When I turned 35, my ob-gyn gave me a prescription to have a mammogram done. I ignored it, not for any one good reason. When I came back for my exam the next year, I sheepishly told her I would need another prescription since I neglected to have my mammogram done during that past year. Doc informed me the guidelines had changed, and I would not need to get it done until 40 now. I felt downright smug I had procrastinated.
A couple weeks shy of 41, I finally went. While there, I announced to the technician that it was my first time. She told me that they should give out stickers. I agreed. Regardless, the imaging did not take too long, and although it was not pleasant, it was not as bad as I had envisioned.
About two weeks ago, a friend posted about her mammogram experience. That served as a reminder that my mammogram was overdue; it had been more than two years. So I called the next day, and was actually able to get in, in just a few hours (the hospital is an 11-minute walk from my office). For some reason, this time seemed to be more awkward/painful/unpleasant than my first (I would not have thought a boob could have been stretched out so much, only to be somewhat flattened). But it was over quickly. I was told to call in two weeks to get my results.
Two days later, I got a follow-up call while at work, telling me that I would need to come back for additional testing. The woman on the phone assured me that it did not necessarily mean anything was wrong; they just needed to take more pictures. At first, I was not panicked; my mom has gone through this type of thing many times. Each time she would get worked up, and each time it turned out to be fine. But as soon as the woman on the phone told me that I would need to allow for 1.5 hours and that a radiologist would be present, panic ensued. I immediately started crying. Fortunately, I was sick, and my eyes had been watering and I had been blowing my nose a bit anyway, so no one really noticed anything.
After about an hour, I finally calmed down. I reasoned that because the woman said I should come back within four to six weeks, rather than ASAP, it probably was not a big deal. I managed to get through the next week feeling (mostly) pretty positive.
Within a few days, I received a letter letting me know that the Breast Density Notification Act required that I be notified of my breast density. I discovered my mamms were heterogeneously dense. I was even able to chuckle about it.
But two nights ago, the night before my appointment, I could not help feeling a little scared and tearing up. The thought of my only child being motherless kept playing out in my mind. It was almost too much to take. I also pictured myself showing up to some work and social functions in colorful bandanas to hide my balding head. I had gone there. In fact, I would not commit to going to a work conference in Baltimore in May because I was not sure how I would be. Many tears and fits later, I finally fell asleep.
I woke up yesterday, the day of my noonish appointment, to a crapload of snow. School was cancelled, so I was staying home with the kid, and the roads were a mess. But there was no way I was going to cancel the appointment. I had to know.
So I went, leaving myself plenty of time. When I got there, I was ushered to the dressing room pretty quickly. Then I went on to the gown waiting area. It was extremely crowded, and there was one seat. I made a joke about it being a popular place, and some woman said people came for the free coffee. A few of us laughed. I then said to the ladies nearest to me, “Come here often?” One lady said she tried not to. That helped break some of the tension, I think.
Unfortunately, I was in that area for almost 40 minutes. Too much time to worry. During this period, I heard a worker call a woman into a room. The worker’s beginning words, which now escape me, sounded serious. Sigh.
I eventually was brought back to another area, only to have to wait another 10 minutes. I continued to feel uneasy.
I finally was ushered into a room. My technician was the same, nice woman I had the previous week. This time was equally as unpleasant, but shorter, since only one of my mamms had an issue. When it was over, the woman said for me to wait outside and a doctor would talk to me.
Wait. That is all I could do is wait. Worse, my phone lost its internet connection, so I had no distraction, as I had read the one People magazine that was there. Sadly, I listened to a couple of ladies way down the hall talk about biopsies. Sigh.
Finally, after about 10 or 15 minutes, a woman called my name. My heart started to pound as I got up. Then she said such wonderful words: “You are free to go.” It tears me up just to type this. The woman handed me a paper that said my results were fine/negative and that they would see me back next year.
I walked back to the dressing room feeling inexplicably not only as if a weight had been lifted from me, but also as if I had been punched in the stomach. When I got back to the gown area and changed, I promptly burst into tears. Tears of relief, stress, I don’t know what else. Briefly, I felt for the woman who was talking about the biopsy. Mostly, I felt a little shaky.
During my walk back to my car, I walked as slowly as I can recall. I just felt drained.
But my heterogeneously dense mamms and I are okay. I hope you and yours are too.