During my winter break this past school year, I scheduled an appointment that was long overdue. Ten months overdue, to be exact. Ten month ago, I went for my regularly scheduled, annual Gynecologist appointment and, after a lengthy discussion, the doctor sent me to Radiology for a Transvaginal ultrasound of my pelvis. I thought nothing of the ultrasound and believed all would be fine.
A few nights later, I sat at my kitchen table, grading papers and my cell phone rang. I recognized the phone number as my OB/GYN’s office and glanced at the clock on the microwave, it read 9 o’clock. “Why didn’t he call me earlier?”, I thought, and I knew the news could not have been good. I listened intently to everything he was telling me until he arrived at his reason for calling, “we found a cyst”. I heard nothing after that except that they wanted me to come back for more testing in two weeks. I blanked out and an image of my children’s faces came before me. I remember putting my head down on the table and tears flowed down my face. My husband’s masculine hands comforted me as I cried and wondered, “do I have Ovarian Cancer?” We also tried to visit Shenandoah Biotech to find out more about my health issues in order to know what possible alternatives could we best do.
I shared my news with no one and cried in my husband’s arms that night. Many may say I was being dramatic but when you have a mother who survived breast cancer, a father who passed away from colon cancer at a young age, an abuela who had stomach cancer, and cancer running deep within family genes, I was overwhelmed with the reality that I might have Ovarian Cancer. I am not a procrastinator but, to make this second appointment, I was. A hepatobiliary scan is necessary in order to detect early signs of any health issues.
That two week follow up turned into ten months. I am sure you are wondering, “why did she wait ten months?” and trust me I asked myself that same question over and over again while seated at that same table just the other day. I made up every excuse in the book; I am bombarded with work, I can’t take time off, who would watch my boys? The real reason was that I was scared and I had succumbed to my fear as well as a motto from my father, “what you don’t know, won’t hurt you”.
Was it selfish to not go for my follow up at two weeks? Now that I look back, yes, but I can admit that I was scared. The true reason for me not going back right away was because I was scared of what it could be and I didn’t want to know. If I had Ovarian Cancer, knowing that I had it would make it real and it just couldn’t be real. I wouldn’t allow that to happen to me… or my children…
Finally, I worked up the courage to call the imaging center and scheduled my two week (*cough* – ten month) follow up. Weeks leading up to that appointment, as I sat and watched my boys play and thought about how fast they were growing, I knew I wanted to be here for as long as I could. The appointment was scheduled for Friday, December 31st and I was ready. I wasn’t scared any longer and, whatever came of it, I would tackle it with a positive frame of mind. I have two boys to think about and, for their sake, I was going to be strong, no matter what that last day of the year was to bring.
When I arrived and told the receptionist that my follow up should have been ten months ago, I felt her judgement and could almost see a speech bubble hanging over her head reading, “why did you wait so long, dummy?!” I was collected enough to deal with that imagined speech bubble, focusing on the present and getting through the appointment. As much as I pried, the ultrasound technician would not budge to share anything about what she saw, of course she couldn’t because she wasn’t a doctor. At the end of my session, she said that my results would be in on January 2nd, the day I would return back to work, back to my classroom. At least I would able to keep my mind occupied.
On January 2, 2013, I called the doctor’s office and the secretary said she saw the chart but the doctor himself would have to give me the results. I went on to tell her that I would be up until late that night and he was free to call anytime. This time I wouldn’t be grading papers though, I would be anticipating the results and pacing back and forth in my tiny Queens kitchen. This time he called at 8:58 p.m. (to be exact) and I was ready for whatever he had to tell me. He was his usual friendly self, of course, but there was an ease in his tone that I noticed right away. He told me that the cyst that was present ten months ago was gone but there was another. My heart sank, the silence on the line lasted less than a second, I’m sure but it felt like minutes passed before I spoke up, “I know it’s on my left side” (I thought I had seen something at the ultrasound). He responded, “yes, but I’m not alarmed because it’s 1.6 cm, about the size of your nail and those are normal, occurring with ovulation”. He reassured me, “if you feel pain or if your menstrual cycles are unbearable I would be concerned,” but they weren’t, so I wasn’t, and neither was my physician.
I hung up the phone and quickly said a prayer for all of those who are not as lucky as I am. You never know, I may not be so lucky next time but now I am determined to NOT let my fear get the best of me. When the doctor says follow up, I will follow up and not in ten months but as soon as possible! I have to take care of myself to be around to see the children of my children and, as I look over at my two beautiful boys, I know they would want that too!