March 1, 2021


abnormal mammogram
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo: Matteo Vistocco


Last year, I forgot to schedule my annual mammogram.  

I'm usually on top of things, but it never dawned on me to make an appointment for the yearly x-ray.  That's something I've been doing for thirty years!  I blame it on COVID because the pandemic had a way of distracting me.  I wasn't the only one.  In fact, when I scheduled a date, the receptionist told me quite a few women had forgotten to make their appointments, too.  

Unlike the previous years however, this time felt different.  I'm 66, the age my mother found out she had breast cancer.  I was nervous and could not shake the bad vibes.  Being two months overdue did not help.   

Then a week after the mammogram, my cell phone rang displaying a number associated with my doctor's office.  I braced for bad news.  My heart thumped against my chest.  During the short call, I learned that a diagnostic mammogram would be needed.  The latest x-rays looked different from the previous views.  

This was not good news.  Worry doesn't even come close to describing how I felt.  So to quell my fears, I spent hours googling the two words the appeared on the report:  architectural distortion.  The terminology basically meant something did not look right.  Now, I had reached new levels of anxiety.  I kept searching the Internet to find some positive information.  That's when I ran across One Frugal Girl.

This blog is written by a woman named Jewels who shared the emotional journey of an abnormal mammogram. She even published other women's personal experiences.  Jewels and her followers had been diagnosed with an architectural distortion, too.  After reading the blog post and other people's comments, I felt a little better.  Jewels revealed, as did every follower, that the outcome was negative for cancer.    

On the day of the diagnostic exam, I sat in the waiting room socially distancing from (and yet part of) this cranberry-colored gowned and masked group.  It kind of blew my mind that all twenty of us needed diagnostic mammograms.  The strange thing was, everyone appeared to be at ease.  One woman, who spoke loud enough for all to hear, revealed that she was a cancer survivor.  She spoke in great detail to the lady sitting next to her.  I'm not sure how the listener felt about it.  Had it been me, I would have been reduced to tears.

After a half hour, the tech called me back for the mammogram.  I returned to the waiting room and began reading one of my books.  An hour later, I was called back for another set of x-rays.  Again, I returned to the waiting room.  But as the time passed, I was becoming a nervous wreck.  What was the reason for two mammograms?  My brain could no longer comprehend the words in my books.  I was not like the other women in the room who appeared to be brave and calm.  I was drowning in a pool of waiting and of not knowing and needed to be rescued from the clutch of worry and to be delivered by the voice of good news.  

I wanted this to be over.  Instead—a tech called me back for an ultrasound.  

This was going from bad to worse.  And then during the exam, I received some encouraging words.  The tech told me that she didn't see anything abnormal.  It was a minor relief, like taking a quick breath after being denied air for so long.  Still, the radiologist had to perform an ultrasound to be sure.  I waited again, staring off.  Trying to not think about anything.  Feeling numb.  About a half an hour later, the radiologist performed the ultrasound.  She agreed with the tech.  There was nothing suspicious.   

At this point, I was worn out, but relieved.  Finally, this day of not knowing and waiting was about to be wrapped up.  And then (never assume something is about to be over when you see the words and then) the doctor wanted to know more information about my family...and then when she learned about my mother's medical history, I found this journey was not even close to ending.   

To be continued...