August 29, 2007
I knew I was in for it. Today I had an appointment for a second mammogram, and that had never happened to me before.
I told myself it was probably the wrong file. Or, if it was my actual x-ray, there was some smudge on the film or some technical error on the part of the hospital. Then I tried another tack: If this was it, the big one, then I'm as ready to go as I'll ever be. I've had a good long life, longer than some of my best friends, and now I would have the chance to see what actually happens next.
There was a backlog of patients at the hospital, so I had nearly an hour's wait divided between the downstairs waiting room, with its dogeared old Time Magazines and disconnected sections of today's newspaper, and the smaller, cozier room upstairs with a few Better Homes and Gardens and Mobile Bay Monthlies. Time to think about how I really felt about this and how I didn't. But what seemed most important was to keep busy reading everything I could in those publications. An old People told of Kate Hudson breaking up with Owen Wilson, and declared that they're still friends. That's good. I wouldn't want either of them to take a life challenge too seriously.
Then I went to the mammography room. Here I know the drill pretty well; after all, I was just there two weeks ago. A very exciting moment was when the technician showed me the previous mammogram -- there was actually something visible there, a whitish spot in an otherwise clean x-ray. "Let's get a really good picture this time," I told her.
"We sure will, and then you'll go down to get a sonogram," she said. Neither of us sounded a bit worried. I wondered if this was it for my future, more hospital dates, more procedures, more lab results. For the next ten years. A little pain, then a lot, then lights out.
Others had been there before me. Friends who had had to have lumpectomies, mastectomies, hysterectomies, and lots more. All this time I had been sure nothing like this would ever happen to me. There is no family history -- no, wait a minute, my aunt Gladys died of cancer, and so did her son my favorite cousin Kevin. For all I could remember her sister Adah did too. But I had gotten most of the genes from my mother's side of the family. Most, but maybe not all.
What would the world do without me? What would my grandsons grow up to be like? I have always counted on my departure being quick and painless. Was it, instead, going to be a lot of hospital visits, operations, medications, and long illness?
I was waiting for the sonogramist. (Is that a word? Oh, well, I won't need to know, where I'm going.) More magazines. Oprah tells me how to love my life. Oh, there's a letter here from a lady who says a sonogram saved her life. That's good. Maybe this will do it. Here she comes, and here we go. I'm wearing a little hospital gown that they've offered to tie down the back, and the sonogramist asks if I want to put another one over the open area at the back. What do I care? We're just going down a hospital hall. But she prevails and I am duly covered.
She tells me to uncover the offending breast and lie on the stretcher. "Have you ever had a sonogram before?" When I said no she assured me it was the easiest test I would ever have. That it was, beginning with a hot gel and ending with her telling me she didn't see much "except for a little cystic area," and she would take it down for the doctor to examine.
When she came back about five minutes later she said the doctor didn't think there was anything to worry about but that he might want me to have another sonogram in six months.
I felt fine when I got home. You might say, a little euphoric. I stopped on the way home to buy some of that delicious homemade Granola at Greer's, and I started eating it in the car. By the time I got home it was almost gone. But I had to do serious grocery shopping so off I went to the supermarket, and before I left I took a glance at the ice cream aisle.
Now I haven't had ice cream in over a year. I'm on a diet, you know. But Haagen Daz was on sale 2 for $5 and I had to try the new Sticky Toffee Pudding flavor. So I bought one of those and my all-time favorite ice cream flavor, Crême Brulée. I am compelled to eat ice cream as soon as I get it home, while its still a little soft, too see if it's toxic or for some reason must be returned at once to the store, so as soon as I got in I opened the Sticky Toffee Pudding and put the other carton in the freezer. I would try the Sticky Toffee, but only have a bite or two.
Half the carton is now gone, and I'm lucky all of it isn't. I'll have a nice salad for lunch, but I've been munching on everything I can get my hands on ever since I got in. A handful of walnuts, some more of that Granola, maybe just another bite of that ice cream...
I'm learning something about myself. Well, I guess I always knew this: I eat when my mood is heightened. I eat when I'm happy, I eat when I'm anxious, I eat when I'm relieved. I eat when I'm depressed too. But now I'm feeling very good. I wonder if I'll ever get around to making that salad.