My appointment was routine. Once I was dressed I quickly headed to the elevator trying to beat the rush-hour traffic. While waiting for the elevator to arrive, a lady standing nearby looked at me and smiled. “Well, I’m glad that’s over for another year.”
I returned her smile and nodded in agreement. But what if it’s not? Shaking off the thought, I got back to my car and headed home.
I’d been overdue scheduling my mammogram. The events of summer had kept me from making time to go in for the routine test. I’d even considered skipping it this year. After all, the news was touting that women no longer needed to be checked every year. Maybe once every two to three years was enough?
Finally I relented.
The following week the hospital called. “Mrs. Roper, we need you to come in to do some follow-up testing because the radiologist found something a little unusual. Would you like to come tomorrow or next week?”
Her casual demeanor didn’t cause me to worry. After all, I’d had a call-back before and it turned out to be nothing. “Let’s just get it over with. I’ll be there tomorrow.”
When I arrived, I was called back to the financial office. “Your balance due today will be $400,” the lady behind the desk quipped.
“What for? The last time I had a follow-up I didn’t need to pay anything.”
The clerk explained that the mammogram they’d be using that day was more diagnostic. If it showed something suspicious, I’d have to have an ultra-sound. Insurance didn’t cover those expenses.
My stomach began to tighten. An ultra-sound? This definitely wasn’t the status quo.
As I fumbled through my wallet she asked if I’d brought anyone with me. “Umm… no. I thought this was just routine.”
I handed her my credit card.
A few minutes later I was taken into the dressing room. I quivered as I changed into the robe provided. Why hadn’t I thought to ask John to come? I desperately wanted to talk to my husband. As soon as I sat down in the waiting area I called him. No answer.Then I remembered he’d gone out of town for the day and wouldn’t be home until late.
I mustered a brave face when the tech ushered me back for the test. “You’ll need to sit in the waiting area while the radiologist reads your results,” she said when she was finished. “If he sees something suspicious I’ll take you to the ultra-sound area. It’ll be at least ten minutes.”
Less than five minutes later she came back and whisked me into the adjoining waiting room.
When the tech came to get me she tried to soothe my nerves with small talk. I weakly smiled at her and responded as best I could. After the test she said she’d check with the radiologist. If he didn’t come back with her I’d be free to leave.
A couple of minutes later the radiologist appeared and explained there was an unusual shadow that he couldn’t decipher. They needed to schedule me for a biopsy.
Tears threatened as I got dressed again and was taken back to the waiting area. A bubbly woman came out and brought me to her office. “Is there anyone with you today?”
I felt stupid. Why hadn’t I had the foresight to bring anyone with me? “No. Just me.”
She kindly set up the biopsy appointment, stressing I shouldn’t come alone. Then she went ahead and set a follow-up appointment for the next Friday. After giving me a few instructions I was mercifully allowed to leave.
The following week I had the biopsy. I kept trying to push the worst scenarios out of my mind as I waited for the results, but they persisted. Finally Friday arrived and John and I made our way to the hospital again. As we walked in John said he didn’t understand why we had to come in for the results. “Why can’t they just call us?” he asked.
My thoughts exactly.
When they called us back I expected to walk into a doctor’s office with the standard desk and two chairs. The room was painted in soothing colors with a sofa and two comfortable chairs. John and I sat down on the sofa. I noticed the box of tissue next to me.
“I have cancer” I said.
“How can you know that?” John gently asked.
“They don’t put you in comfortable spaces unless you need comforting,” I said.
The radiologist and breast health navigator entered our little room and confirmed my fears.
At first I was okay. He explained possible treatments and some options of how things might go. He said I had the most common form of breast cancer and that was good, because that’s the kind that’s had the most research done.
Then I asked the question that was forefront in my mind. “Do you know if I’ll have to have chemo?”
He blew out a long breath. “I can only say there’s a 50% chance you’ll have to have chemo.”
I didn’t hear anything he said after that. The tears exploded from my eyes. I couldn’t breathe, much less speak. Thank goodness my level-headed husband was there. He wrapped his arm around me tightly as he began firing questions at the radiologist. I remember someone handing me the dreaded tissue which I now desperately needed.