August 12, 2009

Taking Care of Myself




Joining the Army, 1960.


Himself: Bought two updated books on getting a job and read them.

Herself: Talked early with Bee. The new time to keep in touch is now at 0630 Tuesdays. That suits both of us better than Monday’s. Got to go to Amvets after lunch for half an hour. Took my camera.

Reading: T. Jefferson Parker.

Balance: Taking a book with us when we were out in the world yesterday. I did not have to go into all the assorted places instead read in the car. Peacefully.

There I was with my hair curled, my high school ring on, and wearing my favorite pale blue shirtwaist dress. With my parent’s vague approval, I left home the moment I graduated from Boyden’s and joined the Army. It was my first act of taking care of myself.

It was the last taking care of myself I would do for many years.

When my body would no longer tolerate the inordinately large doses of drugs, then, years later when I could no longer take any amount of alcohol, I began to physically improve. Slowly I learned to take care of myself. Pap smears and blood tests. When my gums bled, I learned to go to the dentist. When my tan skin began blooming with spots and orts, I learned to go to the dermatologist. When I reached forty, I learned to go get a mammogram.

My mother had breast cancer, and my father’s mother had breast cancer. My best friend, Joleen, died of breast cancer.

Scared to death, I went. In the early years, they would smash me so hard I would cry, then I would sit in a cold office while a doctor would review the X-rays, take more, review again while I waited then send me on my way. Later, they would take the X-rays and send me home. Weeks later they would call me back for more views and send me home, call me back for an ultra sound, and still later call me back again for a biopsy. This may have saved them time and money, but it was hell on my peace of mind.

Sometimes they would call me in every six months, one year it was every three months. Every time when I start with a new provider, despite having the old X-rays in hand, the long call backs would begin anew. Baselines really don’t count, I discovered.

Despite the paranoia and outright fear, I am taking care of myself. No matter how afraid I am. No matter how afraid any of us are, we are taking care of ourselves. We are giving ourselves a chance. Today while three of my friends battle lung cancer, one lymphoma, and one breast cancer, I am reminded more than ever that I need to take care of myself.

Mammogram at ten with a new provider…..with a real lunch afterwards. I can be bribed with real napkins, I told G.

6 comments:

  1. This fall I need to update with a number of tests. Good reminder.

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  2. We all do. I always do it tho some years I wish I could just blow it all off.

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  3. Nothing scarier than the few minutes after your mammogram when you're waiting for the radiologist to read the scans. I feel for you.

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  4. Thanks, Maggie. I'm making an appointment tomorrow.

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  5. Thanks for the reminder. Have you ever figured a way that it doesn't hurt like heck? I cry every time.

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  6. Having CLL I also have learned to take care of myself. Sometimes I feel like not fighting anymore, trying to forget it, being "normal" and not having my face rubbed in my mortality all the time. But I do go for the mammograms and pap smears every year. My mother died of cancer of the uterus.
    Good for you, Maggie, for taking care of yourself. You were so very pretty in that photograph, so hopeful looking.

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