I walk reluctantly through the automatic hospital doors, through the lobby and to the elevator. I press the up button and wait for the car to arrive, swallowing the fear I have been shrugging away for days.
The elevator doors open, I enter and hit the floor of the health care center I have to, no … need to go to, feeling fear rise further and further up, about to bubble over. I’m here alone. I always try to be alone at moments like this. I prefer to close in on myself, to deal with it in my own way. To hide fear in a shrug of indifference and nonconcern when asked if I’m ok. “It’s no big deal” I say, like I mean it, “I’m sure it’s nothing“, while inside terror is trying to chip away at my belief in my words. I seek hope in silence, in controlling the fear. If I speak of it the fear becomes alive; if it becomes alive I don’t swallow it, it swallows me. There’s no light in fear.
I know my odds. My family history, too many gone before they’ve gotten to see their children grow, graduate, marry … It will not be, is my creed as I exit the elevator. I killed it, is my mantra as I enter the exterior waiting room. My heartbeat tapping out dear god, dear god, dear god as they call my name to the “girls only” inner sanctum.
I’m led to a locker, handed a hospital gown “opening to the back and here’s a robe to keep you warm, you may put your things in the locker“. After I change I’m led to another waiting area, other women already there in their hospital gowns and robes. There’s coffee, tea, juices, muffins, assorted snacks on a counter in the entryway. I’ve been here many times over the last 18 years. The first time I wasn’t scared, I was only 23. I was still young enough to think myself immortal, unbreakable. Then the other women in the waiting room seemed so much older to me; now, not so much. Now they don’t look at me with pity, now we glance at each other like soldiers glance at each other; acknowledging the fear they know is there because they have it as well but, we will not speak of it, just a simple nod of the head in recognition of the battle that may be coming, is in progress, or is over.
Mammogram, the word sounds funny to me. Like a warped telegram. One you don’t want to get. I had just had one, that is why I am back today. Something wasn’t right. They add an ultrasound to it to verify the findings, get better pictures … I gulp the fear down hard, try to joke with the tech about how men must have invented the mammogram, no woman in her right mind would come up with a device such as this as a diagnostic tool …
I speak to my Doctor, I trust her with my life. Which is good since she essentially, has before, holds it in her hands. The first time they caught it in time. A simple surgery and check-ups every three months for five years, yearly thereafter. But still, since then, every year as I enter those doors the fear that it’s back, the fear that it moved too fast … it happens, it moving too fast. One family member was fine. Fine. Suddenly felt off, not quite right … three months later “poof”, gone. Only 38 years old. I am now 40. Next week I will be 41. Middle Daughter graduates HS in a month and a half. Only Son graduates college next spring. Sam has only just begun. These are the thoughts in my head before she starts speaking, will I still be here in three months?
My Doctor says what they found is a small benign cyst, less than 4cm, but because of its location, resting against a lymph node, and my history, my family history, she’s setting me back to “watch” status. It’s been many years with perfect checks. I even was allowed to space follow-ups two years apart just two years ago. I had been so excited. This was my first time back in two years. Now I’m back to the six month follow-up but I’ll go without complaint, choking down the fear every time I step over the threshold and seeking hope that it never comes back.