I’ve been thinking a lot about worry this month. How I like to use worry as a way of preventing bad things from happening. And how worry, really, gets me nowhere.
Worry as a form of faith never serves me. Instead, worry wraps it’s tentacles around my throat. And squeezes hard.
While I’m busy letting worry seep under my skin and suck the life out of me, my life goes on living. Without me.
Something happened this month that challenged that worrywort part of me. I share this story for two reasons: 1) worry is not preventative and 2) never, ever, skip a doctor’s visit.
Here’s what happened:
I had my annual OBGYN check up this month. Standard stuff. Just a that yearly, routine examination.
My OBGYN is the same OBGYN who delivered Kate. I’m crazy about her. I missed her after I had Kate, and I didn’t have a reason to come back to see her each month.
So we chatted away while she performed my breast exam. She felt me up on my left side. And started over to my right. Then she stopped. Refelt. I saw something flash across her face. And she refelt again.
Then she said, “Sarah, have you ever checked your breasts?”
And I said, “ummm…”
She said she felt what she thought was just a benign cyst, but she wanted me to go get a sonogram to be certain. She said she wasn’t concerned but wanted to be sure there wasn’t something else going on.
I wanted to panic. I wanted to launch into a full scale panic, complete with my worse case scenario thoughts and perhaps a good vomit.
But I had Kate with me. And Dan was out of town. I was alone.
There wasn’t time to panic.
I clutched my referral for a breast sonogram and encouraged Kate to move quickly across the parking lot and into the car. Once I had her strapped in, I started dialing. I called up the closest diagnostic center and requested an appointment. For right now.
Fortunately, I got an appointment for later that afternoon, called my sister and told her I had an errand to run and needed her to watch Kate later.
And then I went to the grocery.
I’m one of those busy-worriers. I don’t eat my feelings. I don’t tend to cry. I don’t pick and tear at my nails. I busy my body while my mind whirls with what ifs.
As I calmly selected produce, I figured this was as good of a time as any to work on my self talk instead of letting a sea of anxious thoughts envelope me. I had things to accomplish today. I needed to put one foot in front of the other. If I let myself go down a scary train of thought, I didn’t know how I’d get through the day.
After Kate and I got back from the grocery, my sister came over to relieve me. I told her it was just a regular check up, I’d be back soon. Gave Kate a kiss and got in the car.
When they called my name for the appointment, they took me back to a room filled with half-dressed ladies old enough to be my mom, and a handful old enough to be my grandmother.
As I stripped off my clothes and pulled the too-big gown around my middle, I kept thinking, I’m only 27, I’m only 27, I’m only 27. This shouldn’t be happening.
After what seemed like the longest 10 minutes of my life, the tech called me back. As she manueverd the wand over my breast, I felt all those tears I’d been holding back prick through my eyes. The tech asked if she was hurting me. But all I could choke out was I have a two year old.
The tech nodded and explained that she’d been over and over my breast and the lump just looked like a clump of breast tissue, nothing of concern. She called the radiologist into the room to confirm, and after going over and over and over my right breast, she told me she didn’t see any evidence of cancer. That my breast was just…dense. And that clump was dense breast tissue all lumped together.
I told her, funny, my breast don’t feel very dense to me. The adjective I’d pick would be flabby.
And then I asked her if she was sure, very sure, that what she saw wasn’t a cause for alarm. I told her I have a two-year-old at home. I’m 27. I want to be sure.
She confirmed those deep dark fears were not going to come true. There wasn’t anything in my breast. I could go on home, continue my yearly exams, stop worrying.
What I really want to do is obsess over this. Whenever I have a rare moment of quiet in my day, I find myself reaching up to my chest to that lump. I want it to go away. Even though I was told not to worry, there’s nothing there, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I was scared. That I get scared. That something bad could happen to me.
But each time I feel that lump, I challenge myself. Do I want to sit here, feeling that lump, and letting that lump get in my way? Should I waste my time with thinking that worrying will prevent any and all bad things from happening?
Or maybe I can challenge that thinking. Maybe I can change the narrative in my head.
The fact is: there is a lump in my breast. And the fact about that lump is: doctors ruled it a clump of breast tissue with no malignant signs. Another fact is my doctor is going to recheck it in four months. So the fact is I am fine. And consuming myself with anxiety doesn’t change the facts.
I wish I had the magic words to get rid of worry. I don’t. So each day, each moment, I try to do my best to quell those nervous flutters in my stomach. I tell myself, right now I am in spin class, right now I am eating dinner with my family, right now I am enjoying this book, right now I am in the company of friends. Because right now is all I can control.