Updated: Aug 4, 2019
I lied to June a few months ago and I had to make it right. Did it in our group chat full of women. So, right after I did (tell the lie, that is) I decided to schedule a mammogram. It was super important she said. Therefore, I called and I went. It was so quick. Well, it only took about two hours and they were nice. Even the squishing of my 32DDD boobs wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. There, commitment fulfilled. I felt accomplished. Almost.
A week and a half later, I was summoned back. I scheduled the appointment immediately. I decided to do it while I had a break from work and while my son would be out of the country. I swear I did the least amount of worrying possible between January 26th and today at 12:30 pm. I even had company the night before from my sister, brother, sister-in-law and my doggy nephew, Cesar. We ate wings, chilled out, and laughed a lot while I wore my best new clogs with polka dot socks and red lipstick. I was feeling like my usual best self. A young-old lady with arthritis lingering in one knee; I dubbed myself, Doris.
Today it snowed and I decided not to drive. Everything was calm and easy on the ride to Lenox Hill Radiology. Tanasha, my Uber driver had me listening to "Pepperseed"on the way down Park Avenue. It was nice and warm in her space. I finally got to my destination, filled out my paperwork and copped an hour long squat. Finally, my name was called by a little nurse in furry boots. I followed her to the back, where she instructed me politely to disrobe from the waist up. I put on a bright melon colored robe, wrapped the strings around my torso like a Halston dress and sat in my squishy pants and sneaks for another twenty minutes. It didn't feel that strange sitting around braless since I'd just done it a couple of weeks ago. I pulled out one of my current reads until I was called again. The lady next to me had the shakes. I wanted to ask her questions, but resisted the urge to be nosy. Was she cold, scared or both? I just wanted to give her a little comfort. I didn't. Minded my own business.
There were a steady stream of us going in and coming out after a time. Finally, it was my turn to do more than just sit. I went in the room and stood for a more thorough 3D mammogram. There were a lot more placements and tighter squishes, by a new tech. "Lift your chin hon"..."place your (right or left) arm here"... "How old are you?"... "Wow, you don't look forty-one"..."Look towards me with your body straight"..."Hold your breath"..."Good, now breathe and relax"..."I have to use different plates"..."Look towards me"..."Almost done." We had a nice conversation about hysterectomies. The fact that I had one and the matter of her needing to schedule one for herself. I dared to ask her how old she was. I was curious if she was younger than me. Turned out she was a fifty-six year old woman who looked thirty-five. She said I looked twenty-one. That was a happy exit and I felt very comfortable as she wished me luck and asked me to have a seat in a different waiting area for my ultrasound.
I turned off my phone, pulled out my book and read Running With Scissors. It kept me in quiet obscene stitches until about an hour later when they were finally ready for me once again. I went into another room and laid down on the squishy tissue paper that was on the exam table. There was the most comfortable little pillow there too. Another kind tech asked me to lower my gown and place my right arm above my head. It was a lot less talkative this time. Again I resisted the urge to ask questions, this time about myself. The clear blue-green liquid was warm and I couldn't help but tell her that with a smile. She divulged that it's kept in something that resembles a bottle warmer. Which I thought was incredibly thoughtful and clever. I then slipped in a question about the images on the screen. The thing is, I knew that I had a small mass in my left breast and a tiny one in my right since I was about nineteen years old. After monitoring it for a period of time, I was told that they were benign masses and I just lived with them until now. I haven't been able to feel them for lots of years and assumed that they up and disappeared. Guess not. We were now at image 45 out of 75 when she said casually that she would show me the mass on the screen after she was through. At that point she didn't have to, I could make out what appeared to be an air bubble. I still didn't feel out of sorts. I just tried my best to wait for her to point anything necessary out. After gliding the ultra sound wand all over my upper region including into the depths of both armpits, I realized that we were past image 75. I asked if that was bad. She said a rather calm no and told me that she was going to show my images to the doctor and she may want to come in and examine me further herself.
So, I waited some more in the room by myself. I wiped off my breasts and armpits and tied my robe like I originally had it. It made me feel better with it that way. The screen on the machine blinked, "Hey There" which made me smile. I said a low "hey" to no one like a weirdo and just sat. Dug in my bag for my book and read some more about Augustin's wild life with Dr. Finch and his family. I even laughed out loud a couple of times, since it was just me and the computer saying "Hey There".
The tech came back with the doctor after a long enough while to make me feel like they'd forgotten about me. They smiled and the doctor asked me a few questions to which I answered and told me that she wanted to take a look for herself. She did. Mainly at the breast with the sizable mass. Said it had a suspicious area around it and the questions left me, the smiles did too. When she was done she told me that she wanted me to come back for a biopsy. Told me that I had lymph nodes in my armpits. "Both of them?", I asked. She said yes and asked if I had any preexisting conditions. I said yes, RA. She said, "Yes! That's probably why the lymph nodes." Said they wanted me to come back just so they could rule out certain things for the future, but it was too late. My mind was a slow blur. They smiled and exited and I stood and took off the robe and started getting dressed. They said I could, I think and that I could schedule my appointment out front or when I heard from my doctor tomorrow. I opted for the latter.
I stood and put on my bra, dabbed at my eyes that were acting faster than I could think. It wasn't that bad. I heard myself asking the doctor a couple of minutes before if this meant the big C and she said no, this is fairly common. The tiny memory helped me find the strength to put on my shirt, hoody and coat, call an Uber and head out into the snow. It was still snowing. All that time and nothing had changed.
When I got home, I had trouble turning the key in the lock. It just wouldn't work. Then I remembered to stop, breathe and try again. One step at a time. That's what I do during the tough times. It worked. I went in and said, "Hi house". I do that sometimes. It's a cocoon in here. Shades of grey. It was just me in my big winter coat and I locked the door, placed my head in the corner (the opposite side of the locks) and said, "don't scare me God. okay? Cause I'm not good at it. I just want to get the chance to actually be old Doris."
P.S. I know it's a little scary being a woman, but don't forget to checka check it all out. If you're lucky, you'll get to cry a little and smile a lot.
J A S