As I entered the familiar space, a woman clad in a burnt orange dressing gown sat alone in the waiting room.
I reached for an amethyst-colored dressing gown and proceeded toward the changing area.
When I returned, the woman was still perched stiffly on the couch. I studied her a bit more closely. I recognized the distressed expression in her eyes and the pinched muscles in her face.
I remember trying and eventually failing to control my own cavalcade of emotion as I waited for my turn for the radiologist just three and a half years ago. When I did finally see my radiologist, her words “We found something…” flowed into my consciousness, but hardly resonated. I found it difficult to hear what she was saying and what it would eventually mean to me. I needed an interpreter. After that initial shock, I understood. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I would need a lumpectomy and then seven and a half weeks of radiation treatments.
However, on that routine visit that turned into anything but routine three and a half years ago, I know that I resembled the worried woman sitting across from me. She was lost in sea of uncertainty. Waves of worry and what-ifs washed through her mind. She was desperately trying not to make eye contact with me. When she finally looked over at me, I smiled.
I didn’t say anything.
She wasn’t ready to hear anything from a stranger like me.
She was waiting for the radiologist.
Soon, the woman was called back.
As I waited for my mammogram and ultrasound, I uttered a short prayer for the woman.
In time, she returned and the worry and fear on her face had vanished.
“I’m okay,” she sighed. “I’m okay.”
“I’m so glad,” I replied.
She disappeared into the changing room and then reappeared looking significantly relieved.
“I hope you will be okay, too,” she offered.
“Thank you,” I said and smiled.
And then she was gone. Our short, shared encounter was over.
In time, my turn came for my mammogram and ultrasound and gratefully, everything was okay.
There was no suspicious tissue.
No significant changes.
No new cancer.
Was I nervous?
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t. I didn’t have any reason to worry of course. However, ever since my cancer diagnosis, surgery, radiation treatments and follow-ups, I confess I always wonder – especially right before my follow-up appointments:
Am I still okay?
Will there be anything suspicious?
However, I hadn’t worn a worried expression on my face while I awaited my turn.
I hadn’t perched myself on a seat of fear.
There was no distress in my eyes.
I hadn’t allowed any waves of what-ifs to paralyze me.
I think it is because I knew the drill. I knew what happened after the doctor says, “We have found something…”
What do I know?
I know that there are amazing doctors and staff who guide their patients through this tumultuous time – because they did.
I know that I have incredible family and friends who will walk with me in this journey – because they did.
I know that a diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence – because it wasn’t.
I know that whenever someone has cancer they are prayed for like crazy. They just are! People prayed for me – all over the world.
And I know that I will ultimately be okay. No matter what happens. Because I am.
Today, I am not, what the doctors describe as ‘cancer-secure.’ I won’t be cancer-secure until November 2017. November 2017, Thanksgiving weekend, will be my anniversary mark to say that I have been free of cancer for five years. I’m not there yet – but I’m closer than I was in 2012!
I walked out of my doctor’s office this morning – grateful, relieved, and joyous.
I’m not cancer-secure yet. But, I’m getting there!
And just like the waiting woman, I am okay!
A foot note: The woman in the waiting room and I experienced our relief and joy as a result of making our mammograms, ultrasound and scan appointments. The only way we could receive that information was following through and going to our appointments. Friends, I know there are new guidelines out on how often to have mammograms, but I can heartily share with you that having this procedure and the follow-ups since then, saved my life. Please don’t delay! Thanks so much!
Photos retrieved from a Google Search for breast cancer images.