The Perfect Calm

The Perfect Calm

I recently had my mammogram. This particular test causes considerable scanxiety within me. In the weeks leading up to, and the days that follow afterward, I feel a great sense of restlessness, angst, apprehension, and vulnerability. Though the mammogram itself is bearable – it is the psychological link to remembering what occurred 4 years ago that I find arduous. I am taken back to that moment when everything unravelled – the discovery of breast cancer in what I thought was a healthy breast. I work at finding ways to manage my scanxiety (tips available in my posts) in the weeks leading up to the mammogram, but it really does take great mental and emotional strength to remain calm and collected on the day of, when the memories and foreboding feelings are slamming around in my heart and in my head.

On the day of, I arrived at WCH, feeling anxious and frightened, yet grateful that I was not alone. My husband came with me. After checking in and dressing into a hospital gown, I sat next to my husband, drinking in his stoic strength and calm. Breathing. Focusing on breathing. Waiting. Just waiting. They were behind schedule, and the longer I waited the more anxious I grew. I began to search for something, anything, to provide me with necessary distraction…

To my great surprise, I saw the cutest little white dog – a therapy dog – a member of the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program. I have read about the program and how the presence of a therapy dog can provide [a patient] stress relief, distraction from pain, calming, and improved moods, however I had never personally experienced the benefits of a therapy dog. To my disappointment, I had never seen a therapy dog at any of the hospitals I frequented over these past 4 years. Let me just say – from recent first-hand experience – the program works! We made eye contact. The little dog [and his handlers] came to visit with me. Oscar. Cute, fluffy, gentle, calm little Oscar. Oscar must have sensed my heightened anxiety because he came right over, sat at my feet, and stayed with me for 10 minutes, allowing me to quietly pet him as my husband chatted with the handlers. My body relaxed. My thoughts settled. My heart rate slowed. Now, reflecting back on that moment, it seems remarkable. He was the perfect calm to my inner storm. And I am overwhelmed. Together with his handlers, Oscar donates his time and energy to visit with patients in need, offering them a blanket of comfort and calm through gentle physical interaction. It is incredibly selfless and extremely impactful.

The presence of a therapy dog altered the entire experience of my recent mammogram. I entered the appointment with a tremendous sense of calm. I was not shaking. I was not restless. I was not on the verge of tears. Oscar’s energy soothed my own.

Together, with my husband’s stoic strength, and Oscar’s gentle calm I got through my mammogram, unscathed.

And the results? All clear!!

For more information about the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program, visit their site at https://www.sja.ca/English/Community-Services/Pages/Therapy%20Dog%20Services/default.aspx.

The Perfect Calm. Published by Crystal Joy Hall

Featured Image by Michelle Yorke

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