Birmingham, MI, late July 2008.....The nagging, painful ache encompassing my left ribcage had reached such a point that I thought perhaps if my fingers traveled over the area, I could find the source of this discomfort....and I did. Under my fingers at the edge of my left breast was a well-defined, firm mass...or was it just my imagination?
It had to be my imagination, because I certainly didn't have time for anything else. In fact, I had not even had time for a mammogram in more than four years. Yeah, yeah, I know, where was my head, what kind of nurse am I? My mother had had a miserable existence during her 17-year battle with breast cancer, died at age 59, exactly my current age. I knew the statistics, knew I was at the highest risk for developing it myself, but stubbornly and stupidly, I chose to follow my own path and ignore it all. My divorce had been brutal, my depression severe...I didn't care and despite knowing everything I should do for my health, did nothing.
Initially, I tried to convince myself I had felt nothing, because we all know what we ignore will go away, right? I checked in on it several times a day - it was going nowhere and in fact, seemed to have a smaller companion right next to it. At least three weeks must have passed before I was convinced it was real and summoned the courage to call my doc. I learned that when you mention "lump", things move very quickly.
August 12 I had my exam, August 13, a mammogram, ultrasound and subsequent biopsy and the following day the phone call no woman ever wants to receive, "Sue, I am so sorry. You have ductal carcinoma." My head was throbbing, my ears were burning and my chest was aching worse than ever. My younger daughter was sitting next to me and if she hadn't been, I know I would have boohooed longer and louder.
posted by soozy at 1:35 AM on Oct 23, 2008
A little more than 2 years have passed since I wrote the above entry in my blog, Soozy is Thriving, but what does that have to do with laughter? Laughter had everything to do with it! The times I wrote that blog generally were in the middle of the night when sleep would not come because of the intravenous steroids – extremely difficult to deal with.
Reading through my entries, what I didn’t talk about was laughter. For sure, there was no laughter the day my doc called with my diagnosis, but I must say, the day of surgery, there was plenty. It started with the wire placement prior to surgery. After rolling me into the mammo room, the technician announced I would be having another mammogram while the radiologist placed the wire necessary to mark the tumor. Initially, I had a mini-fit – I was still so sore from the biopsy, the thought of that vise-grip on my tender breast was not a good one. Sooooooo, I told the technician if she didn’t mind, I was going to laugh. She looked at me incredulously and I started laughing and could not stop. Really, it just kept coming and I was not sure from where….maybe it was nervous laughter, I don’t know. The radiologist came into the room and he had no idea what was going on. I calmed myself long enough to say, “Don’t mind me…I know this isn’t funny, but I just need to laugh!” and my laughter continued right through the painless procedure. Yup, you heard me right, the painless procedure – I never felt a thing!
Interestingly, the tech began asking me about Laughter Yoga, what was it all about, where could she find a group, etc, then proceeded to unload her troubles, but not before I had her laugh with me. By the time my films were finished and she was pushing me back to the holding area, she told me I had made her feel so much better. Hmmm….I can’t remember a patient during my hospital days making me feel better, but that was okay, I liked it – I felt like I was the one in control. I remember smugly recounting the story to my daughter – it made me feel as though I had a secret “weapon”, the laughter arsenal!
Or maybe it was the Vicodin, who knows, but when a couple of them came at me with a very long needle to inject radioactive dye into my nipple, my response was, “You are going to do what? How old are you guys, anyway?” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, my chuckling and laughter could not be suppressed…..and what do you know, I never felt a thing! That day, I felt like saying, “Bring it on, boys….you can’t hurt me!”
Chemo in California, staying with my cousins, was filled on a daily basis with so much laughter. I kept waiting to get super sick during chemo, but it never happened. My cousin would sit with me during the infusions and we would laugh…basically, for no reason whatsoever – we just laughed. I felt like my oncologist was waiting for me to be sick, “Are you sure you have had no nausea?” she would ask. My reply, “Well, I had a funny little tickle in my throat, was that nausea?” and we laughed!
Obviously, cancer is no laughing matter, but at least for me, it sure helped the medicine go down so much easier! Two years later and all is well…..life is LAUGHTER is life!