Mammo Whammy

I hate going to the Breast Center. I steel myself and try to be as matter-of-fact as if I’m getting my teeth cleaned or doing some other unpleasant medical chore.

Everyone there is nice. The décor features soft colors and flowery prints hang on the wall. I’m shown to a dressing room and instructed to put on a gown with the opening in the front.

But the presence of too many women, who are scared out of their wits, wondering what will become of themselves and their families, weighs on me.

I change into the raspberry gown and stash my clothes in the locker.

As I wait to be called, I wonder about the other women. Who will be lucky today? Who is waiting for a second mammogram because the radiologist found something suspicious? I avoid looking my companions in the eye. I have no wisdom and very little comfort to offer.

Inside the mammo room, the technician is pleasant and professional. But the whole process—baring myself, pushing my breast on the metal and plastic plate, allowing her to pull and stretch it into place as if it isn’t one of the most intimate parts of me—is dehumanizing.

I hold my breath, wait for the eye-watering mechanical squeeze. Then we repeat the process and I’m done. She says they’ll call if there’s a problem.

I nod and smile and pretend that I’m OK. I try not to let my mind form the sentence, “What if my luck has run out? What if this time is IT?”

The spirits of the women I’ve known with breast cancer travel with me as I get dressed, walk to the parking ramp and try hard not to think about the three biopsies I’ve already had.

I teeter on the brink of fear, but push that feeling as far back in my mind as possible. I know from experience that worrying won’t help.

I hate going to the Breast Center. But I think of Kim, Jane, Lisa and especially Kathy, and so I go. I’ve got a life to live and people to love. I can’t afford not to.