The Breastcare nurse at the hospital suggested I call her direct line to hear the results of my mammogram. That was because last year the receptionist at my local doctors surgery insisted I could only receive them from my GP and I immediately feared the worse.
My sister would have had the worst confirmed 8 years ago when she called up for her results weeks after her husband found a lump in her breast. Thankfully she’s had a good outcome and, being cancer-clear for over 5 years, her chances of developing cancer again are the same as for anyone else. Because she was under forty, I’m encouraged to have a mammogram every year until I turn 50.
So today, three weeks after the screening, I made the call. And the line was busy. I could see from my phone log that the nurse had made a couple of attempts to return my call and I irrationally questioned her urgency. As the morning progressed I could feel my anxiety rising. Relief when she did get hold of me dissipated as she ran through a script. Just tell me, I wanted to shout. But I answered her questions to confirm my identity. Then relief returned as she said I was clear.
The mammogram itself is actually OK. Discomfort is relative after going through childbirth. Your breast is clamped (think wooden plank on carpenters bench) and squished in to place for the pictures and that isn’t especially pleasant but it’s the aftermath that causes the most trauma. Is the radiographer looking perplexed or is she still digesting her lunch? Over her shoulder I studied her screen as she brought up last years slides and I might as well have been looking at the ultrasounds confirming my children’s conceptions. It’s a language I don’t speak. Breast, uterus, embryo look the same to me. Then there’s the wait. First the recommended time lapse while results are collated and then those minutes on the phone to the Breast nurse when your life and hopes are in her hands. In those words. ‘Everything looks fine’. I get a surge of renewed vigour and determination to enrich my life. I need to harness that.