You're NOT Your Mother

     I had an appointment with Dr. S yesterday. Over the past five years, my OBGYN has seen me through a lot- my very first surgery, infertility, a somewhat complicated pregnancy, another bought of infertility and a gambit of other general health concerns. During that time, before I was pregnant, he talked me into having the genetic testing for breast cancer- something I never thought I would do. But, in the end, when the result came back negative, I was relieved and grateful for his advice.

     Yesterday, I went in for a run-of-the-mill kind of appointment. Nothing too out of the ordinary. It's kind of strange. Dr. S is the first doctor who has consistently been my doctor for any real length of time since I was a kid. So, as strange as this might sound, as much as he's seen me over the last five years, he and his nurse, Kim,  have become friends as well as my medical professionals.

    He always asks how things are going, but he was already aware of the failed IUIs. I told him my therapist (yes, I have a therapist, more on that in a future post) said I wasn't dealing head on with the failure of my fertility treatments and I hadn't yet had a pity party for myself. But, who has time for that? I have a toddler to chase and lessons to design!

    But, I am just over a month out from my thirty-seventh birthday. I used to balk at these birthdays because of the Advanced Maternal Age diagnosis and the difficulty I face with fertility with increasing age. But, this year, it's different. This year I am 3 years from 40.

     You might think I'm having a mid-life-ish crisis at this idea of 40, but that's not it.

     I feel like I am having an end-of-life crisis.

    My mother was diagnosed with stage 3-4 breast cancer when she was 40 years old. When they performed the first surgery, she had 13/27 lymph nodes "involved," as they called it. I don't have this written down anywhere on paper. It is seared into my brain.

     When my mom died, she was 48. I was 24. At that moment, I realized I was half her age. If I lived as long as my mom, I only had half my life left to live.

     Back at 24, 37 seemed a long way away. But, those 13 years have simultaneously crept and raced by. Today, staring down 37, with a toddler showing me just how quickly the sands of time pass, 48 seems like it will arrive in the blink of an eye.

     Sitting in that exam room, we talked about my next recommended mammogram. That's when my voice became thick and the tears burned the back of my eyes. For what seems like the hundredth time, I cried in Dr. S's office.

     When I am 40, my son will be five. He will need his mama.

     When I am 48, my son will be 13.  I teach 13-year-olds. God knows he will need his mama.

     So, I asked Dr. S to once again be the doctor he has always been for me- the one who tells me it's his job to worry, his job to be extra cautious and vigilant, the one who does the test "just to be sure." He got me through my pregnancy and delivered my son into this world. Now, I need him to help me stay here for my son.

     One of the very best things about Dr. S is his calm, reassuring demeanor. He reminded me I am not my mother. Her life is not my life. Her struggles won't necessarily be my struggles. But, we will be proactive just in case.

     I know that, intellectually. But, anyone who knows me, knows I am so much like my mother. Weight struggles, teacher struggles, struggles with depression, laughing just a bit too loud and talking (just a bit) too much.... we share so many similarities. I am terrified that, like her green eyes and her stubborn streak, I might just find myself sharing one more trait- a battle with cancer.

    But, I have to remember there are many ways my mother and I diverged. She didn't fight infertility. She didn't have a somewhat difficult pregnancy. She never, ever wanted to teach middle school. She had dark hair like Snow White. She had the patience of a saint.  So, as much as we are alike, my mother and I also have striking differences.

    Nothing really changed yesterday in that office, at least as far as my cancer risk goes. Those fears still haunt me, but only in the back of my mind. My confidence that Dr. S is aware of my risks and proactive in helping me manage them was reaffirmed.

    Sometimes, we all need a reminder that we are our own person, that we don't bear the crosses of our parents. But, it always helps to know you have an extra tough ally in your corner, just in case you need it someday.



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