Tag Archives: mammogram




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
the ‘NO’
for biopsy and lumpectomy
and mastectomy and reconstruction
to ‘YES’.
All in pretty pink ink.
It forces me to accept the reality of it all.
Will cancer continue to challenge me?
‘Til when?

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.
I’m light-headed.
In disbelief.
The train is leaving the station again.

I have to shake my head,
clear it when he says:
“Nothing abnormal.”
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.)

Training in the Universe



I’m not sure why it is coming to me today. Perhaps because last night I had the opportunity to join a group of breast cancer survivors for dinner. Eight of us gathered at Share and did just that – we shared our stories, our lives, ourselves. I feel so fortunate to live in Iowa City where we have great medical care and where it’s possible to build a strong support system. When Jedn and I rode home together, we talked about how we would not wish cancer on ourselves; however, we feel grateful for so many of the wonderful things it has brought into our lives – like each other and all of the other beautiful women in our circle. Maybe it’s coming to me because there is more that it has brought and I want to remember…

I was reminded of July 6th 2011 – the day that I got the fateful mammogram. Perhaps I recalled that day because a friend of mine had her annual mammogram last week and I spent much of the week holding her in my heart because I know how all those raw emotions come right back up. My relationship with mammograms was forever changed around that fateful day. Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

I had a mammogram at the new facility today and (it took all of 15 minutes – in and out like a flash!), and I decided to come here, to Panera, to pause and reflect on my health and remind myself about what’s important. I saw the X-rays of my breasts. They look healthy and round. I looked at myself in the mirror as I changed out of the ‘superwoman’ cape and felt grateful for my nice breasts and a healthy body…

A friend of mine had shared the little book The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba with me and I decided to finish reading it that morning. The wisdom inside really captivated me and I found myself jotting down quotes and sharing my thoughts about them:

Be grateful for hardship, setbacks and bad people. Failure is the key to success – each mistake teaches us something. What is a hardship, setback, bad person or failure? Isn’t it defined by the perceiver? Does one who lives from a place of abundance see these things? Aren’t these judgements? To me challenges, pauses, opportunities seems more fitting.

Unity of mind and technique is essential. At the instant we confront a foe, all things come into focus.  Facing our challenges opens us to possibility and the path ahead. What’s my foe?

Let attackers come any way they like and then blend with them. Reflect each attack and get firmly behind it. Open to that which you appear to be at war with. Where do I struggle? How might I embrace my struggles and move gracefully with them?

The essence of training is to bring your opponent completely into your sphere. Then you can stand just where you like. Bravely face your fears and they disappear. Shine your light – be in essence – and others will move toward you. I think of my mom saying “HI!” to ‘unfriendly’ people at work despite lackluster – and even no – response, and how eventually they all moved toward her and the possibility she created. I want to have that kind of courage and shine that kind of light.

Little did I know then that the very next day I would receive a phone call asking me to come in for another set of X-rays and that two days later my heart would be pulsing in fear at the news from the radiologist that something looks suspicious. Reflecting back now, it seems that the Universe was preparing me for what was to come. And, I am grateful for that.