A year ago, about now, I was sitting in my doctor’s office. I told her there was one thing I had forgotten to mention in our last meeting (just 2 weeks prior when I’d presented a laundry list of other things, including the little pains in my left breast area). As I told her about the retraction and lump, she pulled my mammogram report up onto her computer screen. “Ah, yes” she says, “we saw that last year. We were going to have you do another one this year just to see…yes here it is.” She’s pointing at the Dutch words on the screen. “You have some calcium deposits there.” She turns back to me. “Nothing to worry about. We were going to have you go back and have another one this year to look at it.” (“You what? Oh. Thanks for telling me before! It’s only 8 months later.”)
She did examine me, unable to feel it when I was lying down, it’s heavy weight being obvious when I sat up. “Yes…yes, I see it. Well, calcium deposits are nothing abnormal. Though the retraction means that it’s growing, which is unusual. Let’s go ahead and send you over to that second mammogram. It’s just a precaution.”
I scheduled the mammo for just over a week later. I wasn’t going to call off of work for it… Perhaps now is the time to mention that I am an international flight attendant and I work out of NYC. I know I know it’s crazy, but working means flying to New York, working a 3 day round trip back to Brussels or Paris, then returning home to Brussels. There is no fitting errands into your day. You’re either off working or home living. And we get no automatic quota of sick days. Every absence has to be excused, so we save them carefully. So, in this case, I flew away and worked. After all, I didn’t want to be dramatic.
When I finally got to it, the mammographer showed me the lump on the sonogram screen. Most importantly, he highlighted the blue and red squirming lines. “See those?” he said in his gruff Dutch accent. “That means it has blood vessels.” He turned off the machine. “I say, take it away!” With that vague pronouncement, he said I could use as many paper towels as I liked to wipe of the sono-goo, and abruptly walked out.
I swear everything was in black and white. My heart dropped so heavily that you could have heard it thud on the table beneath me. Other than that, my insides were numb. I thought in slow motion as I wiped it off and dressed myself. What does he mean “Take it away”? Take what away? The lump? The breast? Take what!?”
I had a lunch date with my good friend Dan and I had just enough time to make it. I didn’t know what to think. It couldn’t mean the breast. He wouldn’t make such a big pronouncement and then just leave me there. I’m being dramatic. He means they can remove it in a “little procedure”, surely. Do I take time off of work for this? I was supposed to fly out tomorrow. There was no time to call my boyfriend or any family. I had no idea what to say anyway. Getting to lunch seemed inordinately important.
I made it to lunch spot on time. (Whew! Thank goodness “important disasters” avoided right?) And I couldn’t keep in my confusion. I told him, “I have news that I feel kind of weird not talking about to Del of my family first…but I need to know if I should call off of work for this.” Immediately he says, “you’re pregnant!” I bust out laughing. “Noooo,” not having any idea at the time that I would have preferred that to be true. I told him the story. Dan assured me that it was “perfectly appropriate to call sick at work for possibly having a tumor in your breast.”
Dan’s a Business Sort, so I trusted his judgement. He was also not my boyfriend or family, so I trusted his (more objective) judgement. He convinced me to go to my doctor the next day and not wait another week to find out just what the mad scientist meant. We had a nice lingering lunch. It was cool. It was casual. I noticed that my wine glass was shaking. I began sliding the glass to the corner of the table before picking it up for a drink. I hoped he hadn’t noticed.