All clear

Does anyone actually enjoy visiting their gynecologist?

IMAG3260

At my annual exam, August 2017

I didn’t think so. I dread this annual visit more than I detest dental checkups. The waiting room is always painfully still. Peeing in a cup isn’t my strong suit. The exam rooms feel pretty frigid. And then there’s the actual exam… At least my gynecologist is an old college friend whom I totally trust.

This August, when my annual exam popped up on my calendar reminders, I decided to approach it differently. I knew what to expect–I’d wait a while, feel uncomfortable because of the blasts of air conditioning, and move from anticipation to anxiety until my gynecologist walked in the exam room. I decided to do my best to take care of myself and ease my discomfort–and prevent whining.

I brought along coffee (AKA life juice), a daily reader/devotional book, and my old standby: my 12 year-old standard blue Snuggie. That’s right. I’d wear my Snuggie during the exam over the thin gown. Perfect.

IMAG3261

What I read moments before my exam, August 2017

It’s amazing how just a few tweaks can adjust my attitude. I felt nearly peppy when my doctor entered the exam room. We chatted about kids and life during the short exam.

Suddenly my doctor became quiet. Her eyebrows furrowed. Having seen that expression before while I birthed my daughter–during a time of distress–my mood moved from pleasant to ominous.

“Have you felt this before?”

She was conducting my breast exam.

“Um, I think so. But honestly I’m not very good about doing regular exams, so I didn’t know…”

I felt waves of death, chemotherapy, and “you will never see your daughter again” roll over me.

“Well, I’m going to order a diagnostic mammogram. I want to have it looked at.”

After that, I couldn’t muster up conversation. My mind hovered over the expression on my doctor’s face and the notion that I needed a diagnostic mammogram. Fear ate my lunch.

I held it together pretty well until I walked into my home. My husband was caring for my daughter (since I had a scheduled exam); they were enjoying an afternoon on the White River. The entire house was holding its breath. I let go and basically bawled for half an hour. I emailed my mentor and asked for prayer. Then I sat down and did the only logical thing a mom on the brink of cancer would do: I recorded a 30-minute long video of myself singing all my daughter’s favorite songs (just in case, you know).

I waited for a few days before calling my doctor to check about scheduling my mammogram and ultrasound. They’d told me to expect to hear from them and to call if I hadn’t. I try to follow orders. When they checked with the hospital about scheduling, the soonest available date was one month away.

That didn’t feel good. Initially I just jotted it down on the calendar and returned to business as usual. But I’ve learned from my mentors how to take care of myself and see that my own needs are met. The next day, I still felt uneasy about waiting a month. So I called and asked for help. My doctor’s billing director pulled some strings.

The mammogram and ultrasound experience was much less stressful than an annual gynecological exam (for all you ladies dreading yours). When the radiologist read the results, she told me I had nothing to worry about and that I should schedule another mammogram in two years when I turned 40.

My stomach knotted. How could my doctor and I have obviously identified an “area of concern” if there were no area of concern? I knew I couldn’t accept that as the final word. I drove immediately to my gynecologist’s office and asked them to help. Once again, they did. Bless those ladies. They scheduled a visit with a breast specialist. The knot loosened.

But the visit with the specialist only made matters worse for two reasons: I felt a creepy vibe, and he didn’t review my imaging results. I felt I’d been tortured pointlessly for another hour of my life. I was frustrated. I also felt exhausted emotionally.

For one month I thought about the follow-up visit with this specialist. Every time it came to mind, I prayed for God’s will, and I simultaneously felt sick.

One month was long enough to convince me to take the bull by the horns again. Once again, my wonderful gynecologist and her staff came through for me. They scheduled me with another specialist.

Last week when I visited the second specialist, I knew I was in better hands (I know, I know… pun intended). This doctor did an ultrasound immediately in his office and shared the images with me right away, explaining that he identified not one but two cysts.

Cysts.

That’s right. Not cancerous lumps.

“You’re fine. You are going to be fine. Come back in three months to see if my recommendations help with reducing your breast density.”

I could have kissed him, but I refrained. I floated out of the office, attempting to contain my joy since I was surrounded by patients whose results didn’t mimic mine. I recorded their faces in my mind so I could pray for them.

I was so thankful for clarity. I felt blessed with a caring, serious gynecologist and breast specialist. I understood that a decade ago, I would have been unable to advocate for myself properly, and I was grateful for the timing of the whole mess. And best of all, I knew God had me–the whole time.

When I closed my car door, I wept. This time, there was no bawling. I recorded no videos. I envisioned nothing.

I drove out of the parking lot, my soul’s gratitude expanding, and smiled.

I lived my life.

IMAG3856

My beautiful life, November 2017

 

The skinny clothes I kept

023I gained 60 pounds when I was pregnant. I was pretty sure I’d never lose it all, and certain that I’d never get back to my “skinny clothes” from when I met my husband. You know which clothes I’m talking about—the cutest clothes I’d ever owned. The clothes I’d danced in, flirted in, and okay, honestly spent several lonely nights in while reading classic literature on my own couch with cats crawling around in my lap.

In college, I never gained the freshman 15, but I certainly gained the Wallace 15 when I began dating my husband. After going through a stressful divorce, and quitting a rather stressful job, and after ending a very stressful period of financial woe, I entered into a true state of relaxation and ease and began to understand what The Eagles meant when they sang about takin’ it easy. My butt grew that year, but it probably needed to grow.

One of the first pictures I have with my husband, just a few weeks after we met. We're pictured with the couple who introduced us, Tony & Sarah Wang. August 2010

One of the first pictures I have with my husband, just a few weeks after we met. We’re pictured with the couple who introduced us, Tony & Sarah Wang. August 2010

I eventually started feeling a bit self-conscious about my growing butt, and I started hiking with my dogs every day in the woods behind our house. I noticed a difference in my butt size, my heart rate, and in the way my clothes fit almost immediately. About a month later, I became pregnant with Maggie.

I decided I’d better come to terms with the idea that the “skinny clothes” would probably never fit again. I’d watched many of my friends and “Facebook friends,” many of whom are not much more than acquaintances (let’s be real about that), kill themselves over losing every single pound of baby weight just to fit back into their pre-baby clothes. I’ve just never been that kind of person. I knew that wouldn’t change. I also know that I have never enjoyed exercising very much, and that I love to eat. With those odds stacked against me, I decided to kiss the cute skinny clothes goodbye.

So I either sold them all or gave them all away, save a few items that were either too expensive to part with or too emotionally significant. I guess there was something inside of me that was holding on to a tiny bit of hope.

I couldn’t part with the outfit I was wearing when I met my husband. It wasn’t anything fancy—just a pair of shorts—very short white denim shorts, size 0, and a chartreuse button-up top. I can wear the top again, but the shorts… think fat guy in a little coat.

I tried selling my grey pants suit, but no one bought it. I’m now thankful it didn’t sell because it fits me now. Who knew?! There are a few more items that fall in this category of items I didn’t get rid of and never thought would fit (and now they do). Old scrubs from when I worked in a medical office with my friends (these make fabulous pants to wear around the house if you have a toddler, by the way). A gray pinstripe skirt that is the epitome of sexy librarian. A cute Asian print shirt that I have no need for but that I just can’t seem to part with.

_DSC1797I don’t know if I’ll ever have the occasion to wear it again, but I also saved a coral cocktail dress from our friends’ Tony and Sarah’s wedding. I wasn’t at my absolute thinnest when I wore this dress, but I was certainly completely happy. I can’t say I was at my happiest, because I believe I’m at my happiest now.

I believe I’m at my happiest every day because life gets better as it goes along. I am with the man I love, and we’re raising our daughter together, and I’m doing what I’m meant to do with my life, and God loves us.

Every day I am at my happiest because every day I’m growing and getting better, whether I’m wearing my skinny clothes or not.

Crying over spilt coffee

Finally napping

Finally napping

After performing crib gymnastics and break dancing for half an hour, Maggie finally crashed and began her brief nap. I painstakingly held the alarmingly loud button in on our microwave door in order to retrieve my cup of coffee, which I’d reheated three times due to lack of opportunity to properly enjoy a cup of coffee while caring for an infant.

Apparently my memory of how to correctly use a microwave oven has also been affected by a syndrome commonly called “baby brain.” The coffee was bubbling inside the mug, and the minute I touched the handle, I dropped the half-full cup of coffee all over the floor. Molten brown java sludge covered my floors and soaked into my socked feet. I danced around while silently cursing, trying to remove my hot socks in order to prevent any real burns on my feet. I saved all but one of my big toes.

I laughed at myself, grabbed a dish towel, and crawled around my kitchen floor, cleaning up my messy mistake. Then I noticed the dark brown speckled cabinets surrounding me. The day before,  I’d carefully scrubbed each cabinet door and handle with a clever combination of Lysol disinfectant wipes and a Magic Eraser, removing all traces of crumbs, drips, and crud. All my work was in vain. I’d have to spend another 20 minutes cleaning the bottom cabinets.???????????????????????????????

That’s when the laughing turned to crying.

That day, which happened to be a Monday, of course, was not my day. Honestly, ever since getting pregnant last February, I’ve struggled to maintain my faith, my attitude of gratitude, my decision to be kind and loving toward others, and at times, my sanity. Pregnancy was tough on my body, not to mention my emotions. I did not have a beautiful, wonderful, happy experience. I worked through repeated physical setbacks over the course of 41 weeks before giving birth to my beautiful daughter. The delivery was ugly and complicated as well. The recovery was not terribly painful, but after undergoing a blood transfusion after giving birth, it took my body a few weeks to return to anything resembling normal. I never knew that having the right quantity of blood in my body made such a big difference in my sense of well-being. Who knew having plenty of blood would help me avoid episodes of blacking out and fainting?

I wish I could say things are all peachy keen now, and that I feel like I’m on top of the world, but that would be dishonest. I love being Maggie’s mom. I would not trade that for the world. But being a new mom is tough sometimes. I get frantic when I can’t immediately detect the reason for Maggie’s tears. I detest looking in the mirror because my once absolutely perfect abs are not so perfect anymore. I often feel overwhelmed by the stress of managing motherhood, graduate school, and homemaking. And life has also thrown me some additional lovely curve balls lately. I’m not referring to the tiny ticks and fleas of life; these are serious, private, heavy matters.

The speckling of my stark white cabinet doors didn’t really merit tears. The speckles were just the cherries atop my terrible turd sundae.

As I scrubbed the floor as quickly as possible in order to prevent the molten java from oozing into the cracks in our hardwood floors, I heard God say to me, in that mysterious voice that assures me that I’m not just talking to myself, “Think about how many times you’ve done this to me, right after I cleaned up your mess.”

Touche, God. Touche.Goo

He has. Countless times. I’ve made those stubborn Hebrews wandering in the desert due to disobedience look like saints. I’ve been battered and bruised and scraped and scarred, and He has been my Good Samaritan, bandaging me, paying my bills, and sending in the Great Physician to heal me. He has scrubbed clean more than just the surface of my life. He’s renovated it.

Photo by Bethany Wallace

Photo by Bethany Wallace

I can cry over spilt coffee. But then I must clean it up, stand up, change my socks (after applying aloe vera to my throbbing big toe), and take the next step forward.

If I’ve learned anything in the past 12 months, it’s that if things seem dark, it’s not because there’s no Light. It’s because I’m not looking at It. It’s always there waiting to transform my perspective.

“This is your time of grief. But I will see you again. You will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy.” –John 16:22