My phone rang on the way back from Chicago.
It was a friend of mine in who I hadn’t heard from in a couple of months, calling to “check in and see how I’m doing.” My parents call to check in and see how I’m doing, and my sister very rarely calls to say hi, but very few people call to just talk, because my conversational skills are weak at best, and people end up moving to other chat partners pretty quickly. Friends (even friends you may have dated, briefly) don’t normally call just to talk, unless something is up.
Something was up, as it happens. She’d been experiencing pretty severe, almost debilitating pain coinciding with her cycle, and had been diagnosed with endometriosis (which is fairly common, from what I understand). But an ultrasound had detected an ovarian cyst about the size of a grapefruit.
A grapefruit. In the “citrus scale of things I don’t want in my body” grapefruit is second only to pummelo in terms of awfulness (if you’ve GOT to have a citrus fruit hanging out on one of your organs, I suggest a kumquat, and even that’s pretty awful). I don’t have any grapefruits lying around for comparison, so I’m folding my hands together and figuring that combined they’re about the size of a grapefruit.
Also, the ultrasound detected that it wasn’t all soft tissue, and carried the possiblity of being cancerous. They’re going to do some marker tests this week to check, and that will determine whether the surgeon when she goes under the knife is a gynecologist or a gynecological oncologist—they won’t know until that time whether it’s cancer for reals or just a freakin’ huge ovary.
It’s potentially devastating news, the kind that can screw up major life plans, and WILL screw up her finances, even with the best possible outcome, as she’s riding insurance-free (call your representative and thank them personally for killing the public option, folks). I don’t even want to think about the consequences of the worst possible outcome. She’s got statistics on her side, as young as she is, but I know she’s got to be terrified—she’s got a great network of friends, and would have a vast outpouring of sympathy if she were to be public with this information, which I’m sure she doesn’t want, which is why I’ve taken pains to keep her anonymous. “Poor Baby” is the last phrase you’d use to describe her; as she’s one of the most vibrant and assertive folks I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
Feeling powerless to do anything makes this about me, which it isn’t, but you want to fix broken things. You want to make things better for the people you encounter, and do even small amounts to improve their life. Going to work on that.