Most people know by now that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I thought about writing an informative article regarding the necessity of doing monthly at-home exams, how crucial getting mammograms are, etc., etc. All of that is important to be sure, but then it struck me; I had a come-to-Jesus moment this year worth repeating. Many can relate. It started March 21st. That was the date of my doctor’s appointment.
March 21st – 9:20am
Appointment with my GYN. Thank God I’m in good health. I drive down Winchester. The day is crispy cool and pretty. It looks picture perfect in every way.
Since I’ve finished with my annual I go stand at the counter to be dismissed. The receptionist hands me a card. “This is your appointment time for your mammogram – March 26th at 9:20, Ms. Faulkner. Is that time okay?”
I matter-of-factly say, “Oh, it’s fine.” I thank her and sashay out the door.
March 26th – 9:20am
I drive down Winchester. The day is crispy cool and pretty. It’s picture perfect in every way. After arriving at the medical office, I step out of the mirrored elevator onto my floor. A lady is sitting outside the suite I’m just about to go into. She is crying. There’s a man on the phone, maybe her husband, standing near her. He speaks in a whispered voice as his hand rubs her back.
I say a silent prayer for her. It must be awful. I can imagine how it must feel to get news like that, I think to myself. I enter the office and wait my turn. I must say the nurse was friendly. After she ushered me back, we laughed and shared small talk during the whole process. Then suddenly she says, “I’m going to take the last picture again. I thought I saw something.”
My toothy smile shrunk a bit to a closed grin. I was not unnerved, but just paying attention at this point. She took it again and said, “It looks like nothing, Ms. Faulkner. Of course, I will let the doctor take a look at it. If you need to come back, our office will call you.” I said okay as pleasantly as possible.
My smile froze as my eyes furrowed slightly. I put my clothes back on and wondered what she meant. Now, now don’t start. They are just being thorough, I said to myself. Besides, no news is good news…
I held onto that thought until a rather cheery nurse called me Thursday morning to inform me that something was spotted on my right breast film and a second look was needed. She asked when would I like to come in. She spoke in one long sentence.
We settled on April 11th at 7:45am. I hung up the phone. I had just lost my brother last October, was I going to die too? How would my mom handle it if I had cancer? If I have cancer I won’t tell anyone till I’m sure. I have my will, my retirement, my mortgage insurance and my bank account all ready. Lord, I don’t want to die. I don’t have too much hair in the first place (I wear a short natural); chemo is just going to make me slick bald! No eyebrows and weakness. It may be in the first stages. Just do what the doctors say do. Don’t be hysterical. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.
April 11th – 7:45am
After what seemed a many sleepless nights, my appointment day is here. I did tell my brother but swore him to secrecy. If the worse came, I would break it to mom myself. I am calm, I am calm, I am calm, I am calm. I pulled into a very posh medical center and entered the mirrored building. Nurse after nurse appeared and called everybody’s name except mine. I sit. I wait.
“Ms. Faulkner!” the nurse says at last. She has a friendly way about her. In fact, the whole office does. I could imagine they are trained in such a way. I’m instructed to put on the hospital gown with the open side in front and wait. Again. I try to read peoples’ faces. Who has it and who doesn’t. For some, I automatically could tell when they did not. They would practically bounce out of the office. That smile was unmistakable. I was called back for my ultrasound. This is the second opinion – a closer look. The next step before the confirmation. My breathing became shallow and my throat was dry. The nurse instructed me to lay this way and that. She sits nearby at what appears to be a computer connected to some monstrous machine. I hear the mouse click. She smiles and talks small talk. Why are my eyes tearing? I might not be…Stop it! You’re becoming unhinged before you even know. What did she say? I struggle at the small talk. I guess she must have read my eyes and expression. Her voice becomes soft; she pats my leg. My breathing is choppy and I fight the tears.
“Okay,” she says, “I’ve got it!” She becomes excited, but then pulls back, “Okay, I think I know what this is but I will talk to the doctor to be sure. I’ll be back. You can wipe yourself off and sit up now.” I nodded. After a while she came back with the news. It was only a cyst! A glorious breast cyst! How I love you my beautiful breast cyst!
Breathe, smile and thanks. I bounce back to the dressing rooms and then toward the door. I love you ultrasound nurse! I love you mirrored building! I push open the doors to the most glorious day I had seen in a while. I drive down Winchester. The day is crispy cool and pretty. But it was picture perfect in every way.