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Recently, I stepped out of the shower and was drying myself when I discovered something on my left breast. It felt like the moles on other parts of my skin the dermatologist said were nothing to worry about. I told myself I was making a mountain out of a mole, but the fact that it was on my left breast was worrisome.
I hurriedly dressed, called the women’s clinic, and was able to get an appointment for later that morning. When I called the paratransit service to arrange a ride, the dispatcher said, “We’ll get you there, but you’ll have to be patient getting home.” As I put my cell phone in my pocket, I thought that if I wasn’t diagnosed with breast cancer, I would have all the time in the world. I then realized that the nurse-practitioner at the clinic wouldn’t be able to tell if the spot was cancer by looking at it. A biopsy would need to be scheduled, and that would mean waiting and wondering.
I threw myself into my work, eating half a bagel and banana at my desk while checking email. I usually did this every morning to save time. I then started work on an upcoming blog post. Fifteen minutes before my scheduled pick-up time, I was ready. The bus was late.
It was about ten minutes before my scheduled appointment, and the driver said, “I’ve got a couple people to pick up before I can get you there. Sorry.”
Oh great, I thought, and I removed my cell phone from my pocket. “Just tell them it’s our fault. We had a scheduling problem.”
The scheduling problem was my fault. When I called the clinic earlier, there was another opening for the following day, but I didn’t want to wait that long. The paratransit service usually preferred to book rides at least a day in advance, but I’d convinced the dispatcher it was urgent.
When I called the clinic a second time from the bus and explained the situation, the young woman who answered the phone said, “When do you think you’ll be here?”
“I don’t know,” I answered in exasperation. “I’ll be there when I can. Just tell the nurse-practitioner I’m coming.”
As the bus bumped along, I thought my life was going great until now. My new memoir was out, and a couple of promotion events were scheduled. Why did this have to happen now?
I remembered the time when my late husband Bill suffered his first stroke. We’d been married for three months and were happy, then boom! Was this thing on my breast another bomb about to drop? Why?
I alternated between these thoughts and telling myself I was making a mountain out of a mole. I thought of my editor, Leonore Dvorkin, who fought her own battle with breast cancer years earlier and lived to write a memoir about it. While she was recovering from surgery, her husband David took care of her. I no longer had a husband. If I needed a lump or the whole breast removed, I would have to depend on the kindness of friends. My brother would probably want to fly in from Florida, but with a wife and five kids and working two jobs to make ends meet, he couldn’t afford it.
When we finally arrived at the medical complex housing the women’s clinic, I was surprised when my talking watch told me it was ten-forty-five, the actual time of the appointment. My white cane swinging in front of me, I dashed to the elevator and found the Braille-labeled button for the second floor.
“It’s probably nothing,” I told Tracy, the nurse-practitioner moments later. “It could just be a mole, but I thought I should have it checked out.”
“Absolutely,” she said. I placed my index finger on the spot, and she examined it. “It looks like just a clogged pore.”
“You mean it’s nothing to worry about?”
“Not at all,” she answered. “It should clear up soon, but if it gets bigger and starts hurting, let us know.”
After putting my shirt back on and before leaving the exam room, I called the paratransit service to request a ride home, prepared to be patient. As I left the clinic and made my way down the deserted hall toward the elevator, I was relieved and elated. “Yes, I don’t have breast cancer. Life can go on,” I said, thankful no one was there to hear me.
On the ground floor, I stood just inside the entrance. To my surprise, a bus pulled up a few minutes later. This was my lucky day.
Perhaps I over-react in such situations, but it’s only because I would hate to depend on others for care if I needed it. Bill wanted to be able to take care of me, but after his strokes, that was impossible. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Click to hear an audio trailer.
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