Those of you who know me well will find this blog entry completely and utterly unsurprising. For, yes, I am a hypochondriac. Certifiably. Undeniably.
When I have a head cold, my mean little mind says, "It's probably a brain tumor." When I get a paper cut that doesn't stop bleeding within a few seconds the bad bully of my inner voices say, "You probably have leukemia." In this wretched fear-filled universe which is the bad neighborhood of the interior of my head hangnails quickly become gaping wounds and stomach aches are esophageal cancers. I've spent countless hours worrying about: breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart attacks, colon cancer, ovarian tumors, and nasal polyps among other things. I am a walking encyclopedia of rare medical conditions. When the true condition is, anxiety, folks.
The remedy comes in recognizing my hypochondriacal nature (does that mean sitting in a room with other worriers who clutch their medical symptom dictionaries close to their chests and watch me with wary eyes and saying, "Hello, my name is Christen. I am a hypochondriac?") and popping an occasional Xanax.
And so, you ask, "Dear fragile Contemplative Chaplain, why do you do what you do? You're surrounded by dying people. You know death on an intimate basis and it ain't pretty." And my answer...well, my answer is this..."I dunno." Maybe I think it's an innoculation or something. Maybe it's because I'm trying to minister to my own wounded parts. Maybe it's because I feel the need to conquer my fear. Maybe it's because every time I watch a patient slip fearlessly into that great beyond I feel they're teaching me a lesson. I just don't know.
So, today...(you knew this post was going somewhere with one of my fears, didn't you?)...today I'm sitting in a meeting and I lean behind me to scratch my lower back and I realize that there is a, gasp, pretty big sized lump there. Not a surface lump, a sort of deep achy lump. "Oh no," I think, as my insides turn upside down. Shit. I don't have time for a hypochondriacal breakdown. I go to the bathroom and lift my dress and feel around on my back and realize that, yes, indeedy, it actually is a lump. And it's weird. And it's, well, lumpy and movable. And I sink down on the floor and start crying. Because this is what I do. Because, as you recall, my mind is a bad neighborhood and I was immediately conjuring up my death-bed scene.
Well...long story short...after a doctor appointment this morning...and .5 mgs. of Xanax...I can now happily report that I will not wilt and die from aforementioned lump in the next few days. However, I have a new friend in my life, something that is called a lipoma (which is a fancy way of saying a fatty benign tumor) which apparently is very common in the lower back and which will only need to be dealt with if it grows any larger and presses on any nerves in my back.
The doctor reiterated that I didn't need to worry. He reiterated that he could tell just by palpating it that it was a lipoma. He told me to relax. These babies don't become cancerous. They're very common. He offered to refill the Xanax. He was so clearly not at all impressed with my monstrously large (okay smaller than golf ball sized) new friend. I sat, taking deep breaths and thinking, "Thank God, I dodged the bullet again." Because you see, in the bad neighborhood of my head, scary things are just around the corner.
As the doctor was leaving I said, "Will this go away on its own?" And he smiled kindly and said, "No. You'll have it forever. " And then he paused and said gently, "If you want, though, you could name it?"
Hortense and I are going to go recline on the couch now and watch us some T.V. We've had an awfully stressful day.