the tide goes in. the tide goes out.
this morning, i made the trek out to washington radiology. i failed my mammogram on my birthday 6 months ago and, happy birthday to me, ended up with a biopsy. as is my medical custom, i stumped the experts; they didn’t see anything malignant, but they were also puzzled by the quantity of lymphoid tissue in the sample. i told the doctor that perhaps i have a lot of lymphoid tissue because i have all sorts of lymphatic fun thanks to my underlying immune deficiency. i mean, my lymph nodes react when i have an infection, when i drink hot and sour soup, and because the moon might be in the 7th house and jupiter is aligning with mars. you just never know. so hey, c’mon back in 6 months and we’ll take another looksee under the hood, okay?
like i’d say no?
my mom has lost both breasts to cancer and mercifully, she continues to be a major pain in my ass 30+ years after the fact. but thanks to that little tidbit of medical history, i go ping whenever the subject of family history and breast cancer comes up in a doctor’s office. mom recently underwent the testing to see whether she had the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and tested negative. well, yeah, that’s awesome, and i celebrated, thinking there’s one less thing potentially wrong with me genetically… except i learned, mid-biopsy, that there are loads of other BRCA genes, so there’s always the chance… which then made me want to scream at the doctor who shared that info why on Dog’s Green Earth bother with testing then? except, at that particular moment, the doctor had just cut into me with a very sharp scalpel, and also, there was that little matter of blood literally splattering across my chest, just like in the movies. it was pretty cool, actually, except for the fact that it was my chest and my blood.
maybe next time, i will ask to be put under.
anyway, so back i went today. i was a little perplexed by the fact that i was being charged for a full mammogram (plus the extra $50 for a 3D mammogram, which isn’t covered by insurance but which would probably make a hell of a slideshow at a party.) only one side was getting the
excruciating glamour treatment. but the woman behind the desk who seems to repeat the same spiel over and over all day to women of all ages and sizes and races told me nope, no discount for one boob. ah well. you pays yer money and you takes yer choices. when i was finally taken out back and shot, i had a lovely lady who was a wonderful smoosh-o-grammer. after the smoosh, she led me to a room to wait for the doctor.
now, let me tell you about this room. when you are doing your annual mammogram and you have never had any troubles to speak of, they take you back to the
closet they stuff you in little changing room where you first got into your little brown gown (open in the front, no deodorant, no lotions, no creams please.) there, you wait for the technician who performed your mammogram to come in, tell you that you passed again, get your clothes on, and make your way up the road to the mosaic district, where you can dine on fine food and shop at neiman marcus last call go home. the event passes like a tiny bump in your road. but then, there’s the room. there are magazines. there’s a box of tissues. there’s an HD TV against the wall playing a video of the ocean tide coming in and the tide rolling out. it’s a little haven of medical office zen. if there was a giant glass bottle of cucumber spa water in the corner and mani/pedis, it might not be such a horrible place. but it is a horrible place.
it’s the place where women like me go.
it is the holding pen for the women who have failed their mammograms, a sort of purgatory. it is the place you go when an actual doctor has to talk to you about your results. women like me end up there because we have failed before. women who are new to failure end up there as well. and somehow, that oceanic video is supposed to be a positive, peaceful life buoy. today, though, as i marched into the room, i saw a young woman, probably around 30 or so. at first, all i could see was her blonde hair sprouting out of a head that was bobbing and heaving between her knees. i bit my lip. clearly, the girl had had some sort of shock, and no amount of azure waves was going to help her.
i walked across the room and grabbed a tissue. i tried to not look at her at first, as i didn’t want to completely intrude, but merely extended my hand near her arm, gently brushing the tissue against her elbow. i figured if she wanted it, she would take it; if she didn’t, she would ignore me and that would be just fine. you never really know what people want or need at times like these; but i cannot look away from it, either. she picked up her head, gratefully took the tissue, and said thanks and tried to smile. she wiped her face off, but then a fresh flood came and she put her head down again. reflexively, i started to rub and pat her shoulder, much as i do with my children when they are crying. i don’t generally make a habit of touching total strangers, especially ones who are in terrible pain; but i just didn’t want her to feel alone. i wanted her to know that other people will care about what happens to her, people she knows and loves. if even a total stranger cares, then her loved ones will surely embrace and comfort her, too.
i wanted her to know that maybe something awful was in store for her, but there was also love in her future, too.
she would try to stop crying and pick her head up and smile at me. i smiled back. but then, she would cry again, and her head would once again duck down. i patted her some more til she calmed down. she had just picked her head up when the nurse came in to call her. miss s, the nurse said, you will need more pictures and then the doctor will see you to talk more. come with me. my new friend miss s picked her head up and looked at me. hang in there was all i could muster. she smiled weakly, and i nodded and smiled back.
my turn came soon. the technician walked me into my little changing cubicle, which i thought was a good sign. after all, i had my biopsy news in the sonogram room, not in the little closets. the doctor came in, told me that the area where the biopsy was done 6 months ago had shrunk, and she didn’t see anything scary. nothing at all. so go on out and treat yourself, she said, smiling. i guess she likes to give good news. when you hit the point where you are sent to the room to talk with the doctor, your talks don’t always go so well, i guess. she’s probably as happy as i am. or close. i whipped off that brown gown and headed out, with big plans to walk around the mosaic district. that was going to be my treat. i walked past the room where i had waited. no one was sitting there. miss s was somewhere else, hopefully getting better news, hopefully sitting in a changing cubicle finding out that she, too, was going to bump into me at a more pleasant place. like say, neiman marcus’s last call. i will always hope so, and i will always wonder about miss s. but all i saw in that room was the ocean video, playing on a never-ending loop in high def.
the tide goes in. the tide goes out.
in memory of my friend syrentha savio.