Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Repeat

After three attempts to write something new, I'm going to repeat an older blog that most of you probably never scrolled back far enough to see, since it's over two years old now. It was actually part of a paper I wrote for a class on Communication. I have always liked how I depicted the voices in my head and the white noise of panic.

Me 37 weeks pregnant - June 2007

I met Dr. Sandra Gladding on June 5th, 2007. Her assistant, Angela, came into the exam room before she did and had got me talking about myself and my background. Dr. Gladding came in and sat down, smiling and told me to continue on with my story. I’d reached the part about how my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer at thirty-two, and she asked me some questions about that. Next she casually asked me if I was married, how long I’d been living in the area, about family and friends; typical “getting to know you” types of questions. All the while she was smiling and calm, rather like a horse trainer around a skittish colt.

Both ladies were open and friendly, and we talked for several minutes before I started to get nervous. There was nothing specific that caused the hairs on my body to slowly start standing to attention, one by one, but a quiet voice in the back on my head reminded me that I was there for a biopsy, not tea. Perhaps noticing my increasing nervousness, Dr. Gladding stood up, put her arm around me and squeezed my shoulder. “You’re going to be fine; it sounds like you have a good support network.”

My mind struggled to interpret her words.

The first of my inner voices to speak up was Denial. ‘She must be talking about the baby. A good support network for the baby."

Fear chimed in, ‘Support network? Why do I need a support network?’ 

Suddenly my emotions were all talking at once, blanketing me in the white noise of a noisy theater. 

Panic raised its voice above the din, ‘Oh my God, do I have cancer?’ 

‘Why else would she say that?’ sneered the Realist, “you’ve been waiting for this for ten years now, don’t act surprised.’ 

‘What about the baby? If I have cancer, would she have it too?’ cried the mother in me. My hands went automatically to my bulging stomach, cradling my daughter who was due to be born in approximately four weeks. With Herculean effort I shushed the voices in my head.

“So it’s cancer?” I asked, my voice surprisingly steady.

“We’re going to do a biopsy today to be sure, but the mammogram and ultrasound you had yesterday indicate that yes, it’s very likely cancer.”

The white noise got loud again and I struggled to hear her, to make sense of what she was telling me. I had interpreted her behavior correctly; she had been preparing me for the worst.

“Wendy, you need to be prepared to have this baby this week,” she told me, noticing my hands clutching my very pregnant belly.

Bile rose in my throat and I broke out in a cold sweat. “But I’m only 36 weeks along,” I argued ineffectively.

“We’re not going to let anything happen to you and… what did you say you were going to name your daughter again?” she asked, pulling me back from the chaos in my mind.

“Angelina,” I answered numbly. Just saying her name calmed me though, as I’m sure Dr. Gladding anticipated.

She squeezed my shoulder again. “Angelina is going to be just fine, and so is her mommy,” she reassured.

Thus began one of the biggest learning experiences in my life. I could go on and on about the lessons breast cancer taught me, but for now let’s focus on perception.

While this is an extreme case of perception checking, sometimes the extremes can better illustrate the point. Honing perception skills is invaluable and will help in the worst of circumstances. Even before I asked the question, my mind and body were already picking up the undertones and preparing me mentally and physically to deal with the answer.

Of particular note is the white noise that fills your mind when something dramatic happens. It can completely drown out voices outside of your own head, and is why you sometimes don’t recall what someone said to you at the time. 

However, it’s not always bad. The white noise can drown out all but the calm voice of reason necessary in a time of crisis, which gives one the ability to deal with the matter at hand and leave the emotions to be dealt with later. I would assume that’s how nurses and EMTs make it though their days.

I’ve learned to not drown in the white noise, or the distractions that surround me daily, but to use the noise to drown out the rest of the world so I can focus on what’s important. 

That’s one thing cancer teaches you - what’s important.


  1. Wendy, i truly wonder if we were twins separated at birth. I just dig you man.

  2. Then we'd have to be a triplet set... 'cuz me three.

    What a mind-blowing story Wendy. I can't imagine having to deal with cancer news on the edge of childbirth. I am so glad that it all has gone so well.

  3. Thanks for the cute post, I really enjoyed it.

    I hope you have a great Friday!


  4. I'm glad to read the story has a happy ending. :) Nice bumping into you. The photos in your header are adorable.

  5. Thank you M Pax, nice bumping into you too. :)

  6. Yup, Deirdre, Corinne and I are so much alike and have had so many almost eerie coincidences that we're pretty sure we're either cosmically connected or were separated at birth. I think she's my evil twin! O.O LOL