Yesterday I had to go back for a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound. Going in for my first mammogram at 36 made me feel old. Going in for a follow-up scared me. I know that lots of women are called back, but I am 36 and there is breast cancer in my family.
I arrived at the appointment early. They called me back and I was escorted to a dressing room where I removed all deodorant and put on an ever so lovely and flattering hospital gown. I then moved to the internal waiting room. I sat in that waiting area with about seven other women. The only thing we had in common is that we were all naked from the waist up and wearing the same gown. These women were all different shapes, sizes, colors, ages, nationalities. It was a reminder that underneath it all we are all women and we all have way more in common than we realize.
I brought a book to read while I waited. I scanned the reading material in the waiting room and realized that it was filled with OK! and People magazines. I opened my book and wondered why these type of magazines were the reading material of choice.
I read a bit, but every few minutes another name was called. Everyone looked up and around to see who was called. Everyone watched the woman who was called disappear into the room with the loud machine.
I found myself reading and then re-reading lines in my book. I couldn’t focus. I gave up on the book. There was a Marie Claire, which I figured had a little more depth than OK! I dug into that, but soon realized that even Marie Claire was too deep for my current mental state.
I picked up an OK! from several months ago. I realized immediately why this was the reading material of choice. It required no thought. It was made up primarily pictures of people who live in an entirely different world than I do. I read short blurbs about people that I couldn’t relate to at all. It transported me to a different world. The women in these seats don’t want to think and want to mentally be in a completely different place.
I flipped through several issues of OK! magazine, but even those couldn’t ease the anxiety that was rising by the minute.
The elevator music wasn’t helping put me at ease either. The longer I sat, the more that music grated at my nerves.
I was called back for my mammogram. I found out they were worried about a place on my left breast. Several pictures were taken. I was sent back to the waiting room.
I sat for a while longer, but was then called back for additional pictures. Additional pictures did not make me feel any better. I was sent back to the waiting room for the second time.
The women in the waiting room were rotating through. As women left they were replaced with new women. One woman even said to me as she was leaving, “You’re still here?” “Yes, ma’am,” I replied with a smile. The smile was fake.
I was in the waiting room for what seemed like hours waiting to be called back for the ultrasound. I wasn’t attempting to do anything but sit at this point. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to think.
I watched the radiologist come back several times to visit several different rooms. Each time he had his head down. Each time I made eye contact with him had a sad smile on his face. I felt sorry for him. Good news is not delivered personally.
I struck up a short conversation with a woman who was there with her mother. Her mother was back in the mammogram room for at least the third time. She had already been to the ultrasound room. “You are a good daughter,” I told her. “Thank you,” she said. This waiting room isn’t a great place for small talk.
At last I was called back to the ultrasound room. I hadn’t had an ultrasound since I was pregnant with my son. This was such a different experience. When I pregnant with my son I was excited and filled with hope as the ultrasound was taking place. This time my feelings could not have been more different.
I laid on the table. As the wand moved over my breast I remember what it felt like when it moved over my abdomen. I remember the tech looking at my son who was just a little bean at the time. Now the tech was looking at what could be described as another kind of bean. One was life. The other one could be…
The tech pulled the paper sheet over my chest and told me she was going to see the radiologist. “You just lay right there and I will be back in a few minutes,” she told me. I stayed put and looked at the light in the ceiling. I tried not to think about anything. I didn’t know what was going to happen and so there was no reason for me to go down any road – one way or another. I just kept wondering whether one or two people would return with the results. One = good news. Two = bad news.
After what seemed like an eternity the door opened. Were there one or two people?
“Yes, ma’am,” still not knowing how many people were there.
“I have great news! You are all clear.” She continued, yet I stopped hearing her after she said “all clear.”
Relief swept over me. I started to breathe again. I heard her say something about overlapping breast tissue. She told me I could get dressed and go home. And, I thought, continue on with my life as is.
I am very, very thankful that I have nothing to worry about. I know that I dogged a bullet. I know that all women are not so lucky. Of the women that I was with today I wonder how many are at home tonight thanking God and how many are at home tonight asking God to help them get through this.
I am thanking God, but I am also grateful that I had this experience. It has given me insight into a situation, which, until today, I couldn’t relate to at all.
Life is made up of experiences. The good. The bad. The ugly. Unless we have an experience where we get a glimpse into a life we cannot imagine we can’t begin to understand.