor.  This waiting room was pretty scary – a room full of women who were all there for the same reason.  Everyone smiled kindly to each other but no one said a word.  I wanted to keep my mom apprised of what was going on but she doesn’t text and I wasn’t going to disturb the other women by calling her.  While other women came and went, I continued to wait until the tech returned and told me that I needed yet another mammogram because the image was still not clear. For the love of God, I apparently have a very dense right breast and I’m surprised that no man has ever mentioned it to me.  Er, not insinuating that many men have seen my breasts.  Um, never mind!! By this time, I’m a pro and wasn’t even fazed by the procedure.  It doesn’t really hurt now that I know (full well) what to expect.  After looking at it, she says, “Yeah, this is surely a lymph node.  The good kind (?).  You’re most definitely good but I have to send you back to the waiting room because you might need a sonogram but you might not.”  Back to the waiting room I go and this time I wait. And wait. And wait.  I’m starting to think they forgot about me until a new technician comes in and tells me they’re ready for my sonogram.  Even though the original tech told me it was most certainly a “good” lymph node, I assumed they were still unsure since they wanted a sonogram too. So, I’m on the bed while the tech conducts the sonogram and my eyes are closed and I am silently praying that I am ok as I hold back tears.  I hear the tech say, “Are you tired or nervous?”  I respond, “I’m nervous” in a quiet, shaky voice and she says, “Oh, you’re fine!  It’s a lymph node!”  At that, I am mostly ecstatic and ready to kiss her but I’m also thinking a) Why didn’t you tell me that before? And b) why do I still need a sonogram?” but I decided it didn’t matter – I was fine.  A few minutes later, I was dressed and hugging my mom in the waiting room.  Best feeling ever!!  I assumed the “I’m healthy” feeling would last forever and make everything else seem inconsequential and it did for a while but a few days later, I managed to feel sorry for myself for one thing or another 🙂 

Last week was also the week I finished the blurb for my upcoming release, Blogger Girl!  I’m excited to share it with you but I have a tentative chat scheduled with my publisher regarding the launch and don’t want to share anything prematurely.  But, I would like to give props to my editor Gabrielle Roman for coming up with the first draft and then my amazing friend and fellow author Francine LaSala for tweaking it to almost perfection.  The only reason I say “almost” is that Francine hasn’t read the book yet and certain things needed to be changed for accuracy.  Let me tell you, writing a blurb is SO not fun but thankfully Francine seems to enjoy it because I will be requesting her assistance with every book I write for the rest of my life.  Consider yourself warned Francine!

Progress is also being made with respect to the book cover and I would like to give additional props to my fabulous cover artist Loretta Matson.  She designed the cover for A State of Jane which I loved and I am 100% confident that she will knock it out of the park with the Blogger Girl cover as well.  I’ve seen bits and pieces of what she’s working on but not the cover in its entirety.  I can’t wait!

I have some exciting news to share about my first book, Just Friends with Benefits, only I can’t share it yet.  Psych! 

That’s pretty much it for me.  I had a long but fun-filled weekend.  Saw Man of Steel on Friday night.  Damn Henry Cavill makes a hot Super Man.  He’d make a hot mailman and any other “man” too.  I could not believe the resemblance between Henry and Christopher Reeve.  Wow.  I watched the Yankees beat the Rays on Saturday afternoon and I came back with a killer farmer’s tan because silly me forgot to bring sunblock and our seats were out in the sun.  Did I mention it was over 90 degrees outside?  And have you ever been to a baseball game?  They’re long!  So, yeah, I look kind of stupid with my unbalanced tan but at least I had a good time and the Yankees won.  Yesterday, I went to a boozy brunch with my friends, if you consider 3pm “brunch” which apparently we do!  Brunch ended at 10pm thanks to my stupid suggestion to go get another drink afterwards.  I really didn’t need another drink.  You live and learn.  Or you don’t live and learn.  In some respects, I am definitely one who learns from her mistakes but not when it comes to overdoing it at boozy brunches. 

I need to get ready to watch The Bachelorette followed by Under The Dome and before that, I need to do my ab exercises and make dinner so I will end this now.  I hope everyone had a terrific Monday and has a wonderful week ahead.

 

Warning: personal information enclosed

I began my day extremely anxious.  I had a doctor’s appointment, nothing alarming, just your standard “annual physical.” Except that my “annual” physical has not been “annual” in quite a few years.  It’s not that I neglected my health but I concentrated on the specific issues handled by specialists – dentist, eye doctor (optometrist?), gynecologist and dermatologist.  I must confess that with the exception of the dentist, I wasn’t seeing the other doctors like clock-work either, although definitely regularly enough not to be considered negligent.  Anyway, as I woke up in sweats wondering what blood disease I had, if I had thyroid issues, high (or low) blood pressure, etc., I realized it was probably my conscience telling me to start acting like a grown-up and get my butt to the doctor.  It’s just that doctors make me anxious.  Despite the fact that they exist to keep me healthy, I am afraid of them.  However, as much as I dread going to the doctor, I adore a good nights sleep and so after a few weeks of interrupted slumber, I summoned the balls and made an appointment with an Internist/General Practice physician.  My insurance had recently changed and so I chose a doctor randomly based on her proximity to my apartment and my office.  My appointment was this morning and so I began my day anxious. During my workout at the gym, I worked out hard, noting to myself that if I was dying, I probably wouldn’t be able to work out as often and with as much intensity as I do.  And when all of my favorite songs randomly came up on my ipod, I decided it was a sign that everything would be just fine.  But I was still nervous.  (I’m sure I sound like a huge baby/drama queen.  And yes, I am both of those things sometimes…)    

When I got to the doctor’s office and began filling out my insurance information, my stomach was tied up in knots and it remained that way after the nurse brought me into the room and told me to wait for the doctor.  The doctor came in and introduced herself to me before I was told to undress which I thought was a nice touch.  It might have been awkward meeting her for the first time wearing nothing but a thong and a paper robe.  I was less nervous after she left me to change.  And even less nervous after she took my blood pressure and said it was perfect, was pleased with my weight, felt my neck and said my thyroid was fine, gave me a breast exam and concluded that I seemed pretty darn healthy to her and that she would send someone in to take my blood and give me an EKG.  By the time my blood was taken, I wasn’t even nervous anymore and was just extremely happy that I had started what I decided would definitely be an annual tradition.  For real this time.  My life is way too important to me and my health plays a huge (the hugest) part of my life and should not be neglected.  Although I am still awaiting the results of my blood work, I am currently content with the knowledge that I did what I had to do.  While I was feeling brave, I even made an appointment for my first mammogram.  I’m sure I will not sleep the night before but knowing that the doctor didn’t find any lumps during her exam and that I am young and healthy will hopefully keep me from nightmares of having breast cancer. 

I gotta say, getting older comes with a lot of crap I would prefer to avoid, including the aforementioned mammogram but the alternative to getting older is not something I am ready to face.  I have too much love to give and receive and too many more books to write to take my health lightly.