SOMETHING TO HOLD ONTO

I shivered a little in the flimsy gown, although the room was warm. I was waiting for the results of my mammogram. My second in two weeks. The breast imaging center had called to say there was a suspicious area on my film. They needed additional views.

I knew this was common, and that only a small percentage of repeat mammograms find cancer. Usually the doctor just wants confirmation that it’s something innocent like a calcium deposit. But I still worried. I’m a ten-year survivor, and I like that status.

In a scary situation, you need something to hold onto. A silly thing kept me going during the months of chemo that followed my lumpectomy in 2002. Friends told me I wouldn’t enjoy wearing a wig. “Hot and itchy,” they said. And since I worked in an animal shelter, wigs posed a hygiene issue. I opted for washable caps and turbans, and developed an obsession. I craved a hat to match every outfit, so I’d look put-together even though I was sick. I found websites that sold chemo hats–my favorite was www.headcovers.com –and surfed them for hours, inventing new looks.

My mind had churned since I got my callback. I e-mailed my friend Kathleen, who had just finished chemo herself, that if I got bad news, I would opt for a double mastectomy this time, reconstruction if possible. With my friend Carla, I went further.

One of my first thoughts was whether, if I had cancer, I could manage the annual football trip to Green Bay with Pam, Del, and Carla. When I go, of course I wear Packers gear. Some of my shirts fit snugly. You see, I lost fifty pounds a few years ago. I’m only a few pounds above my high school weight. So friends buy me Packer shirts with a tapered cut, because I’m thin enough to wear them. Thin enough, yes, but today my figure is, let’s say, matronly. I have a minimizer bra that helps, but I don’t look as good in those shirts as a small-breasted—or younger—woman would.

 

I envisioned small, firm breasts in clingy shirts.

With bravado, I wrote Carla. “Green Bay in the fall! Looking good in my clingy T-shirt! The ultimate minimizer!” I envisioned small, firm breasts in my fitted shirts. Something to hold onto …

I was thinking about that when the technician led me into a small room to await the doctor. A young resident entered. “Your mammogram looks great!” she told me. “There was just some tissue that got folded over. See you in a year!”

So I don’t need the “ultimate minimizer.” And I will be back next year. I strongly believe in mammograms, since my 2002 tumor could not be detected on a manual exam. If you’re a candidate for mammograms, I hope you’ll get yours on time, too. And if it’s positive, I hope you find—however silly it may be—something to keep you going through the months that follow. Something to hold onto.

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