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From darkness to light – an arduous journey
You’re never too old to build a snowman - especially if your little people get you out to enjoy this timeless tradition. Emily seems to be enjoying the time with her family, but also took care to slip away to Madison for some adult birthday fun and a little break from being a mom.

GAYS MILLS - I’m writing to you today, on Monday, January 27, my birthday, a somewhat bedraggled and newly 31 year old. 

I woke up this morning, not ready or wanting to wake up. Both kids had been sick the night before. Waylon restless and coughing, Thatcher continually disturbed by fever dreams his bed was slipping out from under him. 

I flip flopped all night from one kid to the other. So when I woke up this morning unable to find my keys, I thought for sure it was just my tired eyes deceiving me. Alas, I’ve concluded they were probably plucked like a ripe fruit by my curious little baby and ditched somewhere along his path. I’m just hoping not in the toilet, flushed off to the murky depths of the septic. 

Today is a predictably quiet day for me. Having already celebrated my birthday the weekend before. 

I made a effort this year to indulge myself a little deeper in birthday celebrations because I had a particularly rough past couple of weeks. 

I had been having this pain near my left underarm. I spent a lot of time initially ignoring it thinking it was due to swinging a baby up onto that hip, over and over again. But, knowing I had an insurance-required physical coming up, I decided to add that to the list of things to get checked out. 

My doctor didn’t seem overly concerned, because, statistically at my age the risk of breast cancer is fairly low. But, because, as she put it, “we both have to sleep at night” she performed a breast exam anyway. And she found a very small lump on the top side of my left breast. She assured me that it really was no reason to panic, that it could just be dense tissue, it could be a fibrous cyst.  but again, because we both gotta sleep at night, she put in the referral for an official mammogram at the breast health center at Gundersen in La Crosse. 

Trying to set up the appointment became hazy. I started feeling like someone had rubbed Vaseline on my eyes and on my brain. Neither could function clearly.  I think I asked the receptionist about three times how the process of actually getting the appointment would go. 

I got the call from the Center for Breast Health a day later and the soonest they could get me in was a 7:30 a.m. appointment a week later. A very long, very difficult seven days. 

I know you’re always supposed to think the best but, it’s hard not to think the worse when you spend your whole life as a woman thinking a lump on your breast equals most certain doom. 

I found myself crying a lot, thinking about how I really should get my affairs in order, and texting my best friends things like “If I die now, my kids will be too young to remember me.” It was really difficult and dark and I felt very alone. 

The day came and I drove up to LaCrosse in the early morning darkness and snow. The roads were barely plowed and my drive up Highway 35 was slow.  I finally made it and checked in. There were other middle-aged women waiting to be seen and I found myself wondering if my presence as the youngest person in the room unsettled them. 

I was called back and instructed put on their garment and shove my things in a locker. I was positioned, and repositioned and pressed and squished and told to hold my breath. The imaging felt like it took an eternity. “I’ll tell ya hon, when I turned 30, everything just started falling a part on me!” the tech quipped with delight. “I’m turning 31” I responded,  feeling no willingness to put up my usual Midwestern Charm. “EVEN BETTER!” she said both sarcastically and joyously. 

Everything moved rather quickly from there. Being I was the first patient of the day, the doctor read my results almost immediately. No cancer, nothing that looked suspicious on the images. I think her exact words were “we didn’t see nothin’!” 

She followed with a ultrasound to be sure and found some spots of dense tissue. But still, nothing either she nor the official doctor (whom I never met the whole time I was there) found concerning. Just the way I was made, she told me. 

Walking out, I was surprised I didn’t have the sensation of relief wash over me like I was expecting. I went about my day, still feeling uncertain, and foggy. 

When I got home and Chasca was there and I had the kids and my life resumed as normal I felt it. Playing out in the snow, building our very own beautiful snow queen with the perfect packing snow, I felt the relief that there is, at least for now, nothing critically wrong with me. 

I felt even more thankful, grateful and relieved the next day as we left our boys in the care of their loving aunt and were able to go to a concert together. Something we loved doing but haven’t been able to do in quite some time. Dancing like fools and feeling very much loved, my life felt a little more renewed and brighter after some hefty darkness. 

Even waking up this morning, after a long night of sick kids, a  lost key and a messy house, I was still lucky. Lucky to have family that were willing to drive 45 minutes to get my kids when my minor crisis strikes (Thanks M&J I’d be lost without you), lucky to be able to do my job from my home, and lucky that at least for now, I’m a healthy 31 one year old with a whole new year ahead of me.