Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dark thoughts

I just went for a mammogram--about which, the less said, the better. (Actually, it's just not that bad; it doesn't take too long, the technicians are generally very good at what they do, and, really, it's a pretty minor inconvenience for the potential benefits.)

I'm generally pretty un-neurotic in this one particular way: I don't, usually, harbor dire fears of getting cancer (or developing cancer, which seems to be much more apt in describing what actually happens when certain cells go haywire). But something about the lag time involved in getting these results--"If everything is fine, you'll get a letter in about 2 weeks. If there are any problems [with the images, with what the images show], we'll call you"--that creates a small but constant feeling of anxiety.

I'm generally sensible. I know that my husband's fate was one of cruel genetics--a congenital esophageal problem that they only now recognize as pre-cancerous--and, just maybe, an unkind universe. As such, it's not likely to be my fate. My relatives and recent ancestors are blessedly cancer-free. And yet. Something about this process triggers horrific visions of illness, death, and--most terrible of all--my daughter's repeated orphanhood. In the weird calculus of adoption, she's already had 4 parents, and lost 3 (or had 6 and lost 5, if we count the foster family in China with whom she lived for at least 3 months). That's a success rate of only 25%, or less. Now I know that there are more positive ways to look at her history: to see those biological parents and foster parents not as "lost," but as having given her a great gift; to focus on what my husband gave her, instead of what he can no longer give. But late at night, when the irrational fears take over, that's not the story I tell myself.

In the light of day, my daughter is a survivor. She's strong, adaptable, and demonstrably resilient. I've provided for her; the will is signed, the custodial arrangements made. And I am pretty sure we won't be needing any of them. But still.

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At 7:37 AM , Blogger leslie said...

For whatever comfort it's worth I've had a number of mammograms where there was a potential problem and they've ALWAYS called me back while I was still there to take more images or do an ultrasound. That doesn't dispell your entirely sensible reasons for worrying about it but my experience has been that if there is trouble they usually clue you while you're still there.

At 2:01 PM , Blogger Julia said...

but still. Right. one and only thing that scares me about dying-- leaving my daughter to grieve, again. In new and different way.

Here's hoping for a very boring letter in the promised two weeks.

At 3:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi dorcasina,

completely unrelated to your last post, i am sorry. i just found your blog today and have read through bits and pieces. enough to piece together 'your story'. i thank you for your writing. your thoughts and feelings are clear to me and close to how i feel and how i imagine i will feel sometime in the future.
my husband was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor 2 months ago. prognosis is as bad as anything you can imagine. he is 39, i am 37, we have two small sons (1 and 5) and we are both academics, uk, though, not us.
i wish i could exchange more with you. if you feel like it, here is my email: (cambridge university, so you can check).
people urge me to join support groups etc., but i feel far away from the people we have met so far with similar cancers. and i feel equally far away from my friends - and they are lovely, as yours seem to be. i don't feel that you are as far.
anyhow: thanks for writing, i will keep reading. s


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