The March Spartan Race was highlighted by my ability to trust that I could let go of the hanging apparatus and reach for the next bar, ball, or other item. This was due to extra time spent with my personal trainer, working on crossing and dropping down from the high monkey bars at my gym. However, since that race, an incident of my lost grip followed by a tumble into the gym equipment left my hip badly bruised and my confidence completely crushed. On top of that, I am out of training sessions and have not prioritized PT sessions in my current budget. In the months that followed my little accident, I worked on grip strength in a safe manner but did not continue to work through the fear that now paralyzed me more than ever. So it was no surprise that, during Saturday’s Spartan Race, I failed repeatedly on the obstacles requiring me to brave letting go.
It wasn’t just one or two obstacles. There were many of them spread across the 9+ miles of the course. Onlookers stood by urging me to go for it. But as much as my mind said “go”, my body said “NO!”
The parallel to my personal life, especially right now, is easily drawn. Tuesday, after undergoing a somewhat traumatic stereotactic needle biopsy, I held it together long enough to get through the procedure, and make it home from the hospital. The medical staff present for the procedure would report that I was a model patient – calm, cool, and collected in the face of several failed attempts to get a sample due to device (needles) malfunction. I owe my ability to remain calm and still during the procedure to a daily yoga practice, my teddy bear, and the wonderful woman who held me in her in her arms and reassuring me through most of the procedure. After it was over, I sent text messages to my sons, and the few close friends who were aware of what was going on, that it was all done. I was careful to keep the messaging positive so as not to unnecessarily worry anyone. The truth was, that even though I had read that only 20% of micro-calcifications requiring biopsy revealed cancer, I was scared. And the stress of the doctors being unable to get a sample to test the suspicious tissue in spite of repeatedly poking and prodding me really did have an effect on me (even though I was able to remain equanimous throughout).
I’d been home for about an hour, and the adrenaline levels were wearing off, when I began to feel my grip on staying positive slipping away. It started with a quiet flow of tears as I clung to my stuffed bear. Before long, however, the tears turn to sobs as I let myself feel the emotion which I have been suppressing for over a week. I finally let go completely and allowed the release. Then I brushed myself off and resumed my pursuit of positivity coupled with a whole lot of praying.
There was a lot in my favor. I’ve always been one to be proactively on top of my routine health screening. This was true even before my husband’s death but definitely more so following it. The listed family health history in my medical record is probably one of the most comprehensive lists that my doctor has ever seen. This is because I want to insure that the appropriate testing based on my inherent risks are not over looked. Because of this diligence, the timing between mammograms was no more than a year and a few days.
My general observation is that if you look for abnormalities, you will often find them.
The question is: Are these abnormalities true issues or are they simply deviations from the norm?
In 2007, when I had been frequently experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath, my doctor decided to do an ECG just to check that everything was okay – even though we were both pretty certain that my symptoms were the product of being widowed with a broken heart. The ECG showed an abnormal waveform. A follow up stress echocardiogram was done which revealed that my heart valve had a minor amount of blood regurgitation through one of the valves. This small amount of backflow was deemed within normal ranges and that finding was left alone. Later that same year, a breast lump was identified. After a series of mammograms and ultrasounds I underwent surgical removal and biopsy. It was deemed benign. No problem here either. Thankfully.
So in this instance, the likelihood of any diagnosed cancer being very early stage was high. Even better, only 20% of the micro-calcifications that require biopsy test positive for cancer. Still, I was scared that my luck of abnormal finding being deemed of no concern might have run out. And although one might view it as lucky to have found it early, I am so glad that the sample came back as “benign”.