Sunday, December 7, 2014

Reality Check

On the day of the second mammo, I lose my smartrip card between the bus and the metro. It feels like a bad omen. I frantically pat myself down -- coat, pants, backpack -- over and over again. The woman beside me says nothing. When I exit the train, it is raining and I have no umbrella. I try to convince myself it isn't another bad sign. I arrive at the Breast Health Center at 8:15am. It is a curiously glam space with pink and silver decor. 

The man who takes my paperwork is too grumpy to be working at the breast health center. He tells me I have the wrong paperwork and I have to go downstairs to my midwife's office to get the correct order. As soon I as I walk into the midwife's office, I cry. I hand over the letter from the midwife that says why I am there and the receptionist gets me the right order. She calms me down and hugs me. I go back to the breast center and wait.

I'm escorted to the changing room where I put on a gown that is meant to strangle or expose me. Then I enter the diagnostic waiting room where I feel conspicuously young. We all wait. I am called for the second mammogram and the technician tells me to go back to the waiting room--more waiting--and they'll come get me if they need to do another one or an ultrasound. She also tells me that after the doctor looks at the screening she will talk to me about the results. I'm reassured -- I don't have to wait three weeks! 

The technician returns for me and I have another mammogram. It's after 10am and I have an 11am appointment to renew my passport. I learn there is only one doctor on duty. I ask if she can find out if I will need an ultrasound. She says without hesitation that I'll need one. I don't think anything of it, except that I need to cancel my passport appointment.

Eventually I am moved to another waiting room. I try calling the post office where my appointment is but no one answers the phone. The ultrasound technician retrieves me and scans only my right breast. She leaves briefly to speak to the doctor and returns to tell me I'm done. I get dressed, relieved that the appointment is almost over. She takes me to meet the doctor -- not the woman I was expecting but a young man. On the screen is my breast. It looks white, with a curiously round black spot. He recommends a biopsy. I am in shock but I hear him when he says 75-80% are nothing. I ask no questions. I'm taken back to another room to make an appointment. The scheduler asks me how I am and I cry.

When I leave it is 12:15pm. I cancel my lunch plans and go shopping. I buy overpriced ornaments for my boys to hang on the Christmas tree we will buy that night. I call my husband. He tells me we will be fine. I text my best friend. I tell her I won't discuss it. I don't tell my family.

I remember how just a couple of months ago, before my first ever "routine" mammogram, I told my friends I was convinced I would be OK. I've already outlived my mother. I've already survived her breast cancer. 

The midwife calls and asks how I am. She is sympathetic but distant. Part of me wishes I had listed the feely midwife as my doctor, and not the matter-of-fact one I usually like best. I read another friend's facebook post about her own loss and I have a good cry. Then I sew. 

Husband comes home and we agree it isn't a problem unless the doctor says it is. I can't even say the word. When we pick up the boys, I give them their expensive ornaments. M is mad that it isn't a toy. H thinks it's the best thing ever. We buy an expensive Christmas tree and go home. M is still sour. 

The next day, I am convinced I have cancer and will die. My friend tells me we will make sure that--IF it happens--it is only a chapter of my life and not my whole story. Then I torture myself with internet images of cancerous breast ultrasounds. It's too hard to tell difference between the ones that are and those that aren't. 

Now I am back to waiting. Tuesday they will biopsy my breast. It will take four days to get the results. I don't know how they will give me the results or if I will have to wait over the weekend. I hope for a clear result. But now I know: the waiting won't ever end. Every year for the rest of my life, I'll go back. There will be waiting, and maybe more testing. There will never be any certainty. 

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