(this actually happened a while ago, but I’ve sat on it.)
It’s weird to sit in the waiting room in the breast imaging center. It’s like going back to eat lunch in your high school cafeteria. You don’t especially want to be there, and you’re not really sure where you fit in.
I’m sitting here because a few days earlier, I told my oncologist that I had a hard spot on what used to be my breast and is now filled with a silicone implant. (Actually, I told his nurse and when he came in the room, he said he’d heard I’d found a lumpy bump, and this is a non-sequitur but if you’re an oncologist, please know that trying to make it sound cute doesn’t make it any less terrifying).
He told me that it was probably necrotized fat, which is to be expected with my type of reconstruction and is harmless except for the fact that it sounds really gross. So I’m back here to get an ultrasound.
Three years ago, I’d put on a gown and sat there listening to flute music while I waited for them to call my name. Impatiently, because I knew I was really fine, this was all just a precaution and I had to get back to the newsroom for deadline. Today, I’m looking at the other women and wondering who’s in the same unfortunate club. Who is rushing to get back to work? Who is here for routine imaging? Who is here because they’ve already found something? Who is going to be told they’re fine, and who is going to be told they have to talk to the nurse who will schedule everything else and answer all their questions?
I didn’t really tell anyone about it other than Jim partly because I didn’t want to worry anyone and partly because I just assume that everyone is as sick of hearing about it as I am. At work that morning, when my friend and I were eating from leftover office-party trays, I mentioned that I had an ultrasound scheduled, so it was good we had food here. I wouldn’t need to take time to get lunch. She casually pried me for more information as nonchalantly as one can, and I explained that I could be told I was fine or that I was dying, so there’s a lot riding on this appointment.
An ultrasound tech in scrubs calls my name, and leads me into the same dimmed sort of room that I had been in before. I lie on the table. She brings out the magic ultrasound wand. Oh, but there’s a catch.
“We’re going to have to do a mammogram,” she says, chirpily.
“Oh, you must be confused, because I don’t have any actual breasts,” I say, pointing to my chest. “These are reconstructed.”
She assured me that regardless, a mammogram was still required to see the exact placement of the lumpity bumpity, or whatever my oncologist had called it.
As I walked down the hall, the total bullshit of all of this hit me.
But I humored them, they reassured me that a mammogram wouldn’t damage my implants. I did my best to put my implanted breast on the little plate thing, but these suckers aren’t that flexible, so I had to throw my chest out as far as I could while twisting my neck and keeping my head back as far as I could so I wouldn’t get bonked in the nose by all the equipment moving around. Not the worst thing I’ve experienced since all of this started, but still…bullshit, right?
I get led back to the holding pen with the flute music and pick up a magazine to find out how many babies Kim Kardashian has now. This time when my name is called, the face attached to it is familiar.
It’s the ultrasound tech from three years ago. The Trainwreck Face Lady. I don’t remember her name, and it doesn’t register when she tells me, but I remember her face.
My breath comes faster.
“Were you here three years ago?” I ask. I explain that I think she did my ultrasound when I found my first tumor (I feel like I should uppercase that, like My First Tumor by Fisher-Price).
“Yep, I definitely was. Your name looks familiar.”
Was I so bad that my name is memorable? Am I that case they talk about over drinks? Am I on a wall somewhere?
I lie on the table and she brings out the ultrasound wand. She does her thing. I look at the ceiling. She leaves to talk to the doctor.
I turn to my phone, but it gives me nothing. No reception. No WiFI nothing. I’m on my own while I wait to find out if I’m going to die without even Twitter to distract me. Last time this happened, I told myself that I would be fine. This was all just a precaution and if that ultrasound person doesn’t get back soon, I’m going to miss deadline.
Back in the present, the door to the windowless room swings open and she comes in.
“It’s nothing. A necrotized fat lump. It’s good you got it checked out, but you’re fine. You can get dressed.”
That’s exactly what happened this time. That was what I expected her to say last time. But this is what she’s saying this time. After all the bad things I’ve been told, I’m not sure how to take a not-bad thing.
My brain starts to uncurl out of the fetal position. I’m fine. I’m fine! I can leave. I can go home. I can go back to work! I’m going to meet deadline! I’m fine. For now, I’m fine. I’m fine!
“Oh. OK. Thanks.”