This week I had my annual mammogram. Unlike past years I wasn’t worried, but as we all know… Mammograms can change our world in the time it takes to “Inhale. Hold it. Don’t breath.” I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, and I’m an expert at reading every nuance in the voice and face of a mammogram technician.
This year my mammogram threw me a curveball.
Instead of having me wait in my “pink gown” for the radiologist to read my mammograms, the technician said I could get dressed and leave. “Your doctor will have the results in a few days and notify you.”
The following afternoon the same technician called and said they’d forgotten to get a 3D image of my right breast. The same breast that had breast cancer. The radiologist needed me to come back. “I’ll tell the front desk to show you back immediately,” she said.
An hour later, dressed in another pink gown, I asked the technician if there was something wrong with yesterday’s images, ignoring she’d already told me they’d “forgotten to do the 3D image of that breast.” The technician walked right into my trick question… Her answer didn’t jive with why I needed to return.
This time she said, “The radiologist just wanted another image.”
She took the image and then told me not to move while she talked with the radiologist. In a few minutes she returned and said the radiologist wanted yet another image. She wanted to see more of the tissue on the side of my breast and under my arm.
“You need to know my antennae are up,” I told the technician. “I’ve had 10 breast cancer surgeries and eight rounds of chemo. I know the drill.”
For the next 15 minutes I sat in the waiting room, still in my pink gown, not allowing myself to “go there.“ I told myself I could handle anything. Then I realized I was clutching my purse and my coat like I was a refugee in a war zone, and they were the only two things I owned.
The technician appeared in the doorway. “I shared your history with the radiologist. She didn’t want you to wait until next week—until after Thanksgiving—for the results.
Everything looks fine. We’ll see you next year for your annual mammogram.”
Relief and gratitude washed over me like a tsunami. I relaxed the grip on my purse and stepped into the changing room and told God how grateful I was. It was a short, hurried prayer. Anything else and I would be a puddle on the floor.
I walked to my car, trying hard to push back the tears. As soon as the car door closed I let them come. In that moment I realized how scared I really was… How unthinkable it would be to go through a recurrence—which would mean metastatic breast cancer—alone. I know women who’ve gone through it alone. Women who are single or their chicken shit husbands left them; husbands who didn’t have the courage to do the right thing and be there for their wives and their family.
My gratitude is palpable. It is the beating of my heart; the realization that the spirit of God lives within me, and I’m not alone. Thank you, God. This is my “thanks giving.” Today I show no signs of breast cancer recurrence, and for that, I am grateful.