Friday, November 18, 2011

Yes, I Am Sleeping

Yesterday I went back to SFMC (Super Fantastic Medical Center; not its real name) for my mammogram recheck. It would have been sooner, but I had to wait until I’d recuperated a bit from the hysterectomy. The original mammogram was my first at this place and by far the most painful I’ve ever had, so you can imagine my pleasure when I saw the same technician coming for me yesterday. Nice woman, but what a grip on the controls!

The recheck did prove to be quite a trying experience, in terms of pain and emotional upset. I also became nauseous partway through and had to lie down. The recheck involved a variety of mammograms and an ultrasound, and before I left, I was told that two geographical features had been determined by ultrasound to be benign fluid-filled cysts, but that I had a cluster of calcifications in my left breast and would need a biopsy.

Calcifications can form in many places in our bodies and typically are perfectly harmless, but certain configurations are cause for concern. I was told that there was a 22 percent chance my personal cluster of calcifications would prove to be cancer. It was also explained that the biopsy would involve lying face down for 40 minutes or so on a special table—“special table” sounds better than “weird table”—with the afflicted part dangling through a hole.

However, I can’t schedule this quite yet, because post hysterectomy, the only position I can sleep in is flat on my back. It seems to me that lying on my stomach is out, with or without anything dangling through a hole, but I will consult Dr. M. on that point.

Googling has of course ensued, by me and my mother. She sent me a page on calcifications I couldn’t quite make sense of.

She forebore to call me an idiot, under the circumstances—in case I’m about to die—but sent an email saying:

I thought the radiology page explained the calcification patterns clearly, since I had no idea what they were an hour ago.

Pat on head,


I wrote back that part of the problem was that I didn’t know which particular pattern of calcifications I had.

She replied:

Maybe they don't either, exactly, hence the biopsy. 

A friendly tickle in the ribs,



Ha—my pamphlet here says that calcifications can be a “very early” sign of breast cancer. OK, good.

A manly cuff on the shoulder,


When one has calcifications, it helps to have a funny mother.

It also helps to have an overly simple philosophy of life and death.

A few months ago, I was at my Sunday night meditation group and had occasion to mention on a group level that I was feeling worried, though it was embarrassing to say so, about my money: would there be enough to last the rest of my life? What if I ran out? The guest teacher that night, Anna Douglas, asked me, “Do you have everything you need right now?”

I could readily say I did, which was actually comforting, and then I got to thinking that, by definition, we always have what we need to sustain our lives—because when we don’t, we die. 

However, we (at least I think this is true) will never know we are dead, because we won’t be there to know it. I don’t think there will be a moment where I can accurately say, “Dad blast it, I’m dead as a doornail.” Ergo, we’re always alive, at least from our own point of view, and we always have everything we need.
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