The imperfect mammogram

I decided to follow the conventional path and at the advice of my doctor I went for a mammogram. I’m not a fan of mammograms but like so many others, my medical decisions are largely based on what my insurance is willing to cover.

I reluctantly went to the appointment. It was an early morning appointment and it went quickly. I was in and out without a fuss.

Less than 48 hours later I got a call.

They saw something on the mammogram that they wanted to investigate further. I needed to come in for an ultrasound on my right breast.

An appointment was scheduled for 5 days later.

I wouldn’t say I worried during those days but whenever my mind wandered it went to that subject. I didn’t meditate on it, ask my inner healer or even tell anyone. I just let it be.

My husband offered to go with me to the appointment. I said no I wanted to go alone. I justified that decision with things like, his back hurts if he sits too long…he won’t be comfortable just waiting…he has more important things to do.

I know now that what I was really doing was letting my own self esteem issues get in the way. I have to be strong, I don’t want to inconvenience anyone, I don’t deserve any extra attention.

When I stepped through the office doors it hit me. I was nervous.

Even though I hadn’t sat in dialogue with my inner healer it had been whispering in my ear.

I knew that this wouldn’t be an all clear. 

I checked in and sat down to wait. I tried to read a magazine but got irritated that I needed my glasses. I couldn’t concentrate anyway.

It was just a short time in the lobby waiting room before they called my name.

As I followed the nurse through the door I could feel myself shaking a little. I took a deep breath and tried to pay attention to what she was saying. Put on this robe, store your stuff in the locker and take the key with me. Got it.

I’ll admit the robes are much better than the old paper gowns they used to give you for these kinds of examinations.

I took a seat in the waiting room with several other women all wearing the same robes. It reminded me of the time I had gone to a fancy spa and we all sat around in spa robes drinking juice and waiting for our massages.

Only no one in this room was looking forward to her appointment.

When the technician came to get me she confirmed that I was scheduled to have an ultrasound on my right breast. But then she surprised me by saying that they also wanted to do another mammogram on my left breast to clarify something they had seen there.

Wait…I wasn’t prepared for both my breasts to be under scrutiny.

My anxiety level went up a notch. 

I’ll admit I’m not a fan of the medical machine that is healthcare in our country but the women that worked with me that day were caring, compassionate and very professional.

I felt very vulnerable lying on that table with one breast exposed, covering my other one with the robe like somehow I could protect it.

Her tone was comforting as she explained how the ultrasound would go. She needed to see if she could find what they had found suspicious on the mammogram; it was supposed to be at the one o’clock position.

She found it on the first try.

The machine made little bell sounds as she measured it. Thoroughly she checked the entire breast, even the lymph nodes, while she calmly asked me questions meant to distract me from my thoughts.

After the ultrasound she took me down the hall to get the mammogram on the other breast. My technician’s name was Joy….no I didn’t miss the irony. She was kind and apologetic for the very hard compression that was required to get the views that the doctor wanted.

When it was over I found myself back in an empty waiting room with my robe tied tightly around my waist as if it could shield me from any more blows to my dignity.

My anxiety kept me from sitting so I stood staring out the window and let my thoughts drift. Just two days before I had attended a memorial service for a friend that had died of breast cancer. My lip quivered as I held back tears.

I thought about all the women I have known with breast cancer. I thought about how much I hate the color pink. I thought about how much I didn’t want to be a part of the “club” that is cancer. I thought about holistic treatments. I thought about the herbs I would take.

I thought about running away before the nurse came back to get me. 

I was feeling vulnerable and started to wish I hadn’t come alone.

Joy stuck her head in and asked me to follow her to the office where another nurse waited to talk with me. She told me that we were waiting for the doctor to come in.

So far no one had said the “L” word to me.

I was scared of the “L” word. My mind had drawn that as the line in the sand….as long as the doctor doesn’t say that then there was nothing to worry about.

More small talk about tattoos and long marriages before the doctor finally came in. She was a well dressed woman with a compassionate look permanently glued to her face. She spoke softly as she told me about what looked like calcifications in my left breast. She was patient and kind and didn’t use the “L” word.

Then it happened. 

“We found a Lump in your right breast.”

It is small…we need to do a biopsy…you’ll have results in 24 hours…we’ll leave a piece of stainless steel in there to mark the spot if you have to have surgery.

My head swirled.

Fortunately my training kicked in and I got the information I needed.

The doctor left the room and the nurse remained to go through a checklist of questions about allergies, blood pressure, medications, height and even weight. I was caught so off guard that I even gave her my correct weight.

It had gotten late and most people had already left to go home but she assured me that I would get a call the next day to schedule a biopsy. She handed me a business card and showed me to the door.

I stood silently waiting for the elevator. Did that just happen? I looked down and saw the business card in my hand….it had happened.

My phone was buzzing with a text asking where I was. I stopped on the sidewalk because I knew my legs weren’t sturdy enough to walk and talk.

I called home. The first question was of course…what happened? My voice broke when I said we’ll talk about it when I get there.

I walked slowly to my car keenly aware that these were the first steps of a new journey.

 

37 replies
  1. Kendahl Steggall
    Kendahl Steggall says:

    Well written and I loved the part about giving your true weight. There really isn’t much anyone can say at this point to take away the fear etc. But they are going to try. You are a strong woman and it’s good to remember that it is ok to not always be strong. It’s always challenging when a friend shares such news to know what to say. But I bet many of your supporters and friends echo my thoughts, though the words to really express our love and concern many not be life altering, the strength of our concern and desire to be there for you is. I will be eager to follow your story ‘to it’s happy ending’.

    Reply
  2. Pat Conley
    Pat Conley says:

    So sorry Melanie-
    Thank you for the open and exacting share…we all need to know that we are not alone at a time like this, and you have your sisters-so let us be with you along this new path…
    You are in my thoughts and prayers,
    deep bows of respect 🙏🏻

    Reply
  3. Teri
    Teri says:

    I feel your concern and frustration re the “L” since it is quite a shock. My own experience was very similar – matter of fact after so many years of having mammograms I felt that this would be my last. I was convinced that they would not find anything.
    Well, I was wrong, they did find a “L” and took a biopsy and confirmed that it was “C”. I went into a shock… How could this be… Yet, within a couple of days, had the lump removed and followed up with radiation – a new form of radiation that was of short duration…No Kemo… and, for 51/2 years have been free. I opted out of taking the strong meds. that was recommended after the treatment.
    Hope this helps… I feel blessed and lucky that the “L” was found at such an very early stage. Wishing you all the best… Peace

    Reply
  4. Esther Zack
    Esther Zack says:

    Have been there and done that……no one can tell you how to react to these tough times! This is the time to let your husband be part of every minute! He needs you and you need him! You’re a strong woman and with all your herbs and special knowledge you’ll get well soon! And as a Breast Cancer
    Survivor (ten years this September) I can say “Mel, you’ll be okay”!!!
    Love, Esther Z.

    Reply
  5. ROBIN DEAN
    ROBIN DEAN says:

    Hi Melanie:
    Hugs, love and support heading your way. Along with a good dose of Reiki. You are not alone in this, you are surrounded by good friends and love. Chanting for your and sending Reiki.
    Namaste

    Reply
  6. Kirsten Shaw
    Kirsten Shaw says:

    Melanie, hang in there. You’re surrounded by breast cancer survivors. It is a journey only, not the destination.

    Reply
  7. mary Derrig
    mary Derrig says:

    I think you know how I feel about moving too far ahead in your thinking.Now is the time to practice presence.That is all we have anyway, the present moment. Love you!

    Reply
    • Md_@dmin
      Md_@dmin says:

      I believe I am staying very present. I’m not feeling anxiety or worry in this moment. Thanks for always being there! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Stephanie Sidora
    Stephanie Sidora says:

    Just know you have an etire community behind you to offer love, hugs, and support. Know Goddess has a plan even for the scary stuff. I love you bunches and I am in your corner.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    It is so true how you describe the ordeal of a mammogram. Have you had one before? I have been getting them for years. I have a marker in each breast because if abnormal areas. That was an experience too. Have you heard about the woman who walking across America topless. She had both breasts removed and it taking her story to Washington DC. It is a remarkable story. My mother had one removed. It is never easy when it is you hearing the news. Be positive and we will all pray for you. You are loved by so many. We are all sad with you. Keep us all posted. Talk about it. Read as much as you can. But pray you will be okay. You are strong.

    Reply
  10. Donna Meyer
    Donna Meyer says:

    I felt your emotions and fears as I was reading your post having done it my self. It takes you to your knees. Take in all the love that is available to you. I hope you know how much love is coming your way! Get ready!! Find out all you can if it turns out to be cancer as I know you would. Don’t panic and know you have time to make the right decisions for you. I will be 13 years cancer free in Sept. Sending you love and healing. Donna

    Reply
  11. Debbie S
    Debbie S says:

    Mel
    I just read this and thought I was reliving my experience all over and in disbelief that the person who was my biggest supporter and crutch was now walking the same path! I know and have faith that it is NOTHING! But who better than you, who went through this with me, knows how positive energy and thinking gets you through each day. You know my arms are surrounding you with absolute love and energy — and now it’s my turn to be there for you!!!
    Love You!!

    Reply
  12. Darby McGuigan
    Darby McGuigan says:

    Melanie, sending lots of love and many cyberhugs to you. I am confident all will be well.
    You have your Spirit Guides and all your sisters of the heart with you.

    Reply
  13. Beverly
    Beverly says:

    Melanie,

    WOW You sure know how to present yourself to all who know you. I feel your emotions. Your humor is still intact…that is a good thing. You also have all the support of everyone who knows you and those who don’t. I too, will send you Reiki, plus prayers that all will turn out good for your girls. Many Blessings dear one.

    Reply
  14. Lori M. Chapman
    Lori M. Chapman says:

    Thank you for including us in your life journey. Your post was very articulate and informative.I can only imagine how difficult it was to write. Sending love, prayers and light to you.

    Reply
  15. Janice Winscot
    Janice Winscot says:

    My heart and soul go out to your heart and soul. I rest there, knowing we are joined together by sisterhood and all these years of being in each other’s presence.
    Please remember that I do lymphatic therapy, Therapeutic Touch, Reik … and whatever Spirit guides me to do. I also just purchased a Bemer, an electromagnetic medical device this week. I’d also be open to getting together with others for a group healing time.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Love

    Reply

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