Forget me not
By Senior Airman Marcy Glass, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 11, 2012
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Balancing one's military career, education and family can be very overwhelming. We forget that we can-not be successful in any of these missions if we, ourselves, are not 100 percent. Too often within our work centers we see co-workers casually dismissing something that can be explained simply as a cough or, "it's just a sore muscle, I'm fine."
I, being guilty of the same behavior, dismissed a pea-sized lump near my left armpit for seven months. Working, studying for promotion, preparing for the base's Operational Readiness and Unit Compliance Inspection, among other events occurring in my life, I kept it at the back of my mind.
During the course of several months, increasing sharp pains became persistent, and still I found myself dismissing it, thinking I may have over done it working out or maybe I slept the wrong way. Really, I was just convincing myself nothing was wrong so I wouldn't have to visit the clinic. I'm the type to suck it up and not run to doctor for every bump or bruise.
"I have too many things I need to get done today, if it still hurts next week I'll go to the clinic," I kept telling myself. Then my yearly physical came around. I figured I would bring it up, but most likely it would be nothing. I was wrong.
A few days later I found myself at the Woman's Breast Cancer Center receiving an ultrasound and at age 30, my first mammogram. I sat in the examination room, nervously waiting for the results of the mammogram. The ultrasound results produced a non-technical "We don't know what that is," diagnosis. My doctor entered the room and sat solemnly on the edge of the chair while the ultrasound technician leaned against the wall looking at the floor.
"We aren't sure but you might have cancer," said the doctor. Then she started in with "other than cancer things it could be," but my mind just kept replaying that one sentence. The doctor showed me all the images from my unwanted parasite, and it had grown from a tiny lump into a monstrous beast, an inch in width and had developed tentacles in attempt to spread itself through my chest. Well maybe "monstrous" is exaggerated, but standing there looking at it on the ultrasound screen, it seemed like the biggest shadowy tentacle mass in the world.
The first week of waiting before the biopsy was a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions. Things that felt important at one time in my life failed to be important anymore. I would have my good days and my bad days. All in all, I think I handled that first week pretty well. After a somewhat painful biopsy, the waiting game would continue for seven more days until my phone finally rang. It wasn't cancer.
The doctor explained that the growth is called a granular cell tumor, most commonly found in the brain. "Dodged a bullet there," I thought to myself. After the happy dance moment was over I realized that this is still a serious medical issue that has to be fixed.
Surgery went as planned. There was quite a bit of pain and soreness with a very impressive bruise that followed. First day back to work, I received a call from the doctor with the results of the pathology report. Now, having been through a few medical experiences in my life, having the doctor call to give you the results is never a good thing. Apparently, the tumor is a very aggressive type and another surgery is needed to remove more tissue.
Being cut open twice in three weeks, I started to break down a bit emotionally. I kept thinking that if I had only taken care of this earlier, it never would have escalated to the point of having two surgeries. Even though I had support from my co-workers and chain-of-command, I still felt very alone.
The second surgery went well. I received a call from the nurse and the pathology report came back clean. Recovery is a bit more painful but hopefully this will be the last surgery. Mentally, I'm still dealing with the fact I may have to go through this again, but having gone through it twice has opened my eyes to what is important.
For each person, what you value the most will vary, but for me escaping the clutches of cancer will always be something I am thankful for. When it comes to your health, putting something off may be the last thing you regret. Our lives can be very chaotic, but don't ignore signs or symptoms of your health. The mission needs everyone at 100 percent, so keep in mind to never forget you.