Yesterday I was scheduled for a mammogram.
You see, 18 months ago I had a mastectomy. Typing these words and knowing that I lived through that still feels unbelievable to me. I struggled with losing one of my breasts, it was an extremely difficult time, and I tried to keep that part of my life private.
But yesterday when I arrived for my mammogram, the mammogram was listed as routine versus diagnostic. That meant I would have to wait for my results. Like a few days, versus diagnostic, when they tell you right away. This was a mistake. The first two years after a mastectomy the mammograms are supposed to be diagnostic. And I prepared myself mentally for that kind of appointment. The young woman receptionist thankfully was able to check with the radiologists to confirm if what I was telling her was correct. But during that 10 minutes of waiting, I had to laugh (in between a mini anxiety attack that I tried to manage with all of my anxiety reducing tricks) as I had written just an hour or so earlier of how one must wait without thought.
And then after the mammogram as I was waiting again, I kept trying to empty my brain—observing and thanking the chatter and stilling it again, thinking of T.S. Eliot’s words and trying so hard to wait without thought. I felt the chair through my clothes, followed my breath, attuned to the many sounds in the waiting room, I envisioned the part of my brain where anxiety lights up shrinking, and shrinking and shrinking until it was a tiny pebble to toss into an imaginary stream.
And then it was time. And everything was fine. The technician even complimented my pectoral muscles, noting that I must be someone who exercises because they were so toned.
How will all of the facts from these years so focused on the breast blur? What will my memory make of them? Will I continue to fight to keep close to my heart the lessons I learned? I can only hope to become like the many women I have met who have gone through this and see it as a little blip on my lifeline. I’m not there yet, but I will do my best to wait without thought until I get there.
I’m so glad to hear your health is good, Bridge Runner. Your piece, while reinforcing the message about “wait without thought,” also pointed out that one must arm oneself with patience and persistence in order to receive proper treatment. The assignment of the mammogram reading to routine versus diagnostic speaks oh so tellingly of contemporary American life–i.e., one must consistently check and re-check for accuracy. Accuracy and good service as givens have disappeared–all too frequently because well-intentioned persons are simply insufficiently trained and simultaneously overtaxed. Your case touches on the health care system, but I trust you could easily cite examples from other interactions in your life. Artists become, at least to my mind, all the more precious in such an environment. Their search for perfection (quite different from perfectionism!), deep thinking, and dogged re-visioning present a package of human virtues that few care to (or can) harness together. Your calendar presents a good example of the latter. Thank you for this gift!
Thank you Patricia, for coming by and taking a look. And for these wise words, especially patience and persistence. xoxox