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Kitchen Sink

It’s November 10 Again

November 10th, 2015

{My mom died 18 years ago today. Forgive the maudlin?}

 

I enter the muted waiting room as I’ve done year after year: nervous, winded after trying to find parking, praying. I take a seat at the desk as an empathetic female volunteer takes my ID and health history. Any breast cancer in the family? Yes. Who? My mom. How old was she when diagnosed? 48. After, everything remains still and quiet and I take my purse to the other waiting room, the one where women are called one by one into the dressing area to prepare for their mammograms. I open a magazine and block out the voices: you have it, you have it, you have it. The nagging thought raises to a roar as my own name is announced and I’m led to change into a threadbare cheery gown and brought to a third and final waiting room, which is the last stop before my exam.

 

Usually I fiddle with the ribbons closing my gown in the front or focus on the water feature or just sit there and look down. No one talks, ever, and so every sound is magnified 100 times or I feel like I’m floating untethered under the ocean with the things around me moving thick and slow. Never do I visit the gift shop or allow myself the pleasure of the on-site masseuse because if I have breast cancer these things will only make me feel like everything is normal, when they’re not and will never be. Pretending things are normal shortsights me from the thought at hand: I might be sick.

 

I search the other women’s faces when they’re not looking to see if they’re scared or there for a follow-up or about to be told they have a tumor. I wonder at women with peaceful eyes or those calmly scanning US Weekly. You could have it! I want to scream. We could all have it! My mom did She once sat in a room just like this, maybe visited the gift shop, and walked out of here knowing things weren’t all right.

 

She was three years older than I am now.

 

I’ve been in that waiting room once every year for 15 years and every time, I grow closer to my mom’s age when she was first diagnosed and I think of her here, alone, fiddling with her dressing gown’s ribbons.

 

There are times when the thought gets too ponderous and big for my head and so I’ll begin to cry. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry or freak out, so I work to keep it inside, which usually results in me shaking and working my shoulders up around my eyes as a shield.

 

When I’m led to the room where I’ll have my mammogram, I tend to grow exhausted of holding the prayers and the thoughts and the interior shouting and so I cry with my back to the tech and hope a tear doesn’t fall on the machine and somehow mess up my results.

 

My results. Some years they’re normal; others I undergo a follow-up ultrasound to be sure. I think of all those as second chances; and how I didn’t need to go home and tell my family I had breast cancer and I’m sorry I know you love me but I’ll be slipping away from you now.

 

This happens every time I have a mammogram. Most of all, I wish I would have been there for my mom when she went through it. Because that first time, when she entered the waiting room, the dressing room, the exam room? She was alone. Now, she’s with me each time I have my test – I can feel her. Except what stays with me is that I wasn’t with her.

 

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On November 13th, 2015, Julie Gardner said:

Oh, Deb.
I don’t even know what to say.
I’m so sorry this is a part of your reality.
So very sorry.

On June 7th, 2016, Wil Hawk III said:

This is hard to hear and hits close to home. My family is susceptible to heart disease and cancer. I have so much anxiety with getting check ups. I would love to connect with you. I’m the founder of a small business here in San Diego. We focus on helping local families find caregiver.

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