With most diseases, your outcome largely depends on how well you take care of yourself (at least for many years). In fact, I often view diabetes as a stray cat living on my porch. It hasn’t made its way in the house yet, but I know it is there, waiting to figure out how to dodge past my feet when I’m not looking. The idea of my pre-diabetes becoming diabetes doesn’t thrill me, but I at least know I can take care of it if I have to.

Cancer, however, is something that makes a control freak like me uncomfortable. There could be 10 patients who all have basically the same type of cancer and get treated in basically the same way. You could still have eight of them live and two of them die. And the only “control” the patients have is to show up to their appointments, take care of themselves as much as they can, and keep a positive attitude. And they still may not make it.

My cheery subject matter is because I have an appointment on Friday for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. I found a lump, which I fully expected my doctor to wave off and assure me was nothing to worry about. I’ve had plenty of experience with this reaction, as I have always had fibrocystic breasts. Instead I got furrowed brows, some concerned words, and a directive to go have the tests run. Ugh.
I understand that these things are usually nothing. I’ve had first-hand experience with that outcome after another ultrasound over a decade ago. I’ve heard that 80% of the time breast lumps are harmless or benign. So I’m not frightened just yet. But I keep realizing that I’m tense. Cancer is not like a cat. The threat of cancer is more like a rattlesnake last seen slithering about in the crawlspace under the house. The rattlesnake isn’t likely to have gotten in the house and even if it was, snakes usually don’t want to bite you anymore than you want to be bitten. But it doesn’t make it any easier to sleep at night.

I tell myself the odds and other people tell me the odds, but the little voice in my head reminds me that someone makes up the 20%. For all the people who get to head home relieved, there are those who get pulled into a quiet room and given the life-changing news.  Feeling silly for worrying is no longer a luxury afforded to them.  There is nothing special about me which would prevent me from being part of that club no one wants to join. There is a randomness to life that causes people to sometimes win the wrong lotteries (there but for the grace of God, go I).

So, if you’re feeling so inclined, I could use some prayers, good vibes, happy thoughts, or whatever else you may have time to spare for my tests this Friday. And in the meantime, I hope you use this as a reminder to think about your own health. Don’t be afraid to go to the doctor if you think there might be an issue.

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