My Mammoth Mammogram
Okay. So I don’t mean to make light of a mammogram, but the upcoming test is totally freaking me out. The emotions that I am experiencing are mammoth. I am terrified on levels I haven’t felt since my battery of tests last year; and I feel trapped in a time warp – the memory of walking into the examining room for the first time, nervous about having my petite breasts squashed between two large plates for imaging… and then my life being forever changed.
It was discovered that my right breast was riddled with calcifications so extensive that the tumour measured 8.7cms (post-surgery). It still shocks me to think back on that time and remember how intense my fear was upon my diagnosis, and how intense it still remains. Although my surgery was in June of 2015, and I have had one mammogram since my surgery, I am afraid. Yet no one would know it because I hide it so well. It’s crazy how put-together you can often appear to others, yet inside you are nothing more than a terrified mess of your own worst self. Every single day I have my moment of panic where I think “What if a rogue cancer cell was missed in surgery?”. “What if…?” is a common question of mine because I did not have radiation or chemotherapy to treat the cancer. My cancer was diagnosed as Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS). It was extensive and there was micro-invasion, but [thankfully] it was contained within the breast; and because my type of cancer is classified as “early stage” or “pre-cancer”, additional treatment was considered to be too aggressive. I am, however, on Tamoxifen to combat the estrogen-positive receptors because I feel I need to do something pro-active in preventing the cancer from returning. I need to fight. I need to win.
Cancer really sucks. It’s this black fungus of a horrible disease. It’s your body attacking itself. And it robs you of time, energy, and even pieces of you. I have pieces of me missing. And cancer alters your perception, toys with your ambitions, and limits your physical capabilities. Cancer steals from you, and it steals from your loved ones… and this is when the anger sets in. The fight. The determination. The courage. This is when you challenge the beast, and whether you want to or not you wage war. You wage war on the black fungus that is infecting your body. You wage war on yourself. This is the reality of cancer. And so I battle. Every day. I push away the dark thoughts. I smother the fear. I smile as I blink back the tears. Some days are easier than others. Some days are not.
For those days that I struggle and feel scared, isolated, and muddled I turn to my support system. One of them is a social network group. This amazing community that I am a part of consists of courageous young women in the throes of battling cancer or recovering from cancer, and their spirit, their strength, and their courage is often what keeps me calm and feeling less alone and less isolated. In fact, a recent thread was a discussion of the “surgi-versary”, which then blossomed into sharing fears, concerns, and dread of other “cancer-related-versaries”. And the relevance of that conversation resonated deeply with me. I have been emotional of late – very emotional. I will be in the midst of doing something or going somewhere and become overwhelmed with angst, fear, and dread. I fight back the tears, I draw in slow, deep breaths to calm the tremors. I frantically grasp for my happy place. And all of this emotion is pouring out of me because of the upcoming mammogram. It took a conversation among these wonderful women for me to realize and piece together why I was feeling these mammoth emotions. Now that I realize what is spurring the fear on, I can work toward nullifying it.
My mammogram is in four days. In just four short days I will return to the 5th floor of the hospital, walk into the examining room, have my one remaining petite breast squished between two large plates, and I will think of all these amazing women who have opened their hearts, shared their experiences, and confessed their fears. I will take comfort (and some sadness) in knowing that I am not alone. I am fortunate that I have never fought this fight alone. And when I walk out of that examining room, my mommy and my sweet little son will be there waiting for me – to give me comfort, solace, and joy.
This is the battle. This is the journey. It’s mammoth. It’s frightening. It’s surreal. It is my life.
My Mammoth Mammogram. Published by Crystal Joy Hall