Wednesday, April 6, 2011

May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be at your back

As I sit in the waiting room at Charlotte Radiology's Breast Center, I can't help but feel a little anxious.  The notebook that I carry everywhere almost goes back in my purse, but I force myself to get it back out again so I can capture my feelings and observations.  Take a deep breath, I say to myself.  You've been here before under the same circumstances and it was ok the other times.  I'm here because my mammogram from a month ago was "inconclusive".  Such an innocent, innocuous kind of word, but one that can evoke a wide range of emotions when used in the right context - like this one.  

I am in the diagnostic center where most of the women here have either had reports like mine or are coming back for follow-up visits after breast cancer.  I look around the room and see five other women.  Four of the women are close to my age or older.  They are reading magazines or chatting.  The fifth is in her thirties.  She is sitting in the corner all alone.  She has a blank stare and is tapping her fingers on the arm of the chair and constantly crossing her legs, and then putting both feet on the floor.  I want to tell her everything will be fine, but I can't because I don't know.  We make eye contact and I smile - she smiles back. 

They call me back quickly.  The technician gives me the drill on what to take off and what to put on and leaves me alone in the dressing room.  She comes back later and takes me into the "room".  This being a diagnostic mammogram, they go a lot further by taking more images and the machine turns into a torture chamber.  I have a high pain tolerance and have never really minded a normal mammogram, but this takes it to a whole new level.  The technician makes small talk.  I make small talk back, but I really want to tell her to shut up and get it over with.  But I'm nice.  I'll have bruises tomorrow. 

Now I'm in the other waiting room waiting for the radiologist to see me. I am wearing a sleeveless blue paper shirt that snaps in the front - very fashionable if I do say so myself. It's cold in here. This place definitely doesn't cater to comfort.  As I'm waiting, I can hear through the door my technician calling someone else back to the "room".  For a moment, I think about sticking my head out the door and warning the poor soul of what's to come, but I'm a civilized person and don't want to make waves for the technician.  Besides, I might have her again next year and I want to be in her good graces.

About ten minutes pass and the radiologist walks in the door followed by the technician.  Uh oh, does she need backup?  They're both smiling though and they give me the good news that they have a good image and nothing is wrong.  Of course, I'm relieved.  As I'm sitting there half hearing what she is saying, I think about all the other women who have sat here before me and heard a different story.  I say a silent prayer for these women and all the ones who will sit here after me and hear bad news instead of good.  I have a dear friend who lost her mother to breast cancer a few years ago.  I saw what they both went through and how Jill continues to miss her mother today.  I have three good friends who have recently had breast cancer and have gone through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  It has been a difficult battle for each of them but all three - Lynn, Rita and Carol - are women of great faith, and with God's help they have gotten through.  

Please take a moment as you read this and say a prayer for all the women of the world who are facing this right now and a prayer of praise for the women who have beat it. There is an old Irish benediction that goes:

“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”  I like to imagine a large meadow where the sun is shining warmly and our omnipresent God is seated while each one of these women passes by Him.  He reaches out to them gently  and holds them briefly in the hollow of his hand to give them comfort and peace.


  1. You never really know how someone feels until you have experienced the same thing.

  2. I am so relieved to read your good news!

    Today I am on my way to have a CT scan on my whole body.
    There isn't a cure for my type of cancer but I am hoping, hoping that there will be nothing on my scan. I have learnt to live life on a daily basis.
    So I can really appreciate how you felt to hear you had the all clear.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  3. Marlene, you are right - Before my mammogram scares over the last few years, I was quick to assure other women who were having to face going back for further diagnostics that everything would be alright - but now I have much more empathy. Maggie, my prayers are with you as you go for your scan today. Hoping your news will be good.


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