Today was the day. Annual mammogram. As much as I tried to play it down, rationalize it as just another doctor appointment, the fear got inside me, danced on my heart. Strong emotions, from deep within, crept up uninvited. Worries about worst case scenarios. Visions of the train leaving the station again. Brought me to tears having to validate the answers to the check-in questions – yes to positive mammogram, to lumpectomy, to mastectomy, to implant. It still doesn’t seem possible that healthy little me is a cancer survivor.
It is with incredible relief that I say my fears were unfounded: mammogram normal. YAY!!! Indeed, a case of False Expectations Appearing Real. I can let go of that fear now…ahhhh.
Overall, this year’s experience was better than last year’s. Guess that’s not surprising – having been through something once makes it less unusual the next time. I wrote a poem after my 2012 mammogram that seems appropriate to share here. Then, for a few moments, I thought I had another abnormal mammogram. Words somehow seem inadequate to capture all that raced through me mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically; I just can’t seem to capture the fear and anguish that moved through me, nor the enormous sense of relief upon hearing the actual results.
Here’s to another year of being cancer free…
By Vicki L. Flaherty
The anticipation –
if you can call it that –
had been building.
The appointment was imminent:
first annual mammogram
since the ‘big surprise’ of 2011.
My ‘bosom buddy’ and I
playfully refer to the procedure
as our ‘mammo’.
As if it is something fun.
In actuality, it’s not.
Scary now. Dreadful.
We know what can follow
this miraculous diagnostic procedure.
The reality comes vividly to life
in the breast imaging waiting room.
A form to fill out –
update actually, since last year’s ‘gram.
Heartbreak as I change
for biopsy and lumpectomy
and mastectomy and reconstruction
All in pretty pink ink.
It forces me to accept the reality of it all.
Will cancer continue to challenge me?
Joking with the radiologist:
“At least I just get to do one boob now.”
The jest releases pent up anxiety.
She plays along:
“Maybe you should get a discount.”
My left breast –
the apparently good one –
squeezed flat, then from the side.
The awkwardness and discomfort
taking my mind off the fear.
What will these images show?
Will the train of cancer start
chug, chug, chugging again?
I find myself waiting
back in the lounge.
Reading a magazine
or trying to – distraction welcome.
A doctor calls my name.
My heart begins to race.
He invites me into the examining room.
“Oh, my God!” races through my mind.
Here we go.
The train is leaving the station again.
I have to shake my head,
clear it when he says:
And, again, in my head –
or was it out loud this time? –
“Oh, my God!”
“What a relief.”
The train isn’t moving.
At least this year.
© 2013 Vicki Flaherty
(I selected the above photo because it is an image I have of a healthy breast. You can read more about the bouquet here.)