Surviving Breast Cancer

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It really doesn’t matter how long you have been a “survivor.”
Cancer is cancer. Twenty years ago. Five years ago. Last week.
You walked in the damn shoes and you fear.
You always fear.

So when it’s time to see the oncologist or have a scan, you fear.

Ironically, National Cancer Survivors Day falls 24 hours before my mammogram.  Checking in at the desk I begin to feel my heart beat a bit faster.
I’m sure I’m fine. But once upon a time, I thought I was also fine. Until I wasn’t fine.
And then I wasn’t fine again.
So I kind of earned the right to live in a bit of fear and worry about not being fine.

It’s how I rationalize the heart beating faster.

“Take a seat until they call your name.”   Yea thanks hon*, I know the drill. (*Names have been changed to protect the innocent but she called me hon so I’m “hon’ing her right back.)

After barely playing three minutes of Candy Crush, I am called back to change into the dreaded robe. (Purple. An upgrade from the XXXL johnnies you need to wear for the MRI.) Put your clothes in the plastic bag (then throw it away when you’re done and watch 1000 plastic bags fill up and kill the environment. ) I do as I’m told (without the public service announcement) and follow Margie* back to where I thought I’d be in a waiting room, but lo and behold I am escorted right into the exam room. Bonus points for promptness Margie.

I wonder if the men who need mammograms sit with the women (if/when there’s a waiting room of women.)

It’s not like we are exclusive in our robes and plastic bags, but the poor minority of men would most definitely get some inquisitive stares.

Note to all of you as a reminder:
Men can get breast cancer.
Men do get breast cancer.
Men lose their lives to breast cancer

So Margie and I go through the rigamarole.
History of the one boob.
Yes, the cancer came back.
Yes, I know I’m an anomaly.
Yes. I have a biopsy clip in the good boob. Blessed to have a scare on this side too.

Current weight. Um, must we? Isn’t smushing my remaining boob enough of a downer way to start the week?

Margie asks me to slip out of my sleeve in the room that appears to be 30 degrees. (Margie doesn’t look like a Margie but this is what I’m going with as I write. ) She’s not one for jokes or sarcasm. She also doesn’t look like her real name either. I wonder if I look like an Abby?

Hold your breath.
Don’t breathe.
And breathe.

Don’t worry Margie. I can’t breathe. I don’t breathe for days until you call me with my results.

She tells me to move my hips to the left and feet to the right while she takes my remaining boob and tries to maneuver it like a Gumby doll to make sure there is no cancer.  Breathe.

I used to have my mammograms and my scans read instantly- if I wanted them to be. Well of course I wanted them to be. It was only an hour of torturous waiting as opposed to days. My oncologist wanted me to switch to the big name hospital for my mammograms after my reoccurrence happened.  Big name apparently doesn’t believe in instant reads. Or more likely, big name doesn’t have the staff to sit around and instantly read mammograms and calm women’s (and men’s) fears.

I’m sure I’m fine, I say to my subconscious.
I’m sure I’m fine, I convince myself.
Not remembering that I wasn’t fine once before.
And then twice before.

Two hours pass and I see an email that my results are in. That was not 5 days of waiting Margie.

I know I’m fine before reading the email because; after all, even big name hospitals do not email you bad results.

See you in 6 months

(and breathe….)



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