Saturday, April 11, 2009


Since I turned 49, I've known that I need a cardiac work up. After all, when your father dies at 48 of a massive heart attack, there's a risk factor in the family, so I knew it was time I had an evaluation. Also, I haven't been breathing that great, even considering my routine asthma.

So my doctor not only agrees, he does an EKG, which was fine. Then he refers me for a CT Scan of my chest. After a week I got tired of waiting for the results so I picked them up. What I expected to find - "Normal chest CT" - wasn't there. Instead there was a report of two nodules, one 3 mm and one 7 mm. So I look up nodules on the Internet and find that they are almost always benign growths but if you have the following factors you could have lung cancer: age over 45, difficulty breathing.

I went into our seder not really knowing if I was living or dying, not that any of us really know that, but not knowing it in a more urgent way. Since having my brain tumor 8 years ago and having to deal with such a horrible, possibly fatal thing, it was amazing how quickly I slipped back into that - into the sadness of having to say goodbye to all this, the regrets of not having gotten everything done. I was a little grateful too that I had gotten that extra eight years. I mean, if I had died 8 years before, my daughter would have been a one-year-old, now she's nine. There was immediately the feeling of not being able to make any plans, of it being too late for everything. And then I thought - of course - I've had 8 years to write and write and still no published book? But maybe the purpose of my life wasn't writing a book, maybe it was something else, like the relationships I've built, or something else.

I managed to get the CT scan over to my pulmonary doctor on Thursday and got an appointment with her for that afternoon. First though, my husband, daughter, son and I had lunch at a restaurant where you order at the counter and are given a number to take to the table. It's just a big, jumbled pile of numbers and the cashier pulled out 18. And I don't mean to be all mystical and other-worldly here, but right then I had no idea if I was going to live or die and I didn't even notice the number at first. I was just carrying it and juggling my drink cup. Then I sat down at the table, looked at the number, and got quite a jolt. The number 18 is "chai" in Hebrew, which means life.

There's this part of the Passover seder where you sing a song called "Dayenu," which means that if God had given me only half of what he gave me, it would have been enough, but look how much more he gave me. In the seder it's applied to all the miracles that happened to the Israelites in the Passover story, but I've never read it without feeling that it's personally
applicable to me.

My doctor reaffirmed life. She said that because the nodules are round and smooth, she's 99.9% sure they're not cancer, most likely they're scar tissue from Valley Fever or a case of pneumonia I never knew I had, but the CT Scan has to be repeated every six months for 2 years to make sure the nodules don't grow. Of course, I'm used to that type of thing. I've been jumping between MRIs for 8 years now, trying to get my children grown. I just have to shrink down my time frame for a while, try to get them older in six month increments for a while.

1 comment:

  1. this was so beautifully done. i love the 'or something' line.