It’s happening again.
I can’t breathe. I’m trying but the air won’t go all the way in. I practice yoga breathing. This year I told myself that it would be different.
I won’t be anxious.
I won’t have that nauseous feeling in my belly.
I won’t have the nervous bladder.
I will breathe through it.
I will use a calming breath.
Maybe a 2x breath. The 2x breath, breathing in for 2 counts and exhaling for 4 counts, eases fear. It helps to stall that fight or flight response that the thought of a mammogram always instills in my gut.
I’m at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. Edward came with me again this year. He has to wait in the car because of COVID19 restrictions, but I know he is there. Supporting me. Sending me love. I’m in the first of three waiting rooms. I checked in. Had my temperature taken, filled out forms and now I wait. They have the chairs sectioned off so no one can be near each other. Everyone has on masks. Seeing the other patients in their masks makes it a bit scarier this year. I don’t want to get COVID, but I can’t smile in reassurance at the other patients waiting with me. I wonder if they are smiling behind their masks. I wonder if they are nervous too. I wonder if…
Who is that?
I hate being called Carrie. It’s my first name but I only let them call me Carrie when I had cancer. Never Cathleen.
Carrie had cancer.
Cathleen was fine.
When I’m at any doctor, they call me Carrie. I correct them everywhere else, but not here. Not at the mammogram, not at the oncologist, not at the cancer center. I never let them call me Cathleen at any place that reminds me of breast cancer.
Each person I interact with here is nice. Tiffany checked me in and could sense my skyrocketing feelings. She got me talking about my red hair. She took me to the dressing room to change into the black robe with the pink trim and belt. I don’t like the color pink. I change and put my purse in the locker. I go to the bathroom, my hands shake. I’m cold. I feel like a drama queen. Why am I acting like this? It is just a mammogram. Yet, no one else here seems care-free. You can tell they want to be done, reassured that they are fine and leave. You can smell the stress. I go to the second waiting room to wait for the mammogram. Have you ever noticed that when you are stressed you can feel your pulse in your neck?
Stephanie, the radiology tech, comes to get me to do my 3-D mammogram. She is nice. I try to place her accent, then I finally have to ask her where she was from. It is a comforting accent. New York. Upstate, did she say Plattsburgh? It is hard to understand through the mask. It must be Plattsburgh because she just said, near Champlain. I don’t know why this is a comfort for me. I love New York. My children were born there but I think it was more because I made a connection with someone that was in control of my emotions now. I always do that. I like to make connections with people. I want them to know I am a person, not just another patient that is strolling through their busy, hurried day. I want them to care if my mammogram is ok or not.
It is going to be ok, right?
Edward told me it was going to be ok. My friend Tanya told me it was going to be just fine. Joyce prayed for me this morning. Lynn messaged me that she was thinking about me.
The mammogram is complete, and I am now sitting in the third waiting room of the day. Waiting for the results.
I wish they had a water feature, you know, a pretty fountain that was sitting in the corner… no, that would make me need to pee.
Maybe a coffee bar… nope, then I would be jittery and still need to pee.
Edward has called me to FaceTime twice to make sure I am ok. He knows I’m scared. I’m always scared here. I don’t like him to see me this way. I like him to see me as strong. I wish he could be with….
I’m Alexis. I’ll be taking care of you now. Walk this way”. She ushers me towards an ultrasound room.
It feels like time has stopped and I have started quickly plummeting backwards in time.
I can’t walk in.
“Why am I going into an ultrasound room? What is wrong? I never go into the ultrasound room”.
She smiles a hug at me and tells me I’m fine.
Your result was negative. This is just the only open room now. I need to do a physical exam and then you will be on your way.
Relief for another year. Or at least another eleven months. I will keep hoping that I can go in with no stress but maybe the stress is a good thing. It keeps me on my toes. It keeps me thinking about my health. It keeps me, what?
I can try to sugar coat it all I want. But stress stinks, stress goes with me every time I get a mammogram. I know stress is going along for the ride, but I’m in charge.