Lila: Tomorrow Mommy gets her boobs squished by a machine.
                         AJ: Eww, gross!
                         Lila: That is not gross, AJ. Boobs are beautiful.
My doctor found a lump in my breast exactly a week ago, today. I'd had a dull pain on that side for a while now, so it wasn't a big surprise. But to hear it? To hear a trained medical professional tell me, "You have a lump and I need you to get a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound" was terrifying. My vision immediately became blurred along the perimeter and I could only focus on my shaking hands, gripping onto the strings of my hospital gown. I overheard Fake Confident Jen's voice saying something like, "No worries, I've already got a mammogram scheduled for Monday. Let's just add an ultrasound to that."

I got dressed, fake-confidently sauntered into my gyno's office, nodded my head during his talk of cysts and try not to worry bullshit, and then my body got up and walked my self to the elevator.

That night, as I lay next to AJ and stroked his flopsy blonde hair, watching his heavy lids finally drop with sleep, I found the dark place in my mind that I'd been trying so desperately to keep at bay. I imagined the absolute worst. I thought about dying and my beautiful children living without me, and I was so afraid.

My mammo/US had to be scheduled for the following Friday. Sweet. One whole week would be spent waiting in fear... I called to try to get an earlier appointment, but to no avail. In my mind, my conversation would go like this: "Oh, no cancellations in the next six days? That's totally fine. Really. I'll think about death until Friday then. Awesome. Nice talking with you. Seriously, it's cool. Focusing on the dark place and mortality for another week, and me not seeing my children get married or graduate from high school or perhaps, even, lose their first tooth kicks. ASS. Game on. Hell, let's push it off ten days!"

Then I lucked out and got my test moved up to Wednesday. In the interim, I surfed the Internet for things like:
  • celebrities with breast cancer
  • breast cancer survival rate
  • cysts versus cancer
  • lumps are perfectly normal and no one ever dies from them stop worrying
  • hottest fall boots
This was not a good idea. Except for maybe the fall boots search. My mom reassured me that people who have had bad experiences with this are more likely to write about it than people who received good news. My sister reassured me that she and others have had issues and everything turned out OK. Ang kept telling me everything would be fine. Apparently, I'm not someone who's easily reassured. At least not about this kind of thing. And yet when a friend or two would go the "Ohhh, noooo!!" route, well... I didn't like that much, either. My heart was recently broken with the loss of one of my dearest friends and so was my hope. I just needed the test to be over with.

Wednesday morning came, and with it appeared fun little thoughts like: This might be the last morning I dress the kids for school without knowing I have cancer; Cyst pain is supposedly exacerbated by caffeine so I'll drink 4 cups and pretend my pain is from that!; and Why do I never have a use for deodorant but, the one $%#@! day I'm told not to wear it, I'm sweating like Chris Farley?

Ang came to the hospital with me. He was so incredibly supportive and sweet, and I'll never forget it. (Thank you, my love.) But when it all comes down to it, I felt completely alone. And when I'm alone, sometimes it gets weird...
Inhale, exhale...
I was so nervous, and I almost fainted, but I banged out the mammogram and ultrasound, and now I just had to wait for the results...
Trying to remember to exhale... 
The test results?: All clear. Just a bunch of cysts I'll need to closely monitor until menopause. I am up for the challenge and I realize that I am very lucky. Relief then joined me in that tiny gray room. He was smiling, but quiet. I was elated, but serious. I think he knew I'd changed...

Not changed enough, however, to lose my love for celebratory drinks.
I'm changed by the gravity of all of this and have learned a lot, in just one week. I got a very tiny glimpse into the loneliness of being sick. I was shown a sliver of who I am when faced with something so devastating (not any part of which, it seemed, as being courageous or strong). My friends and family shone. Health and fitness are now really at the forefront for me. When I feel like something's not right, I need to get it checked right then...

But there was something else I realized. It seemed so tiny and inconsequential at the time, but it's become overwhelmingly important as I've thought more about it: Last Friday, as I was putting AJ to bed ~ when I allowed my thoughts to go to the dark side ~ I worried about what my children would lose if they lost me. I couldn't stand for a second to think they'd have a life without me singing the wrong lyrics to songs. The way I constantly whisper encouraging things to them. How I ask AJ, "How much do I love you?" and he answers, "Super duper duper duper... [37 times] much" and I always say, "...and a little bit more." Would anyone else drive through our neighborhood letting them hang out in the way-way back of the car while blaring Coldplay, swerving left-to-right, and giggling their fool head off as they enjoy the crazy ride? And if someone did, would that person love it as much as I do? What about all of the dorky puns of mine they make fun of me about daily? And our great big bear hugs... The way I can immerse myself in their made-up games, only to find out we'd been playing Mommy Monster versus Cowgirl and the Dragon for two full hours? The way we love to laugh, to watch funny movies, to save baby mice from our driveway, to have Black Eyed Peas dance parties. The way I console them when they're sad. The way I love them.

There are so many times I compare myself to other moms. I second-guess my parenting constantly, never knowing if I'm "doing it right" at any given moment. But I've realized that, when it comes down to it, I know I'm a good mom to Lila and AJ. And it has absolutely nothing to do with what they wear, what I cook, party planning, professional success, multi-tasking, organizational prowess, fall boots. When I'm faced with my greatest fears, and the dark place is close enough to touch, I know that being a good mom has everything to do with who I am deep down inside. How I love them to the moon and back. What makes me me is what they need. I am so grateful.
Pink flowers in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness.

      When it is dark enough, you can see the stars ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Maria said…
Hi Jen~I follow you on Instagram. Hope that's not creepy. I love that whole group.
Wow, I can so relate to this post.
A couple of months ago I was told I needed an emergency D & C (I'd finally made it to the obgyn. something I put off for 3years(!!) I'm ashamed to admit). There was no way anyone could convince me that I didn't have cancer & worse, that it was my own fault. I'd always been so diligent but there was a move, a new job, life..of course I received the news just before the 4th of July, which meant that I, too, had to postpone the procedure for over a week. More time to worry myself almost to death. Why do we do that? Thankfully, everything was clear~there was a false positive reading of my ultrasound! I didn't even need to have the D & C but it was a huge wake up call. Lesson #1 - don't forget about your own health while taking such good care of others.
So happy to hear you're fine & you look beautiful in your pics!
Sherry Schryver said…
Jenny...boy, do I ever understand! Last February I went in for a very routine mammogram. I went before work, you know...just a quick in and out. Then, I got home from work and there was a message on the answering machine that I needed to call the hospital. Fear rose in my body like I have never known. I was able to get back in the very next morning . Of course I don't think they really had a choice as I told them I must come in and I couldn't have another night like lastnight and on and on...I'm pretty sure they may have felt it was either let me come in immediately for a repeat mammogram or go ahead and admit Crazy Lady to the psych ward!!! So, long story short, I had the repeat mammogram which required the poor technician to literally lay on the floor to get at an awkward area, two repeat ultrasounds which the radiologist actually did herself, and then waiting and waiting. In that span of time I thought about my friends that had died, I thought about our daughters coming wedding, college graduation for our youngest, my 50th birthday, our 30th anniversary....... I cried tears of joy when the radiologist joined my husband and I to let us know that it was nothing to worry about but they would have me repeat the mammogram every 6 months. I am now back to an annual schedule. I have learned so many things from that telephone call last February; mostly gratitude and compassion.
I am so grateful that you, too, are ok. Both of us are now looking at our lives through completely different lenses...thankful for the second chance.
Sherry (preschoolsfun)
Kimberly R said…
Oh my, you had me reading at a red hot pace. So happy that you are healthy and in the clear. I've lived that entire experience, including but not limited to the dark thoughts. But really, we all compare and try to keep up and impress, but there is nothing, I mean nothing, like the genuine love and appreciation you have for them and who they are, and they are clearly, rather fabulous. I just love you Jenny ! Xoxo
Oh honey. I won't pretend to know how you felt, because I don't. I will say that I am so sorry that you had that heavy worry for an entire week, and that you saw those little babies growing up without you. That alone, would be my biggest fear.

So funny how I only know you online, but I sat here with dread as I read the first sentence. I have big crocodile tears, now rolling down, and I am so happy that it was not more serious. ((HUGS)) and I am saying a huge prayer for you right now!!
JennyCB said…
@Maria, Sherry, Kim, and Shannon: Thank you... I am so grateful for your words, you have no idea. xoxoxo
Unknown said…
I actually read your most recent post right after you posted it and have thought about you - someone I only know through your blog - everyday since. I am so happy your news was good and the overwhelming relief granted. What you so capably express about being a mother to your two little ones mirrors my own bittersweet sentiments about my own children. I look forward to your postings as our children grow - you always say it better than I ever could!
Tammie said…
Jen, Your post brought tears streaming down my cheeks. I want to say Congratulations on your news. You have the two cutest little children. I think about my children and grandchildren having to live without me and can not even imagine it. I am so happy for you. I love the quotes from the kids. Super cute!!!
Unknown said…
Where have you been? I miss your posts! Please update - I'm starting to worry.
Loyal reader,
Marcy from Indy
JennyCB said…
@Tammie & Unknown ~ Thank you so much for your kind words. xoxo
@Marcy from Indy ~ No worries, sweet reader. I've just taken a bit of a writing break. I miss it terribly, though, and am working on my next post. I REALLY appreciate your reading what I write. Thank you so much! xoxo

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