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The Unexpected

It was supposed to be a quick check-in with my doctor. My foot was bothering me. My ankle would swell and all of my walking I had done in Washington seemed to have exasperated the issue. My doctor told me my arch had fallen. She instructed me to stop wearing flats and get some inserts. Easy enough. As I was checking out, she reminded me that since I was 40, I should stop in for my first mammogram.

I had already been gone longer than I had wanted. After all, school was gearing back up and I had so much to do. I didn't want to take any more time. I don't know why, but I decided to go anyway.

It was very routine. The "squeeze" didn't hurt as much as I had anticipated. As I wrapped the open-in-the-front gown around me, the technician said I'd get the all-clear postcard in the mail.

I did not receive that postcard, but a call instead. They suspected something and asked that I come back in nine days to have the images redone. I tried not to think too much about it, and I was so busy with work anyway.

This mammogram was different. They weren't gentle. I sucked in my breath and tried not to move. The machine beeped and I looked at the resulting image on the monitor. It was like looking at endless galaxies the likes of which I would never see; the white spot shined bright. I blinked in disbelief.

Within moments I was waiting in a different department for an ultrasound. I tried not to hyperventilate. I focused on my breathing. Deep breath in, slowly blow it out.

The tech struggled to find the area as I waited, bare breast, arm over my head while she called for the radiologist to come in. She froze the image. I stared at it. It looked like a spider or a weird starburst or some demented sea creature with tentacles. The radiologist got right to the point and stated that I needed a biopsy. I was scheduled the next day.

The biopsy wasn't as bad as I had imagined. It only took about 10 minutes. I tried to make light of the situation by telling the doctor that my husband wasn't happy about another man fondling my left breast. He laughed nervously and I instantly regretted saying it. But I couldn't take it back.

And I couldn't make the mass disappear either. After placing a titanium clip to mark the area, the kind nurse cleaned and bandaged me. She said that the results would be available on September 1. A nurse would call me in the nine o'clock hour.

The waiting has been harder than I thought. Educating myself of the terminology in preparation for the call has been dizzying. Discovering that my mass is presenting like a malignancy is sobering and scary.

And yet, I feel at peace. I want for it to be nothing. A mistake. Benign. Anything but cancer. But, if it turns out that it is cancer, I know two things for sure. One: God is good. Always. And two: I am not alone.

In these past few days I have vacillated between feeling emotionally fragile and feeling extremely brave. Such a dichotomy. But aren't we all? I want to choose brave.

But the sun still rises. I have been looking at things a bit differently since all this began. I have been specifically looking for the good. It is there. Good in each day. Good to be seen when we take the time to look. That, and taking things one day at a time. That is my goal.

All I know is that in this time of waiting and in the unknown, I have been changed. I can't quite explain it, or even pinpoint what it is exactly, but it is there just underneath. And it's permanent.

And somehow, it feels necessary.


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