Small Victories in the Dark

It's important to recognize the small successes, especially when you are swimming in the awful. One of my awfulest awfuls was the ultrasound guided lymph node biopsy to stage my cancer. The breast center for this biopsy was the same one where I had had my MRI biopsy to find the cancer, so there were some bad memories associated with this place. Luckily, my sister Red had just flown out, so I wasn’t alone and crying in the waiting room like last time. The nurse didn’t want my sister to be there, and when I asked for my sister to stay, the nurse said no. When I asked again, she said, “they NEVER let anyone stay. I will ask, but they will say no. I will ask, but I told them you would go quietly.”

“That is right. I will go quietly,” Red said.

“She won’t cry. Or scream,” I add helpfully.

“Or beg. Or go limp,” Red says.

“Cuz dead weight is so much harder to move!” Cue giggling and reenactment of trying to move a limp body.

The doctor comes in. Red is in the corner on a window ledge. Red is sitting against the wall. Red is behind some carts. Red is pretending she is a plant. Maybe they won’t notice her. The doctor turns to her. This is luckily after we had a few minutes of giggling and charming her and generally endearing ourselves. See how adorably positively calm happy we are? Red is 100% definitely a plant.

The doctor turns to Red, not fooled by the plant ruse. The doctor is clever. “Are you going to throw up?” She asks.

“Nope!” Red says confidently.

“Are you a fainter?”

Red laughs, brings herself under control quickly. This is not a laughing place. “No. Absolutely not.”

The doctor gives her a hard stare. “You REALLY want to be here?”

Red gestures to me, lying supine, exposed like a paint prepped French girl. “She wants me here.”

The doctor looks at me as I nod and offer a big hopeful smile. See how strong and brave I am being? She sighs, resigned. “If you faint, we won’t help you. Try to fall on the ledge sideways instead of down on the floor.”


Red stayed, no one fainted, and there was WAY more giggling than expected through lymph node agitation, three passes with the needle is a LOT of agitation. The best part is that AFTER the ultrasound biopsy, the nurse was cleaning off and putting away the ultrasound wand, covering it with a long thin plastic sheath to wait the next stabbing. Since I am an 11 year old boy, I giggle at this, and make a comment on where you’d find these sheaths. The nurse, bless her heart, is a consummate professional and has no idea what I’m talking about and the doctor turns to her and says “Horse condoms. She’s saying that these look like horse condoms.” She rolls her eyes at me. “I grew up on a farm too,” she says.

And now I have a goal: what ridiculous things can I do with my medical team for my own amusement. It’s not about staying positive: it’s about seeing what cancer can’t take away, like love and laughter and sisters. And horse condoms.