Now that it’s over and it looks like it’s gonna be pretty okay, I will tell you that I’ve just had the darkest three months of my life.
In October, I was finally getting over my concussion from my car accident, and things were going well. I was having fun at work, going to my trainer, getting over the screaming fear of a car slamming into the back of me. Things were good.
Then I started to feel like I had a UTI. (I know I’ve told you some of this but then I got scared and clammed up.)
For me, when I feel a urinary tract infection—and I’m assuming every woman reading this has had one and the two men who read haven’t—but for me, it feels like I have to pee so bad, I do, then I DO pee and once I’m done I think, Man, I have to pee so bad, I do. It feels like that all the time.
I had to go to the doctor anyway, for my regular checkup. My doctor is big on me coming in 47 times a month, a thing that annoys me. You never leave without her saying, “I want you to come back in [x] weeks.”
Anyway, here was me in the last sedate moment I had all year. Waiting for the doctor. I was just screwing around with my phone and happened to capture it.
“I definitely have a UTI,” I told her, and they had me pee in a cup (a thing I’ve done 4935893504043 times in the last three months). (I’ve gotten really good at it.)
I tested negative. They gave me antibiotics anyway. This made me anxious, because once I had an allergic reaction to penicillin and I always worry my tongue will blow up.
It didn’t. But the UTI didn’t clear up, either. I went back to the doctor. Tested positive for UTI this time.
Next round of antibiotics didn’t work.
I was miserable. I was running to the bathroom every 14 seconds. I was in such agony one day at work that I zipped over to the urgent care on the next block.
That time they found blood in my urine (but no UTI). “Well, if it were bladder cancer, it’d hurt, right?” I was just joking in my June’s-a-nervous-joker type of way.
“I don’t mean to scare you, but this is one of the signs of bladder cancer,” said the snip at urgent care. “You’d best go to your doctor.”
You can’t say shit like that to me. You can’t. Because that was in mid November, and since then I have become a urologist specializing in bladder cancer. I know the percentage of times people with asymptomatic microscopic hematuria end up having bladder cancer (4%). I know the percentage with gross hematuria who have it (10%) if they’re asymptomatic. Which I wasn’t. I had a symptom that was driving me out of my gourd.
All I did was lie around and Google and work myself into a tizzy. By the time my regular doctor opened the door to the room I was in, I was sobbing. “I just know I have bladder cancer,” I said to her. “Oh, you do not,” she said. But she hadn’t known about the microscopic hematuria, which by the way just means you had blood in your urine that you can’t see but when they test your urine they can.
Anyway, they set me up with a urologist but I couldn’t get in till mid-December. The fever pitch of anxiety I was in was astounding. And I know if you don’t have anxiety—well. I IMAGINE if you don’t have anxiety, because I can’t picture life without it, but I imagine medical scares go like this:
“Well, I’ll see the specialist in a month. For now, I’ll hope for the best.” Then I imagine you making the bed, looking smug and calm.
Oh my god.
I had trouble functioning. I lost 10 pounds. I’d asked my doctor for Xanax, which I only took on very bad nights, but I’d wake up four hours later in a cold panic. And then I’d Google some more.
I had to work every Saturday in November, and it was work I did with dogs and cats, and that was like a blessing from God or something, because it was the only thing that would help me do okay for maybe 20 minutes at a time.
Finally I saw the urologist.
Here I am, waiting for him. Let’s compare the two doctor visits from October to December.
Hey, you cut your hair. And went through the stress machine.
Anyway, the doctor was so reassuring. “The chances of it being bladder cancer are low,” he said. I don’t have the risk factors, and as he said, “Ninety-nine percent of the time, people SEE blood in their urine first.” I didn’t correct him that it was 96%.
He gave me some estrogen cream and some papers on being an old lady with a bladder and sent me back to work, where a coworker who had no idea what a tailspin she sent me into asked, “Are you okay?”
“Are you SURE?”
Oh my god that sent my anxiety through the roof. Was I sure? Was I?
I kept telling myself it was just one time they saw traces of blood in my urine, out of the 68 times my urine’s been tested. I reminded myself that the doctor said, “If you SEE blood in your urine, come back.”
That Saturday I went to a Christmas show with Marty and Kaye and Jo. I was in particular agony that day. The having-to-pee-all-the-time thing comes and goes in intensity and that day was red letter.
After the show, everyone went to dinner but I went home as I felt rotten. Of course I ran to the bathroom …
and saw blood.
I can’t even describe yet how scared I got. First, there was a helpful numb feeling that lasted maybe an hour. Then I started shaking and I believe I shook until yesterday afternoon.
That meant all of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, I shook. Like a chihuahua. And I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to ruin Christmas. I made myself go through the Christmas motions. I have this clock my mother sent me: Every hour it chimes a different Christmas carol, and it was like it was mocking me. The cheerful Christmas songs when I was in this black hell.
Finally it got so bad that I took matters in hand. I mean, I couldn’t live like that anymore.
I told myself that so far, the worst part of this whole thing had been my attitude. Yes, peeing ALL THE TIME also sucks, but it was my fear making this intolerable.
I called my friend Paula, not the funny reader Paula but the one in Seattle. She is more scared of medical things than anyone I know, and on her first mammogram ever, which she’d put off for years, they came in and said, “Don’t even get dressed. We found something.”
“How did you deal with the terror?” I asked her one dark December afternoon as I lay in my robe.
“I had to accept it,” she told me. “Those first few months I just fought with everyone, and was belligerent, and once I realized I had to accept the truth of the matter, things got better.”
So I told myself sternly that I just had to wait to get my tests, and accept whatever came after. And you know that helped? I had a few days there where I felt almost normal, other than that Damocles sword of doom hanging over me.
Last week I drove myself to a CT scan in private, then returned to work like I’d just gone out for an errand. Yesterday I drove myself to a cystoscopy, where they drive a tube into your urethra, and if you’re looking for a good time…
Anyway, it turns out I have an ovarian cyst the size of your head. I’ve had it for years–they have records of it from an old scan. And there it still is. It’s a CYST, so please don’t scare the shit out of me with stories, THANK you. I go to my regular doctor next week and we’ll talk about getting it the hell out of me because chances are it’s pressing on my bladder and causing me to feel like this.
So I’m not 100% out of the woods of dark fear yet, but I 100% do not have bladder cancer, and oh my god that got solved so fast. I mean, the CT results came back clear (“Except you DO have an ovarian cyst the size of Guam”) but I knew the real results would come from that cystoscopy. I thought he’d be in there looking around for 15 minutes and I’d have to lie there with my heart thumping, but almost as soon as he was in there with his yellow submarine, he said, “Everything’s looking very normal, June.”
I like him. Also he’s handsome AF. We’ve already gotten to 6th base, where he sees your bladder.
So that’s what’s been new with me and I have some new anxiety-reducing techniques now and thanks, world, for that lesson GOOD GRAVY.
June and her cyster.