I did this.
I lay on the hospital bed, crying.
I’m scared of the potential pain, and of the potential diagnosis.
I’m ashamed because it is my own fault I’m laying here.
I should’ve had a mammogram 2 ½ years ago. They say it again and again Get a mammogram when you turn 40. I didn’t. My doctor moved, and I’d been reluctantly shopping for a new one. It’s inconvenient and uncomfortable and I am very sensitive. I felt fine I would do it later.
And then I started to feel a cosmic push.
In October, my son dyed his hair pink for breast cancer awareness. Nudge. There’s an article about a woman who was diagnosed too late for treatment, and her adult son spends her last few weeks with her. Push. My husband sees a news piece about contributing lifestyle factors exercise, weight and alcohol consumption he asks if I have done it yet. Shove.
And so here I am.
They called on Monday. The mammogram was inconclusive. They wanted to do an ultrasound.
Can you come in on Thursday?
I try convincing myself it will be okay this happens to many women the first time they just need a baseline.
Except there is a mass. They want to biopsy it it might be fine, and it might not, but the sooner we know the better.
Can you come back next week?
Wait we have an opening can you stay and do it now?
Yes. And when I say yes, what I think is: I don’t know. I’m terrified. I’m by myself. I don’t know if I can do this.
I remind myself I’m actually a grown up. I should act like one. I lay back, and my tears leak out of my eyes, roll down my cheeks and find a resting spot in my ears.
They come back into the room.
Are you ready?
It’s going to be uncomfortable, painful. They explain the procedure. They will finish the biopsy, and then, to add insult to injury, I will need another mammogram.
Can you go home after this and just lie down, relax?
No, I have to go to work.
Oh, that’s too bad obviously you didn’t know today would go like this.
I survive the procedure. I get dressed and walk out. I can’t make eye contact with any of the healthcare professionals who undoubtedly would never be in my position. They wouldn’t be 2 ½ years late with their first test. They wouldn’t be as irresponsible as I have been with myself.
I get into my car, trying to decide if I should call anyone my husband, my mother, one of my girlfriends. No, I will wait until I get the results. It is my fault I’m here, I shouldn’t burden anyone else with worry until I know anything certain.
And then I get a phone call.
The radiologist would like you to come back. Are you still nearby? Can you come back?
I know without a doubt this is not a good sign.
I say yes, because I am still pretending to be a grown up.
I go back, put the gown on again, and wait.
The radiologist comes back in.
I’m so sorry to call you back here, but there’s just something I want to check out.
There is a second mass, under the first mass.
I think I stop breathing.
It’s probably nothing. Most certainly nothing. Yes, looks like a run-of-the-mill cyst but they need to do another mammogram.
Luckily, this time, it is good news. This second mass is nothing to worry about. Just the original first mass worry about that.
They give me small disposable icepacks and say to keep them on all day. I go home, change into a bulky sweater and head to work.
Usually it takes 2 days to get the results, but because it’s Thursday, I won’t hear anything until Monday. I take my punishment without complaint. I have been reckless with my health for 30 months; I can wait 4 days for the outcome.
The bruise on my left breast has turned from a small violet blossom to deep purple in full bloom. It is tender, and I dread even the concept of further procedures, let alone treatment. So far, I have kept this secret, but I won’t be able to keep it up. If it turns out to be malignant, how will I tell my family? How will I explain to them I gave this disease a 2 ½ year head-start?
I should lose 30 pounds. I should curtail my wine consumption. I should exercise. If I come through this, I will change.
They call late Monday afternoon the biopsy results are benign.
See you next year!
I breathe out. I breathe in. I realize I have been holding my breath for 10 days.
And so, for me, this is my New Year. New Me. I have never felt a stronger resolve to change. I thank The Universe for this cold hard slap in the face. My family deserves to have me take better care of myself. I deserve it. You do too. Don’t wait 2 ½ years to do what you know you need to. Call now, even on Sunday in the Park.
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Given everything ski patrollers do, they deserve to be paid more than “a high school summer hire flipping burgers,” writes Russ Paskoski of Silver Springs.