The Last Mammogram

May 18, 2010

Last Mammogram

The Last Mammogram

That Friday in late November, five years ago, when I had my routine mammogram scheduled, I was not worried. I had been going for mammograms annually for the past five years, since I was forty. I was not overweight; I ate a healthy diet, exercised moderately, and had no history of breast cancer in my family. I had three children, my first when I was twenty five. I breast fed them all.

I was not worried.

I waited in a beautifully designed waiting room of my woman’s health center, looking though magazines and exchanging pleasantries with other women. When my turn came, I went willingly, as though I was receiving a haircut. I changed into a hospital gown and stepped into an exam room.

Before the mammogram, the nurse examined my chest area. This was a routine step in the process. As I chatted with this soft, motherly woman, she stopped and looked at me. I knew that there was no lump; I would have noticed it myself. “Have you noticed how different your skin feels right here?” she asked. No, I had not, and I wasn’t sure what she was referring  to. She took my hand and led me to a spot on the upper side of my right breast. The skin felt different there – softer and spongier. Even though there was no lump, I knew right away that something was not right.

The nurse made an X with a black magic marker so that the radiologist could pay special attention to that spot. Then I went in for a mammogram.

While I waited for the results, I called Jeff to let him know that I would be late, and that he needed to leave work and pick up the kids from school. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Just running late,” I told him.

The nurse came back and said that the doctor wanted to take another X-Ray. They took another X-ray. I waited in a room full of women in hospital gowns. I didn’t look at magazines. I didn’t speak to anyone. Finally, the nurse called my name and told me that the doctor wanted to see me. I stood up and tried to be brave. I straightened my back, pulled my shoulders back, and followed the nurse.

The doctor was a man my age, and he was looking intently at my X-Ray. He asked me to sit down. He told me that they rarely told women bad news without any preparation, but they believed that they had found a tumor in my right breast. They wanted me to come in for a biopsy on Monday. On Monday! How will I live through the weekend?

I asked questions. What did he see? What were his suspicions? He held the cards tightly to his chest. He revealed nothing, except that the news was probably not good. As I left his office, I felt that my reality had shifted completely. When I exited those sliding front doors of the woman’s center, I was a different woman.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Bridget Spence May 26, 2010 at 9:55 am

I love your writing and would be honored to be retired on your blog. Thanks so much for reaching out to me on the LBBC blog. I have my own blog mybiggirlpants.blogspot.com. It is so important and healing to share this journey. Please reach out to me anytime!
Bridget

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Liliana May 26, 2010 at 10:05 am

Dear Bridget,
thank you so much for your kind words. I will be happy to feature you on my blog. I will publish your email so that your story is told in your own words.
You sound like a glorious young woman. I will add your blog to my blog-roll and will visit you often to see how you are doing.I wish you all the best. Please stay in touch.
Liliana

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louise dill May 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I can’t even talk about this…much less accept it at this time

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Liliana May 19, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Louise,
everyone has their own way of working through issues in their lives. You need to go at your own pace. Best of luck to you.

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Branka May 19, 2010 at 11:41 am

Remember when we swim together and the water is still, deep, smells fresh and no horizon in sight. We just swim slow, we laugh and talk and all at once, there comes this huge ripple out of nowhere and, hits us in the face. We swallow some water, we shacke it off and we keep on swimming a little faster. That’s life! Little unexpected ripples on the water.
Voli tebe tvoja seka.

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Liliana May 19, 2010 at 11:54 am

You said it! I tebe voli tvoja sestra

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Bibi May 19, 2010 at 3:29 am

I can identify with this. Same story, different cancer that was discovered through a routine physical. Waiting, more tests…then the words that changed my life. And in ways that other cancer survivors understand, those words changed my life for the better.

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Liliana May 19, 2010 at 6:55 am

The shock of illness can certainly nudge us out of everyday complacency – I know that is what happened to me. But it takes a lot of suffering, effort and courage to get to that point. I wish you all the best.

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Dave Harrison May 18, 2010 at 8:35 am

This moment would be the start of the worst year you’ll ever have. I like so many others am so blessed to have you back and healthy I cannot express my happiness with GOD for pulling you through this. I know the feeling of loss and helplessness Jeff felt the day you told him and I feel for him as well. There is nothing as bad as having something wrong with the woman you’ve chosen to spend your life with that you can do nothing about. You can’t cure her, make her feel better, nothing, it is the lowest point in your life.
Dave

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Liliana May 18, 2010 at 9:22 am

Thank you, Dave. You are a very kind man. Hugs to you and yours.

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izziedarling May 18, 2010 at 8:00 am

Bless your heart. It is patently WRONG to give someone bad medical news and make them wait for the next step. And that is exactly what happens to everyone, including me. So screwed up. And, they won’t tell you anything even though you are paying for the information and it’s your body. Arghhhh.

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Liliana May 18, 2010 at 9:25 am

I know, I hear you. I think our medical system needs to revisit the way we handle a lot of issues in patient care. Patient attitude makes a huge difference in battling the disease. Preparing patients for what lies ahead should be the first step in the healing process. Best to you.

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