And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Well, there are two moments. I had one all picked out, and then this morning happened, and then I had two. So I’m going to write about them both. One is sort of ego-y, but honestly, I think one of the good things about getting older is you don’t care anymore. I no longer look at things that make me happy and think, Can I talk about this? Will it make people think I’m bragging or snotty? If they do, well, that’s their problem, I guess. I’m going to revel.
So the first one, which is the ego-y one. Last week, I got my hair cut and colored. As I was getting ready to leave, I picked up my purse and immediately, the woman two chairs over began asking about it. I get a lot of mileage with this purse – it has a working clock on the front. People stop me to ask about it, and of course, when they ask where I got it and why, it’s a natural lead-in to talking about my first novel, The Home For Wayward Clocks. So I rolled into that explanation when the woman two more chairs over said, “I have that novel on my bookshelf, Kathie Giorgio, and in fact, I have all of your books there.”
My jaw dropped.
Turns out she was someone who bid on a basket of my books at a raffle. She wanted them, bid like crazy for them, she won them, she read them, they’re displayed in her home.
This sort of thing really doesn’t happen often. When it does, it’s just oh-so-good. Validating, Energizing. If it wasn’t for COVID, I would have hugged the stuffing out of her. I smiled all the way home.
Priceless. It’s said that the best thing you can do for a writer is leave a review. That’s true, from a sales perspective. But from an emotional perspective, the best thing you can do for a writer is contact them and tell them how much the book or books meant to you. It’s wonderful.
So then came moment number 2, which was surrounded by pretty high anxiety. I was due this morning for my routine breast MRI. Routine, since I had breast cancer in 2017. Because of heavy scar tissue, my doctors have me on an every-six-months cycle, alternating mammograms and MRIs. MRIs are very grueling. You’re stuffed in a tube, but the breast MRI adds its own unique bit of torture: you’re on your stomach, laying over a plastic mold that runs up through your sternum to your collar bones, dropping your breasts down into gaps below the table. Your back is arched a bit and your face is put into one of those cut-out circle pillows. Your arms are pulled up next to your head, so you look like you’re flying. Oh, and it’s hot, despite the fan they have blowing on you, and incredibly noisy. I know people who have to take calming drugs before they do this test. Calming drugs make me anxious – go figure – and so I just face it down.
I was a wreck going in. Even being prepared doesn’t help with this. They did add a mirror this time, somehow attached to the pillow, so I could see the room behind me. That helped – it felt a little less enclosed. But my right shoulder locked in place and was excruciating. I couldn’t move it because that would wreck the test and we’d have to start all over. Even with earplugs, it was very noisy. And of course, before, during, and after, I was worried about the result.
When they finally backed me out of there, I was soaked in sweat. They had to lift and move my right arm for me, to get it going again. It is now two and a half hours since I left there, and my body still bears marks where the plastic form was. I didn’t cry while I was there, but I did, all the way home.
And the moment of happiness? Within a half-hour, I had an email from my doctor, cheering that the MRI was all clear. Clear, clean, cancer-free.
The breast cancer road continues long after the cancer is removed. I’ve been talking with a friend who is newly diagnosed and now breast-deep in chemotherapy, with a double mastectomy marked in red on her calendar. She asked me this week if I hated seeing the ads for breast cancer, on TV, online, showing smiling happy women, wearing pink. If I hated the middle school humor around it, save the ta-tas, help the girls, and on and on.
“Yes,” I answered. “All of it.”
“I can’t watch it,” she said. “I turn it off. This is hell. This is hell on earth.”
It is. And while I no longer think about it every day, while I can now look at myself and not flinch at my grossly distorted, but still there right breast, it’s a part of my psyche now. I know women who are 25 years out who still worry when their yearly exam comes up. I know that my days of running in for a mammogram as just another errand on my to-do list are over.
But…I’m okay. Not only am I okay, but someone out there has all of my books on display in her house.
I smiled all the way home from the haircut and color. I wept all the way home from the MRI. But I’m cheering now. And refusing to look at the calendar for my next appointment. I’ll deal with it when it comes. And cheer then too.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.