I noticed the tiny lump last Friday as I undressed and got ready for bed, a small rise on my right side just above the top rib. My fingers gently but urgently palpitated the heart-sinking intruder, the little anomaly that I knew would make my mind whirr well into the night.
Yes, it was real. No, there wasn’t a matching one on the other side.
Shit. Not now.
Things are going so well. I’m happy. I feel grounded and good about my relationships with my kids. I have a new lovely person in my life…
No deep sleep for me that night. My mind desperately searched to connect dots that made this all OK. The search rendered one big dot that would make it OK — this lump is not cancer — and a constellation of other dots that would make this a nightmare: inability to care for my kids, weak health insurance coverage, financial struggle, horrible sickness, shortened lifespan, and the one that the others all piggybacked on … dealing with this alone.
I have no family in the area and neither does my ex-husband. There is no backup team.
As a divorced introverted woman, I had thoroughly entertained all of the fears and worst case scenarios that could arise when living without the protection and security of a partner, and then for sanity-preservation, tucked them away and carried on.
Moving out of my house and mothering three kids on my own was going to be a challenge. The thought of dealing with the physical and emotional toll of a serious illness took my breath away.
Calming the Introverted Mind
I told approximately four people about my scary lump and moved forward with my life. Nothing outwardly changed. My schedule didn’t lighten up. My kids didn’t need me less. Inwardly, my mind ricocheted off its walls, using LOTS of mental energy . My introvert engine was firing on all cylinders. The drain was unstoppable but awareness of it helped. I recognized the fuzzy headed feeling and knew I had to recharge. I had to let the thoughts settle into long-term memory instead of buzzing feverishly in my immediate grasp. I had to reduce the stimulation. I had to let go. Interestingly, I began to sleep better. It was as if my body/spirit knew it couldn’t survive if the crazy-making sleeplessness persisted.
I know action dissolves fear so first thing Monday morning I called for a doctor’s appointment. We can get you in on Wednesday. Wednesday? Not bad, only two more days of unknowingness.
Sometimes It Feels Bad to Be Unattached When Others Are Attached
On Tuesday night we attended my son’s choir concert. When I say we, I mean myself, my son, daughter, ex-husband Jeff and Jeff’s girlfriend. This was the first school function that my ex-husband’s girlfriend and I attended together. I knew she would be there. Jeff had thoughtfully texted the night before to make sure I was cool with it. It was absolutely fine but I learned I don’t always want to be the unattached parent. I felt a tickle of insecurity. I was happy my children sat on either side of me. My ego squawked as I imagined thinly veiled looks of understanding and pity? from other currently married parents. Even though I’ve embraced the fact that another woman appreciates what I didn’t, I still felt a bit like the spinster aunt at a family reunion.
My introspective heart feeds on a stalwart love of intermittent solitude and a vigilant pursuit of personal freedom but not everyone gets that. It’s hard to go against the grain sometimes. It’s hard to be unpaired or ungrouped.
Sadness brings you eye to eye with your desires. ~ Danielle Laporte
Wednesday arrived at last. My doctor’s appointment was at 1:10PM. The day dragged in a fog of tepid loneliness. The kids were off to school. My current squeeze had a full work day to attend to. I didn’t want to involve my parents yet. I distracted myself with minor household tasks and a phone call to a close friend but…
I wanted my kids by my side. I wanted my guy to call. I wanted my parents to hug me and tell me it was going to be all right. I wanted to laugh with my girlfriends.
I didn’t want to be alone.
I allowed myself to indulge in the poignant Googling of such phrases as: small mass on right side, lump outside of breast tissue, and pumpkin seed sized lump near under arm. I emailed my gynecologist to see if she was the appropriate person to diagnose this thing. No, because it was outside the breast tissue she recommended a dermatologist. Perfect. That’s who I had contacted initially anyway.
Later, I sat with an inexplicable calm in the doctor’s exam room. The dermatologist breezed in, said her hellos, and got down to the point of my visit. She asked all the same questions I’d seen online and heard from my gynecologist — Does it hurt? Is it hard? Is it red? Does it move around? No, no, no, yes.
Then the crucial moment. Her fingers probed the soft, pale skin on my right side. She found the bump where my body has gone awry. She let out a quizzical, Oh?. My heartrate jumped. Then she simply said, It feels like an inflamed lymph node. Our body does that all the time. I’m not worried about it at all. It’s not cancer. Keep an eye on it. If the size changes or there is pain or a pulling on the skin, see a primary care physician.
That afternoon I was more intentional with my time with my kids. I listened with my eyes and ears. That evening I had the best date watching a friend’s band play at a hole-in-the-wall bar. I met new people. I engaged in life affirming interactions. I reveled in the socializing and connecting.
Dear introverts please tell me of times when you didn’t want to be alone. How did you handle it?
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