Saturday, October 24, 2015

Do You Come Here Often?



Do You Come Here Often?

I’ve always hated this part.
“Lift your arm. Like this. Now rest your other arm here. Sorry, my hands are a little cold.”
The doctor presses her palms on my breast while I stare at the ceiling. I’m always worried the temperature of my hands will make my nipples stand up. Then this awkward situation will become all that more mortifying.
            Seconds go by. She concentrates on one spot, just to the right of my nipple. That’s never happened before. She checks the same area on the other breast. She returns back to the spot.
The doctor says the four words no woman ever wants to hear:
“I feel a lump here.”
My body feels like its made of little particles, and each one of them has just spread along the exam table. She keeps touching the spot as she asks questions. Did I notice it? I didn’t. When had I done an exam last? "Recently," I say. That’s all I say. I used to do them more often. I mean to do them. But I forget. What if I think it wasn’t long ago, but it was months or even years? The older I get, the more time has a way of speeding by. It’s like when I thought that wedding was two or three years ago, only to find out the couple just celebrated their five-year anniversary.
 Besides, when I push down, it’s all lumps. How do I know a lump is lumpier? In the past, when I was worried something was suspicious, I’d feel around it, and it sort of seemed the same.
The doctor measures the lump. She writes the information down. She says the number three. Three millimeters? Centimeters? Inches? I don’t want to ask. I had a baseline mammogram years ago. Could it be possible a tumor has been growing in my breast for these subsequent years, and I didn’t know it?
She makes me touch the lump. First I can’t tell. Then I realize it’s slightly bigger from everything around it. No, it’s definitely bigger. Here I am, touching my breast while the doctor watches, just minutes after my biggest concern was that I’d have erect nipples. How my perspective has changed. I came to this exam dreading the pap, worried about my cholesterol, wary of my blood pressure. For a long time, I’d forgotten to fret about my breasts.
The doctor tells me to change. She says she’ll return in a few minutes.
A few minutes is all the time I need to remember the conversation we had before the breast exam. When my long overdue check up hung in the air. And she found out that I’d been regularly having eye exams and dental check ups instead. And I’d asked if I should put off a mammogram for another several years because it was controversial for people my age. She assured me that an increased likelihood of false positives was not a reason to forgo the exam. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if yearly exposure to radiation could cause problems in the long run.
A few minutes is all I need to picture my uncertain future. I might lose my hair.  A chunk of breast. A breast. Would I get so sick that I’d have to quit my new job? I would if all the cancer metastasized all over my body. It happens to people. It can happen to me. And if it has, it’s my own stupid fault. Why did my fear land me in this situation? I knew other people who put off going to the doctor only to get bad news, and I’d shake my head. I knew people who’d died. And now here’s me.
The door opens. The doctor’s laughter tinkles and dies. Would she chuckle if she thought it was serious? Did she stop because lumps in breasts are common for her, and it’s not going to stop her from joking with her coworkers in the hallway.
She must see my expression. I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings, like blind panic.
“I think it’s a cyst,” she says.
She rattles on that I need to have a mammogram and an ultrasound. And then she wants me to return when I’m in the beginning of my cycle. Am I having the ultrasound to watch out for false positives or am I having the ultrasound because there’s a possibility it is cancer. Is she trying to calm me down or is she telling the truth? I so want to ask her. I want to confess why I’ve waited too long and explain that this isn’t the person I am. I know better and I’ve made a mistake. 
But I just nod. She doesn’t know me. After all, I hardly come here.

PSA: Check early in your cycle and check often... and visit your doctor yearly.





44 comments:

  1. Awesome! You saw something useful in it while the rest of us were musing on. Lol!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Bekkie. It took me all week to be ready to write the piece. Now it's nearly time for the next prompt!

      Delete
  2. You faced it head-on, that's good Theresa! A cyst, most reassuring! And a prose is most refreshing as opposed to the normal verses of others!

    Hank

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is good to approach this normally to help others.

    Thanks for visiting.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That is so stirring and also a very helpful take on the prompt. Lovely!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm so impressed that you wrote this moving piece from that prompt. And I'm glad for your sake it was only a cyst. I had about a dozen of them aspirated between age 40 and 50. After menopause, they disappeared.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joanne, I appreciate you sharing that with me. It makes me feel a bit bitter!

      Delete
  6. Wooooo. I have been there. Praying by now you have results, and it WAS just a cyst.
    This is so well spilled.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. De, yes, it was just a cyst. I'll check for any changes in 6 months.

      Delete
  7. I have also had cysts aspirated .. this is prose perfect!!! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is a perfect story on how the doctor can make us fall apart.. and this picture was for both pictures... what a perfect fit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, brudberg. Since I just finished the story yesterday and saw today's picture, I figured I could use both for this prompt.

      Delete
  9. What an important topic for you to have written about, not just for expressing your own emotions but also for reminding others to take care of their bodies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paper Sea, thanks. I figured it was an important situation to share if it could get others to take action.

      Delete
  10. Its a lovely read, I haven't got my test done ever. And this peice is a real eye opener.
    thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dee Dee, it was scary. After a mammogram and sonogram, the doctor is pretty confident all I'm dealing with are cysts. Now I go back in 6 months for another sonogram. I'm definitely going to get examined regularly from now on.

      Delete
  11. Excellent! Having had the same thing happen, you nailed it! (And for me, it was a cyst, a painful one).

    ReplyDelete
  12. That was gut wrenching. I do my yearly exam and I self-test a bit but damn, three years doesn't seem like such a long time. But then so much can happen in three years. The fear. So palpable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Libby. Time flies by, and we can forget to take care of ourselves.

      Delete
  13. This was very moving, Theresa, and a brilliant use of the featured prompt. It really resonated with me because that was my story...twice. Definitely a timely reminder for us women. Thank you for sharing! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much, Jamie. I am surprised how many people have experienced this same thing.

      Delete
  14. More spine chilling than anything Stephen King could have concocted

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kutamun, thank you. It was its own kind of horror.

      Delete
  15. And not the then


    The stark reality
    Is a darkened thing
    Ever bringing me
    Gifts on deaths wing
    As its shadow past
    And i left
    At last
    Gasping and shaking
    My soul quaking
    Wondering How I could
    Go on
    Continue
    As if nothing
    Is real
    Will I heal
    This time
    What if this time
    Happens again
    Over
    And over again
    Until it is finally
    My end
    Just breathe
    You say to me
    Maybe when I do
    I will focus on the now
    And not the then


    Chris McQueeney ©2015


    Thank you for the insperation

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, I've never received a poem response. Thank you, Wander. I'm very moved.

      Delete
  16. So intense. This is timely for me since I have several people in my life with health concerns. I'm glad it's just a cyst.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Medeia. I hope the people in your life are okay.

      Delete
  17. Definitely a terrifying prospect. The writing is so poignant and the conflict so personal.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh, my. I was hooked and felt it deeply. Such poignant writing.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Theresa .. I seem to have spent more time in the hospital this year than in the whole of my life ... thankfully I'm seem to be coming through with no disasters - once the process has been finished off in a few weeks. So pleased yours is benign - but as you say 'be aware' of what's going on ...

    Great way of posting too and reminding us all of life as it happens ... good to read you are on your way to being out of the worry .. cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hilary, I had no idea you'd been in the hospital. I'm so sorry. I just read your last post. We need to take care of ourselves.

      Delete
  20. I am glad it was a cyst and this was an excellent reminder to all of us to not put off those exams we dread. I know a lot of people who have been in the same situation and it is very scary. Very intense writing that speaks volumes.
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much, Jess. I was hesitant to write it, but I'm glad I did.

      Delete