After watching both my parents die of cancer at young ages it’s impossible not to live in fear. I sit here waiting for the day to come that I receive my very own diagnosis. Like it’s not a matter of if, but when.
It’s impossible not to live this way. After seeing everything I watched my parents go through. I just feel like I’m doomed.
And I just turned 40. I don’t feel 40. But knowing my mom only lived to be 54 scares the shit out of me now.
When my mom died, I remember thinking 54 is kind of old. What in the actual F*ck?
Now that I’m 40 and can remember my mom at 40, things have changed. A lot.
I’m completely obsessed with the number 54. In my head I have 14 years left. And I’m terrified.
So every year I go to the doctor and try to take as many preventative measures as possible. I get a pap test. I get a breast exam. I get blood tests. And I get a mammogram.
I don’t want to get cancer. I mean no one does. I don’t want my kids to have to watch me suffer. I want to be here for them.
I don’t want to die and leave my children motherless. I want to see them graduate, get married, and have babies. I want to see all the things my mom didn’t get to see. I don’t want to live in constant fear that I’m going to die just like my mom did. But I do.
So I’m doing everything possible to try to prevent the same outcome.
The Pap Test
My favorite part of getting a pap test is the beginning. The nurse tells me to undress and put on that paper robe. Then they close the door. And I act like this is an Olympic sport.
I get naked and stuff my clothes in that tiny drawer as fast as I possibly can. I’m terrified they’re going to open that door and see me in all my glory. I break the world record for taking my clothes off only to sit on the table and wait for another fifteen minutes.
When the doc finally comes in we exchange pleasantries as she manipulates my woman parts. Totally normal. We always seem to talk about the weather. It’s hot out there, huh? Yeah, it sure is.
But it’s always freezing in that exam room. Those paper robes aren’t as warm as you might think. And the instruments are always freezing. And the lubricant. Why is everything so cold?
But I have to say my pedicure does look amazing in those stirrups. When the convo turns to the doc telling me exactly what she’s doing and why, I nervously reach for my phone and start texting. As if I’m laying on the beach. It’s like a defense mechanism.
That will give everyone I was texting today something to think about.
Then we move it up north to the breast exam. Basically I’m face to face with the doctor. I mean… We. Are. Close. I can tell what she had for lunch close.
And I’m naked. That’s why I wear my big hoop earrings. To keep me warm.
We continue to carry on a totally normal convo as she feels me up more intimately than any man ever has. I put my phone down at this point because I don’t want to be rude as we share our special moment.
These girls have gotten me into bars. They’ve awarded me too many free drinks to count. And I can win almost any argument with my husband because of them. I don’t want to lose them. So I also get a yearly mammogram.
My last man doctor used to tell me you’re under 40 you don’t need to get a mammogram. Really? What the hell do you care if I get one or not?
I didn’t ask you to pay for it. I didn’t ask you to perform it. I asked you to scribble your God damn name down on that piece of paper over there and send me on my merry freaking way.
My guess is his mother is still alive.
I switched to a female doc after that. I just had such a hard time taking advice from someone who doesn’t have my same lady parts. I want someone with ovaries and fallopian tubes. Just like me. She had no problem sending me for that mammo.
The mammogram room is also freezing. But I love how these nurses manhandle my breasts. They treat me like a piece of meat.
It’s not at all like the pap test. They jam my boobie into that machine and flatten it like a pancake like it’s no one’s business. And I like it.
I walk out feeling awkwardly violated. Like in college when you’re doing the walk of shame. You know something happened and you were a willing participant but not quite sure what it was all about. So you decide just to pretend nothing happened and get on with your life. Until your next indiscretion.
Honestly, without a doubt, the hardest part of the entire ordeal. For the next few days everything I do is marred by what these results might be.
When a friend calls to meet for drinks next week I’m thinking to myself, yeah I can go. If I’m still alive.
When we make plans to take the kids to a water park I think, will this be our last trip together? It’s morbid.
Every time the phone rings I’m on edge. This could be the phone call that changes my life forever. Or it could be the good news I’ve longed to hear. Then I can finally relax.
Until I start worrying about doing it all over again next year.