Every time she heard the words “cyst,” or “further testing,” the feeling in the pit of her stomach was the same feeling she got when she rode her bike down a steep hill with a curve she couldn’t see around. When she encountered those hills she always forced herself to fly down as fast as she could, and even though she never suffered the type of fall she feared, her stomach still clenched on every hill. Just like it clenched every time she heard she had a mass in her breast and they would need to do more testing.
She’d do the additional testing, and she’d do it with minimal fuss, but she was scared. She had always been fine every time this had happened before and all of the previous cysts had been benign. But she couldn’t help wonder how long her luck would hold out. When you get an abnormal reading on every mammogram for several years in a row, you can’t help but wonder if this will be the time the news wouldn’t be good.
One thing she was sure of; she wasn’t going to waste any time finding out what she was dealing with. Other women may prefer to ignore what’s happening with their body, but she wanted to know and she wanted to know immediately. Fortunately, when she called to schedule her appointment, there was an opening the first thing the next morning. Done. She hated getting up so early, but she hated the not knowing infinitely more.
Sitting alone in the darkened sonogram room, she struggled to stay calm. The technician, Kim, had spread the sticky gel across her breast and stared at the screen while observing the images flickering on the monitor. After a few minutes, Kim said she needed someone else to look at the screen, and then left to get another tech. The second tech, Debbie, came in, looked at the monitor, made a few adjustments, and then the two women left again, saying they were going to have the doctor look over the results. Watching the clock on the monitor tick away the seconds and minutes, she decided to turn her back on the machine and focus on her breathing.
Thoughts of possible results, intensity of treatments, and life interruptions kept circling through her mind, no matter how hard she tried to focus on the rhythm of her own breath. She didn’t want to deal with all of this and she sure as hell didn’t have time to be sick. Sitting up and closing her eyes helped calm her, but it was still a struggle to stay focused on nothing instead of worrying about possible results.
After fifteen minutes of waiting, the two technicians returned, telling her that it had been decided they needed to do more scans. Once again, the gel was applied and the scanner flowed in circles over her breast. Whispered conversations were held between the technicians, not necessarily excluding her, but with limited efforts at including her. After the two women were satisfied with their work, they once again excused themselves to review the results with the doctor.
While she waited, she spent the slowly elapsing time focusing on mindfulness and trying to silence the voice that kept saying this couldn’t be good news. As she was starting to get really nervous, the technicians returned, with the doctor in tow. “I’m Dr. Tan, and I’m going to check your breast,” he said.
Her breast was once again laid bare and he repeated the same process of slow, sticky. circles that the other two had performed. The room was silent as all three sets of eyes peered at the screen in front of them. She lay there, mentally going over the steps she would need to take before she could undergo any sort of chemo or radiation. Surely, that was the only possible outcome of all of these silent double and triple-checks.
After what seemed an eternity, the doctor set the scanner down and turned to look her in the eyes. “Well, it is definitely just a cyst, which means your lump is benign. You need to be sure and come back in a year for another mammogram, but we won’t need to do any further checking until then.”
No one had touched the light switch, but she would’ve sworn the room became at least ten times brighter. Her breath started coming naturally instead of the slow, measured breathing she had forced herself to practice while she endured the prolonged testing. She thanked all three of the medical professionals who had given her yet another chance to live her life on her own terms.
She had lots of ideas whirling through her head as she left the hospital. Ways she could change how she lived her life to allow her to absorb as much of the wonder in the world around her as possible. She had no idea which path she would take, but she was sure her path would look different than it ever had before.