I’m proactive about my health, albeit reluctantly sometimes. I go for my checkups. I do what I’m supposed to do. And I know the doctor is only doing what she’s supposed to do. That it’s for my own good.
But somehow, this call back made me angry. Angry because I was terrified. Angry I had to take a day off work. Angry I had to wait. That I had doubts. That it’d happened at all. That I had to submit to their tests. That I had to let someone touch my breasts. That I knew, from past experience, I’d feel violated, dehumanized. Vulnerable.
And my anger and terror seemed to roil together into one dark, black, messy emotion.
Everyone wanted to be supportive. My boyfriend. My daughter. My mother. My friends. And they were, and I’m deeply grateful for them. I love them. But they’re not the ones who got the callback.
Immediate understanding and camaraderie, sans words, came in the form of being in community with the other ‘call back’ women, all of us huddled together in the waiting room, on the day of my tests. There we sat, ostensibly watching some fixer-upper show, flipping through dated issues of magazines, scanning our Smartphones. Wanting to be anywhere but where we were.
Old and young, we became an unwitting team in our matching half gowns, all a hideous shade of pink somewhere between Pepto Bismol and burgundy. As if somehow that rosy color was going to make it all better.
Our wrist bands proclaiming our birth dates, the ties of our gowns as secure as the garments allowed, we waited. And waited.
Technicians and doctors appeared from corridors and changing rooms, like characters in pop up books from hell. The dreaded words, ‘they may want more images’ were spoken in hushed tones to some of us. My heart, and their hearts went out to one another in silent support. Conversations among us consisted of small talk and sympathetic looks.
First, I was taken to an exam room for another mammogram. Then back to the waiting room. Then came the ultrasound, performed by a technician. The room was freezing, adding to my overall discomfort. Then I waited some more. Finally, the doctor herself performed yet another ultrasound.
In the silence, when the gel they’d warmed oozed over my breast and nipple and armpit and midriff and gown, and the doctor coursed the wand over and over my flesh, and my private parts were broadcast on a monitor mere inches from my face, I was left to wonder. And confront my worst fears.
After she’d examined me thoroughly, she finally gave me the verdict.
Everything looked good. I didn’t have breast cancer.
My relief was palpable. Then she told me that a call back would no doubt happen again, following future tests, because of my dense tissue. The reason I’d been called back was because they wanted to look more closely at the upper quadrant of my left breast. In hindsight, I’m grateful they didn’t tell me that on the phone, as I would’ve been even more nervous than I already was.
Today, and every day since I’ve been more grateful than words can express for my bill of good health. For everything I have. For every moment. For everyone in my life.
I feel I’ve been given a new lease on life. I’m grateful to my God, and for having another day to be with the people I care about. To live in my house. To write another story. To simply be.
There may indeed be another call back in my future. But I’ll take the peace that today offers.
For the women who did not receive good news, I offer them not pity, but my deepest respect. My hope and strength. I am with them in spirit.
As I said before, I’m human. I’ll undoubtedly get sucked into the minutiae of life’s problems once again. Its frustrations and disappointments. But I plan to work diligently to keep my oh so precious gratitude close. Moment by moment.