Joining a New Club

My hand shook as I reached for the elevator button. This building holds too many unpleasant memories, the surgery center, radiation and oncology are all in this building. Today I’m here for my first follow up mammogram since my breast cancer treatment.

Stepping off the elevator I felt my stomach flutter with a moment of fear. I took several deep breaths to prepare myself before I walked into the office. It was just as I remembered it….overwhelmingly pink.

I realized my hand was still shaking when I couldn’t read my own name on the sign in sheet.

Sitting down next to my husband I tried not to relive my other visits to this place. It was hard because nothing had changed, the staff still wore pink uniforms and everyone in the waiting room was nervous.

Even though I don’t like going to the Breast Health and Research Center for personal reasons, the staff and service they provide are top notch. It didn’t take long for my name to be called and I was ushered through the same door that had started this journey 8 months ago.

I just kept reminding myself to breathe.

Even with all the unpleasant memories there was a small amount of comfort in knowing the routine. Place your stuff in the locker, put on a robe and wait here.

As I took my seat in the waiting area I smiled softly at the other woman seated there. She smiled back nervously and then used her phone as a distraction. I looked around and was disappointed to see that the usual plate of cookies was sitting on the table. The herbalist in me wished they would offer healthier snacks.

I recognized the woman that came to the doorway and called my name. I followed her down the hall and as she stepped aside to let me enter the room ahead of her, I had a moment of panic. It was the same room where she had done my biopsies and inserted the guide wires before my first surgery.

My previous mammograms had been in another room with different equipment. I was not prepared to be facing the machinery that had been a part of such unpleasant memories. I remembered my embarrassment when blood had run down the side of the machine during my biopsies and how scared I was before the surgery.

She offered me a seat and I took it gratefully because my knees didn’t feel like they would support me right then. I forced myself to focus on answering her questions as she shuffled through my paperwork.

When I confirmed that I had been through 3 surgeries she asked to see my surgical scar so she could note it in my file. As soon as I opened my robe she looked and said, “I recognize that tattoo.”

I practiced my breathing while I stood draped over the machine having my breast flattened in uncomfortable positions. The pain made me dizzy.

After taking several pictures she told me to have a seat back in the waiting area. The room was more crowded now but I didn’t care as I held my breast delicately, trying to convince it to stop throbbing.

My eyes grew wide when she returned to tell me that the radiologist wanted her to take more pictures. I could feel my composure slipping as I followed her down the hall again.

The already throbbing breast was squished again and by the time she was done there were tears in my eyes from the pain. She had me sit down for a moment before releasing me back to the waiting room.

I was scared.

It didn’t seem like a good omen to have to take more images. Had the radiologist seen something bad?

By the time she came back and motioned for me to follow her I had gone through a whole range of emotions. I was determined to be strong no matter what she said.

When she looked up at me she was smiling. Everything was fine and they would send the results to my doctor.

I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until she finished speaking.

After getting dressed I delivered the good news to my husband. The relief in his eyes was genuine and he gave me a big hug. By now my breast was throbbing like crazy but I didn’t care.

As I walked out of the building the sun shone on my face and I stopped to feel the warmth. The world had changed while I was in there. The club I belong to has changed…..

I am a survivor.

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