I can’t even remember what I was doing before the call. I saw the name of my doctor’s office on the caller ID. Normally I would let it go to voicemail because it was probably just a recording anyway. But I grabbed the phone because the ringing was driving me mad.
It wasn’t a recording this time. It was an actual voice. Then the voice said: The doctor would like for you to come back in for a compression mammogram and an ultrasound. There is a suspicious spot in the middle of your left breast.
That is exactly when I felt as though I had been sucked into a tunnel. I was quite sure that she was still talking, but I could’t hear anything except this odd ringing in my ears. I stammered to make it through the rest of the call.
Once I hit the call end button, I sat back in my chair, trying to process what had just happened. This was only my fourth yearly, routine mammogram. I was only 43 years old. How was I getting called back in for additional screening?
Then my phone rang again. It was the nurse telling me that I had an appointment for Friday. As in, three very long days from that moment. And then just like that, she was gone again.
She had seemed so flippant. So matter of fact. Did she not realize that she had basically told me that I probably have a tumor in my breast? I am not one to go to worst case but surely with today’s modern technological advances, it must be true. Because whatever someone saw in my pictures, wasn’t there a year ago.
I couldn’t sit alone with this information any longer. My head was running wild. Straight to biopsies, surgeries and chemotherapy. I had watched other women and their stories unfold. Would that be my story? Wasn’t 43 way too young? How could I leave my kids alone without a mother? I wasn’t through raising them. I hadn’t taught them all of the things that they needed to know, from a mother.
I had to share this burden with someone. It was starting to make me panic. So I called my husband. Then my mother. Then messaged my best friend. I needed someone to tell me that it was going to be okay. But what did they know? Between the three of them, they had exactly zero medical degrees.
Somehow I manage to make it through the next three days. The day of the appointment finally arrived.
It started out the regular way. I undressed from the waist up, put on a robe and followed the nurse to a room. And in the middle of that room was a machine. It looked a little different from the regular machine. This was a compression mammogram. This machine had the ability to get even more up close and personal. It could smush your breast into the perfect shape, so that they could get the picture that was needed.
But is wasn’t bad either. A little more awkward maybe. Stand just like that. Tilt that way. Hold your arm just like that. Don’t move. Don’t breathe.
She got four pictures. Then she told me that I could put my robe back on, and follow her. I was placed in a room to wait. She was going to show the pictures to the Doctor of Radiology. If everything looked okay, I would be free to go.
So I waited.
A few minutes passed and she came back. He thought everything looked okay. But he just couldn’t be sure without an ultrasound. That is when the next person came to assist me.
I was escorted to another room. This room had a bed and a computer station. She asked me to disrobe and lie close to the edge of the bed. Then she propped me up with towels behind my back and asked me to place my arm over my head.
She then used a wand to examine every inch of my left breast. She talked to me and showed me the screen where she was capturing images. Making sure to get every angle of the suspicious spot. After about five minutes she was finished. She told me I could put my robe back on and sit there in the room. She was going to take the pictures to the radiologist. Then he could give me that all clear and I would be on my way.
Cut to five minutes later, in walks the doctor. He shook my hand as he introduced himself. Then the words: I would like to do another ultrasound myself.
By this time, I was picturing myself at my own funeral. I would be buried in black. No, pink maybe. Surely he was here to see the monstrous, cancerous tumor for himself, before he broke the news to me. I disrobed for the third time. He began the examination for himself. Then after about two minutes he said: Okay, you are all clear. It was just overlapping shadows. See you in a year for your annual mammogram.
Now at this point, I am not going to lie, I felt elation. A weight was lifted with those words. If the Doctor of Radiology says my breast is free and clear of a monstrous, cancerous tumor, then it must be true.
But DANG Y’all sure know how to scare a girl half to death!
It was a stressful day. It was a stressful several days. I actually shed tears over my children having to grow up without me. But I am here to tell you that a call back mammogram is NOT necessarily a death sentence. Odds are in your favor that everything is going to be okay.
What struck me the most was the support that I received from the sisterhood in my life. Be sure that you have a tribe of women who are there for you. Family isn’t always found in your DNA. Family can be the people you chose to have in your life.
Whatever the case, if you are over forty, get your annual mammogram.