Tell me, what it is you plan to do …

Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? ~ Mary Oliver

I’ve been in a holding pattern for the last two weeks, since I found out I needed a biopsy to rule out breast cancer. All future plans were quite suddenly circling the drain, waiting for word on whether I’d be moving forward as I thought I would be, or taking a completely unexpected path down the road of literally fighting for my life.

Thankfully, I got the results back Monday afternoon, and all is well. No cancer; not even a sign of any pre-cancer potential. I didn’t realize how much I’d been holding my breath until I heard those words from my doctor. What a relief.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

— Mary Oliver

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? This line from Mary Oliver’s poem struck me the first time I read it, and has stuck with me for years. WHAT. IS. IT. YOU PLAN TO DO WITH YOUR ONE WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE?

Geez. It’s a simple question, but for me it comes with all sorts of pressure attached to it. Probably because I’ve felt like I was wasting my one wild and precious life. Not living it to the fullest. Not taking risks. Staying in a relationship that wasn’t healthy, wasn’t what either of us wanted or needed, and had no way of being what we wanted or needed. And then, two weeks ago, a significant smack upside the head.

DO SOMETHING with this wild and precious life, because who knows how long it will last.

My radiologist’s office made a mistake on my biopsy results, and included results for another patient in my report. Luckily I didn’t clue into it, but man was my doctor angry (that’s putting it mildly). There was one paragraph in my report stating that carcinoma was found, and surgery was recommended. I thought it was a reference to what *could* happen, and the reason for the biopsy. But, no. It was another woman’s results. Another woman who got the bad news I did not. Another woman who is now headed down that unexpected path of fighting to take her life back from cancer.

Last night, I got together with three very dear friends. One of them has a niece, B, who is 34 years old, and in the final stages of advanced lymphoma. None of the chemotherapy treatments have worked, so at this point they are just trying to make B as comfortable as possible, and hopefully strong enough that she can go home for a while. There is no hope for her; the cancer will take her. I’m so sad for her and her family; she is so young and it’s just not fair.

Thinking of both the woman whose results made it into my biopsy results in error, and B, makes me feel I must absolutely live my precious life as fully as I can. I need to care for this physical body of mine; keep it strong and healthy. I need to care for my spirit as well; I need to love myself. And I need to take responsibility for my life. No more coasting, no more excuses, no more rationalizing, no more wasting precious time.

I’m still not sure of what I’m doing. I have doubts, and questions, and reservations. I’m not clear about how I’ll support myself. I’m not sure where I’ll be living. I’m afraid of the unknown; afraid of making a mistake; afraid things will be worse than they are right now.

But I’m moving forward anyway. Because I really do want to make something of this wild and precious life that is mine. I am moving forward with clear biopsy results. Already, I’ve lived more life than my friend’s niece B ever will and have yet more time.

Every day is a gift. I have a responsibility not to squander it. Too many people don’t get tomorrow.

 

 

When it rains it pours …

Seriously.

As if enough of my life wasn’t already changing (exploding? transforming? imploding? ¬†evolving? falling apart? Pick a day and a different verb will surface to describe how I’m feeling about everything. Every day it’s different, that’s for sure).

Last week I went in for my annual mammogram screening. As has been the case for the last five years or so, I was called back in for a diagnostic screening. I have calcification in my breast tissue in a few areas, and my tissue is also too dense for the standard mammogram to see through (lucky me). Yet another thing for many women over 50 to enjoy: calcification of tissue.

One quick aside: my health insurance (I think this is the case for all of them) will not cover a diagnostic mammogram without first having a screening one. How asinine is this?! They end up paying for two procedures, because I always have to have the diagnostic. But, nope. No coverage if I don’t have the screening one first, no matter what my history is. It is so very stupid, and another (albeit simple) example of how f*cked up the health insurance industry is in the U.S.

Anyway. Back to yesterday. I went in for the diagnostic, which is usually fine and I get the green light. No changes, nothing of concern.

Yesterday was different.

Some of the calcifications “seem to” have changed, and so they want to do a biopsy. I looked this up online (I know, I know) and yeah. WebMD and a few other sites seem to recommend a biopsy if the calcifications have changed. I don’t know if I have “microcalcificaitons” or not; the micro ones seem to be of more concern in their potential to be pre-cancerous.

Seriously, I’m afraid to even ask what else could possibly happen in my life right now. Nope, not gonna even go there. Let’s just throw everything up in the air and let it rain down like confetti; see where it lands. But I’m telling the Universe, enough already.

Divorce. All the financial insecurity of having been a stay-at-home mom for 20 years (yeah, I had my own small business, but that doesn’t count. It’s never supported me in full, or had to. Until now.). Losing my current health insurance and having to get my own policy (which is even more nerve-wracking now that this has popped up, and might be considered a pre-existing condition. Which might no longer be covered if the current political administration has its way … or has it already been dropped? I swear I can’t keep track anymore). Moving out of my house, not sure where yet. Kids both heading off to college. Perhaps moving really far away from the area I’ve lived my whole life. Which would also mean moving very far away from family and friends (though many have said they can’t wait to visit). And, if I move, extricating myself from one of my businesses, and running the other one in a way very different than I have before. Wondering if I should close up both businesses, if they really can’t support me, and do something else entirely (and if I do, what?!). Plus, if I move … the overwhelming physical MOVE.

And now, the cherry on top of this colossal pile of overwhelm: the possibility of breast cancer looms over me like an ominous cloud. I’m thinking positive, of course (well, I’m trying to … some days, like today, it’s hard and what I really want to do is stay in bed all day with tea and my books and f*ck the adulting).

I’ve had an annual mammogram (or twice-yearly for a couple of years when the calcifications first appeared), at the same radiology office, since since I was 40. I have no family history of breast cancer. I still have this rock sitting in the pit of my stomach.

I was scheduled for first thing Monday morning. I decided to reschedule so I could talk to my doctor, which I was actually able to do this afternoon. He had already spoken with the radiologist, who said that it looks like I have NEW calcifications since my last check. And so, yes, my doctor wants to do a biopsy to rule out cancer. He said not to worry; it’s probably fine. I’ll worry anyway, of course. Because there’s always the chance it won’t be fine. Now it’s scheduled for next Friday, but I may try to reschedule it for sooner so I don’t have to agonize for an entire week. We’ll see. Worst case, next Friday, and then I’ll get the results the week after.

I’ll get through it, either way. I know I will. I just never imagined I’d have something like this pop up NOW, when everything is already a crazy bag of monkeys I barely feel like I’m holding onto.

Yeah, truly. When it rains it pours. Ok, universe. This is more than enough, thanks.