On Friday, a doctor said something to me no woman wants to hear: “You have a mass on your ovary, and it could be benign!”
(SJ: I think a man would like to hear that even less.)
Spoiler alert: I don’t have cancer. But I didn’t know that for sure until Monday, and on Friday I had a bizarre few hours where I thought I had ovarian cancer.
Here’s what I learned about myself during those hours:
1. Apparently, I’m ready to die. Like, I went straight from denial to acceptance on my way to the parking lot WTF MY FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT IS BROKEN.
You have a mass, she said. It’s about this size. She cupped her fingers and pantomimed an apple.
Then she left the room for a week to make a phone call. When she came back, I said, Can you repeat everything you said before?
She did, with a couple changes and additions.
So you don’t think it’s a cyst. You think it’s a tumor, I said.
Yes, she said. I’ve had cancer, so I’m going to treat it that way until I know otherwise.
But I feel fine, I thought on my way to the car, confused (although my vision/consciousness did that no-volume/tunnel-vision thing). And, If I have to die, at least I did all that traveling and had a baby and married SJ. No list of things-yet-to-do made itself known AND TO-DO LISTS ARE MY FUCKING THING. So apparently, at age 42, I have checked everything off my bucket list. Correction: I HAVE NO BUCKET LIST I DON’T EVEN NEED AN OIL CHANGE.
2. I am in no way prepared for my son not to have me as his mother. That’s as far as I got with that thought. Then something kicked in, or kicked up, so that thought couldn’t go any further.
Here’s what I didn’t think:
Why me. Why not me? I’m 42 and I have ovaries. I’m also a perfect candidate for a televised makeover and unequal pay. These things are not news.
What did I do to cause this. I’ve never blamed other people for getting cancer, so I wasn’t starting with me.
What did I do to deserve this. Are you kidding? I know what I did to deserve this! Everything!
Then I went home and Googled “ovarian cancer” and “stages” and “survival rates” for exactly five minutes before my heart rate spiked and I realized OH RIGHT IT’S EXTREMELY STRESSFUL TO THINK ABOUT DYING AND GIVEN THE CHOICE NO THANK YOU.
SJ and Destructibaby came to the second ultrasound appointment a few hours later. Destructibaby stole a stuffed elf from a fake potted tree in the lobby, as if I didn’t love him enough. SJ held Destructibaby on his lap and peeled him a tangerine in the half-light of the fucking horrible soulless radiology room as the ultrasound tech did a transabdominal ultrasound and a transvaginal ultrasound.
At the end she relented—perhaps it was the sweet precious angel saying “Mama?” in a heartbreaking helium voice every two minutes—and shared her professional opinion that it wasn’t cancer, so I had that to go on until the doctor’s confirmation Monday morning.
On our way out, SJ’s card got stuck in the parking pay machine in the lobby, and it took half an hour for a guard to get it out. I didn’t care. I could have chased my son around that lobby all night.
Still, all weekend, I couldn’t shake the words “me and my tumor” to the tune of “Me and My Shadow.” I mean, I could feel it. I can feel it right now. That’s why I went to the doctor. There’s something in there. When I look down my chest to my belly in the bath, the right side is higher than the left BECAUSE THERE’S A FUCKING TUMOR IN THERE. It’s tender. When I’m sleeping with Destructibaby, I can’t let him rest his head on that side. The worst is when he’s nursing and he kicks me, which I can now accurately identify as him kicking me in the tumor. SJ took to calling it “Tumie,” and we spent every second of last weekend together and shared a lot of long, loving looks and morbid humor.
But here’s the thing: I don’t have cancer. I am not part of that club. I do not claim that club.
Instead, I’m in another club, one I expected even less because I didn’t know it existed. What I found out Monday morning is I have the most fucking disgusting kind of cyst you’ve ever heard of: a dermoid cyst, or a teratoma tumor, a mass that can have skin, hair, teeth, bone, and, at least once in history, a “well-formed jaw and tongue” and once “a head, trunk, and extremities” (“An eye was located on the front of the head”).
ON THE HEAD.
WHAT THE MOTHERFUCKING FUCK.
Tumie is large enough that, although I could “wait and see” (wait and see what? Whether it becomes cancerous? Whether it grows any more hair or teeth or eyes? Why the fuck would I do that?), the doctor agrees I should have it out. Now I’m just waiting for the surgeons at Kaiser to contact me to schedule my very first surgery. It’s laparoscopic, I go under, and I leave the same day. That’s all I know.
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m grateful to be having surgery. There’s an answer to this problem. The suspense last weekend was killing me, but at least a tumor wasn’t.
To open this Trader Joe’s box of wine, you need to:
OPEN IT OPEN IT OPEN IT OPEN IT POURPOURPOURPOUR
To everyone affected by cancer: I’m so fucking sorry.