Growing up was weird. One of the 708 reasons for this was that my mom was constantly sick. Some of this was mental illness, some of this was addiction related, and some of it was purely physical. Her mom died of breast cancer when she was in her early twenties and so cancer became one of her many fears. She watched for any sign of any cancer and she may have even imagined some. She had a birthmark on her knee, brown and bumpy, that she had biopsied and eventually lasered off – then she kept tanning. She had at least three biopsies after irregular mammograms, times when our family held our collective breath until we heard back that she was fine, that any lumps were benign and we could forget about them.
And so illness, and trying to avoid it, living in fear of it, was something I grew up around, grew used to.
And then it turned out that my brother and I had genes to also be sick. Not very sick, but often sick. George had allergies, pneumonia, colds, asthma. I had organs that didn’t work very well and had terrible timing as to when they rebelled (like the time I got kidney stones when I didn’t have insurance during my first month at a new job and the time I had a kidney infection during a road trip to Memphis).
And so I’ve had diagnoses and surgeries and bad reactions to anesthesia and I’ve had prescriptions and seen specialists. I can tell you the best ER in a 15 mile radius, because in the past 10 years, I’ve hung out in quite a few.
To be fair, I’m quite lucky in that all of my diagnoses are never life-threatening. They are often annoying and painful and expensive, but I am able to be bandaged and sent on my way.
Cut to 7 months ago when my doctor told me that one of my tests came back with “mild dysplasia”, which is a fun way of saying that some of the cells are irregular and they want to watch them so, essentially, they don’t turn into cancer.
Alright. Fine. I’ve had that happen before. I’ve had tests come back with severe dysplasia before, so no biggie.
I went back. New test. No better.
They wanted to do a biopsy. I’ve been biopsied three times in 6 years, and it feels exactly like what you imagine a three-hold punch would feel like if it went through your skin. And while I generally trust my doctor, I asked her, “You just did a test that says what this is. It confirms that it’s not better. Why do we need to do another test?”
To which she replied, “I just want to make sure there’s nothing worse going on.”
Worse? Like what?
I’ve definitely been vaccinated against disco music.
In many ways, I feel like I have already lived through the worst.
Camron was diagnosed with autism (which, for a long time, felt like an insurmountable thing, but has turned out not to be the death sentence we were led to believe).
My brother’s daughter moved to Washington.
I went through an abusive relationship.
My mom died.
And I am not saying, in any way, that this is the worst anyone can go through. I am not downplaying other experiences. And I’m not even asking for a different outcome. But I sat there with shrugged shoulders and heard, “worse” and thought “Worse? What monsters are worse?” There are only a handful of things that I can think of and she wasn’t going to find them with a flashlight and microscope and I wasn’t going to be able to fight them off with fear.
I’m going to eat a fruit kabob, because that sounds refreshing. It sounds like a nice thing I can do for the ragdoll, stitched up, not beaten body I have. And I’ll wait for “something worse” or the “all clear” and I won’t think about it until it’s here because whether my genetics decide to keep waging war or take a break, I am, as in most things, powerless to stop them. Yes, like when waiting for my mom’s test results, there is always a twinge of nerves, but I only hold the small things. I have to breathe. Eat a banana. Kiss my boyfriend’s head. Nap with my cat. Work with my writing group. Buy a new hat.