Leslie, Part 2
Ok. So here’s the scoop. Remember two weeks ago, when I shared all these life lessons I’ve learned? Remember Leslie, my dear friend, who taught me such beautiful things? Here is the rest of the story…
(Author's Disclaimer: As I was rereading this, I noticed that some of the ideas I express here come out jarbled. I did not change it, however, as I feel it reflects the state I was in after the weeks I had just been through.)
Septemer 6, 2014
I want to let you know who Leslie is. Remember I told you she is near and dear to my heart? Well, Leslie is a lump. Not like a lump of oatmeal that I met in my cereal bowl. Not a lump of dried leftover sandwich that I found in my kid’s bag. Rather, the kind of lump that makes you freeze. One that I found in my breast during a self-exam. In the shower. (Told you we met under unusual circumstances.) Around 8 weeks ago.
At first, I was all – “well, it feels like a clogged milk duct…” (for those who haven’t had this experience, it is not a rare occurrence for nursing women). Been there, done that, I said to myself.
One hitch, though. I stopped nursing about a year ago. Still, I persisted in not worrying about it. It felt like some fibrotic tissue. It was relatively large and I said, “how could a lump grow that fast?”. I had done an exam a few weeks before. So nothing to worry about, right?
My husband was the one who insisted I pick up the phone to call the doctor. (I really was determined to procrastinate about it.) The doctor immediately referred me to the surgeon (don’t freak out, apparently that’s standard procedure here. Unlike the U.S., ObGyns in Israel only deal with the lower, reproductive half of the female anatomy. Breasts are for surgeons only.) Then a three week wait to get to the surgeon (and that was with string-pulling). We thought the surgeon was going to tell us all was well and send us home. Period. And that would be the end of the story. (You see my persistent optimistic nature here as a trend? Yes, that’s me.)
Anyway, that didn’t happen. At that initial appointment, I was sent not just for an Ultrasound (standard procedure), but also for the big M – a Mammogram. Every woman’s scared-of-never-going-to-happen-to-me-nightmare. Great doctor. Gentle disposition. Even a great Australian accent (that always helps, ladies, right? ;) Amazing bedside manner. Still s-c-a-r-y.
To ‘celebrate’ this crazy news we went and bought me a new skirt. ( :P)
Two days later, we (the we in this story refers to my husband and me) were sitting in the Mammography Unit at the hospital. For three hours we waited, I had the Mammogram done, and then we waited some more. While we were waiting I told my husband that I, in order to integrate acceptance of my new situation, had been telling myself “My lump is my friend. I love my lump.” My husband looked at me incredulously and then started laughing. He then suggested that we name it. (Love him!) And that is when my lump got her name.
It was a good thing, too, this added acceptance measure. Because the Mammogram was completely clean. The Ultrasound, however, showed not just a benign type of fibrosis in my tissue, but tada! another small mass that was unidentifiable. So, I went through a core biopsy. Five tissue samples. During this procedure I put myself in a deep state of relaxation to avoid sheer panic and left everything in the capable hands of the doctor and my husband. And then we waited. Two weeks, they told us.
That’s when Leslie and I really bonded. Over the next two weeks, a lot happened. In the beginning, I was obviously upset, not to mention sore. My husband and I made a decision not to share this information with anyone. I should say, I made the decision and he supported it. We hadn’t told anyone about the lump until that point, and decided to wait the two weeks to hopefully be able to tell everyone good news after the fact. I went through emotional ups and downs. I was totally positive and as unworried as possible most of the time. But then I would let myself feel the worry, get a glimpse of the fear, and wallow a bit. I know from many life experiences, and from my deeply religious in-home and out-of-home education, that everything happens in life for a reason and a purpose and it serves you. (Thank you Stacey Martino for putting that so beautifully.) And I figured that with the acceptance of the situation, the acceptance of all of my emotions, and with time, the reason would eventually come to me. And so I was patient.
During that first week my emotions really…well, I don’t know how to describe it except: I would be really optimistic and insist on optimism, and then worry and melancholy would creep in a bit. An insightful friend suggested I open myself up to the breakthrough (she knew I was going through a difficult challenge). This in it of itself was eye opening for me. I don’t want to sound like a personal growth snob, but I thought I had this. I knew to accept, to be patient, to trust in the process. So when she nudged me to not be so passive and to actively invite the breakthrough, I was humbled. Something new to learn? Wow…thought I knew all about acceptance of life’s challenges. (That sounds so haughty. What I mean is that I thought I knew how to navigate this, and was intrigued by the new dynamic.) But OK. Being the personal growth junkie I am, I went with what she said, even if I wasn’t quite sure about it. And you know what? I lay in bed an hour later, quietly trying to fall asleep. I had already made the statement that I was open to breakthroughs. And it just came. Lesson number four from last week. A lesson I felt G-d had been trying to teach me for a long time. Let go. You don’t need to do it all yourself. Allow yourself to open up to getting help and support in some areas of your life so you can be more productive in other areas. It’s all good, right?
Like I said, G-d had been sending me little hints. My husband consistently pushes me to get help cleaning the house. I often got mastitis (infected clogged milk ducts) when nursing – a sure sign to me that I wasn’t getting enough rest. (Doctors tell you straight out to get more rest when this happens.) I mean, G-d was being really clear here to me. Often. Consistently. I am, however, extremely and persistently STUBBORN. So, I let the message come, I rested, and was so proud of myself to have learned my lesson, but then I would go back to doing it all by myself again. But with more breaks – that was my concession.
Well, you know what they say: When G-d wants to teach us a lesson, He whispers in our ear. If we don’t hear, He says it out loud. If that doesn’t work, He yells. And when we resist and stay stubborn, He hits us in the back of the head with a brick.
Leslie was my brick. And that is why I am so thankful. Because, boy, if you don’t get the message from the brick, the next step is a lot worse than a smack on the backside of the head.
So I am thankful. Full of gratitude. For getting the message. For my supportive husband. For Tess, who told me to look for the breakthrough. For all of my loving family and friends whose potential support was so strong and certain that I didn’t even need to tell them, in order to feel it. For the strength to keep remembering the message and allowing myself to let go and not do it all.
For G-d, who made sure I learned this lesson. For His abundant love. For all the love and gratitude I feel toward Him for seeing the beautiful treasure that was inside the package of Leslie. For all of it.
Sending Love and Serenity,
Please share this story. There are so many women out there who go through this scare every year. We are a community, and as such, we can take solace in each other's sharings, and gain strength from each other's stories.