Bracing for the Worst

Today, all I want to do is curl up with a book and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

I had two routine procedures last week, a mammogram and an ultrasound of my kidneys and bladder. On Saturday, I picked up several neglected voicemail messages. The radiology center had called asking that I call them about one of the procedures I’d had. With my history, I couldn’t help but worry. These are the times you really hope it’s about billing.

Being Saturday, I could not call the office to resolve the cryptic message until their office opened at 8:00 on Monday. I spent the weekend actively pushing it to the back of my mind.


When 8:00 Monday finally rolled around, I started calling. No one picked up. I called again and again, six times until someone finally picked up around 10:00. They were asking me to schedule another appointment to take more images. Of course the scheduling person I was speaking with couldn’t tell me why, and the computer was slow that morning. It was an agonizing wait to talk to the tech, and it was a test to stay civil. When I finally got a tech on the phone, she told me that they had compared the images from my mammogram last year to this year’s (this was only my second), and there were some differences in my left breast. That was all she could tell me. I needed to come in to have more detailed images taken.

I had always said that if I got cancer, I would just throw up my hands in defeat, live my best life, and go out on my own terms. After the lifetime I have spent fighting for my health, I wasn’t sure I had enough left to fight with cancer, too. But it was a joke. Maybe a bad one, but a manifestation of the dark humor we patients need to get through the day sometimes.

I don’t know a lot about breast cancer. But I know enough. After I hung up the phone, I needed out. At first I thought I’d hide out in the restroom for a few minutes to get myself together. But that wouldn’t do. Privacy was not a guarantee and I didn’t want anyone asking questions. So, I made a beeline to my car, two levels under my building.

Inside the haven of my 15-year-old Honda, which had taken me to work every day, to visit my family, on vacation, and on job interviews, I just sat there and cried. Not for long, but long enough to get the release I needed.

After about 10 minutes, I checked in with myself. I asked aloud if I could go back upstairs and continue working. Then I cried a little more. Then I told myself I would be fine, that I needed to go back upstairs and do my job.

The earliest appointment the had was in eight days. So, for eight days, I am going to go to work, see my family (this weekend), water my new balcony pollinator garden, curl up when I need to, and pretend everything is fine. It’s the only way to preserve my sanity. After all, as far as I know, everything is fine.

Until it’s not.