On this day in the year 2009, my life changed forever. A routine doctor's appointment that began with a mammogram ended with a visit to the radiology department where a ultrasound was performed after which I drove home with a fear unlike any I had ever had before. Thus began my journey of living with cancer.
Prior to that day, I had not been to the doctor for over ten years. I had not had a cold, a flu or any other malady necessitating a trip to the doctor's. Then in late October, early November, back pain began to plagued me. At first I thought it was due to the VW bug I bought in September. A two-door car, low to the ground was causing me to twist and turn in ways I didn't need to with my RAV-4, I reasoned. It made sense, at first, to me and my family.
But then even walking became hard, my right leg dragging in a way it never had before. Still, I kept waiting for the morning that I would wake up and pop out of bed like normal. As Christmas approached, Brie began to tell me that I needed to see a doctor. After spending Christmas day at my brother's in which getting up from the couch was hard to do, I finally agreed and scheduled my appointment. I agreed to get the mammogram first since I had not had one…ever. My appointment day was set for 3:30pm, Monday, January 5, 2009.
As the hour that I would need to leave work for my appointment approached, calls and emails came in waves and I gave serious thought about rescheduling the appointment. Knowing me, however, I felt it was now or never so I drove to the medical center at my prescribed time and as I turned into the parking lot, I took one more call from a co-worker. We discussed an issue that seemed important at the time for a few minutes. Finally I had to apologize, telling him I had to go because I had a doctor's appointment. My stomach was knotting up for some reason and I just wanted to get inside and get the appointment over with so I could get on with my life.
The mammogram started off routinely. I was sent to a little waiting room, given a gown to change into, and a hospital bag in which to put the clothes I was instructed to take off. One woman sat in the waiting room ahead of me, her name called shortly after I sat down and a short time later, she returned, looking no worse for wear. A few minutes later, it was my name was called.
I stood in front of the machine, following the technician's instructions as she adjusted the machine. She would then go to another room take the pictures, come back and do the same thing, but other breast. After which, I was told I could leave. I think I made it back to the little waiting room when the technician came back telling me that they wanted to take a few more pictures.
This time the machine was merciless, pressing hard against my breast until I thought they would surely pop like a balloon. Another technician appeared and through the glass window, I could see the two of them talking, then one would come out, make an adjustment and go back for another picture, each adjustment grew more excruciating and by the time they were finished, I was unable to hold back my tears. The technician was kind, talking to me in a gentle, soothing voice, apologizing each time for the pain she knew she was about to inflict.
As I walked back to the waiting room for a second time, I was told to change back to my clothes, but to wait for final instructions. I gingerly put my bra and top on, my wounded body already aching. I was shivering with fear as I obediently sat on a chair, waiting for the unknown. The technician came out and kindly, but in a no-nonsense voice, told me that there was concern and I needed to go to another facility for an ultra-sound…now.
I walked numbly to my car and drove to the other facility, on top of my fear, I was hungry, having worked through lunch. Less than an hour after leaving one medical center, I was at another, waiting to check into the radiology department. This waiting room was filled with patients. Time crawled. Fear and hunger alternately took turns taunting me. My cellphone would ring in steady intervals, my dear sister calling to find out how my doctor appointment went. I didn't answer for fear of crying. I didn't know what to tell her. This would likely turn out to be nothing and I didn't want her to worry needlessly.
Finally, my name was called. I was given another gown, again with instructions to take off all my clothes waist up. This time, I went into a little dark room where I was to lay in a narrow hospital like bed. Like the mammogram technician, the ultrasound technician was kind and gentle, but my body, having already been assaulted, didn't want to take much more. As she gently pushed and prodded my breast with her little hand-held device, I flinched and stiffened throughout the process.
Finally, after I thought I could take no more, it was over. Thoughts scrambled throughout my head. I was told that I should get a call within a week with the results. I resolved that I would say nothing to my family until then. There wasn't anything anyone could do anyway. As I made my way back to the parking structure, my phone rang again. It was Eliz, again. I paused for a moment as I debated whether to take the call. My finger decided for me, pressing the answer button.