I pull into the space in the parking lot and sit for a moment.
It’s snowing lightly. I start to curse the weather for a moment (not MORE SNOW!) but the flakes look so pretty as they land on the windshield. It is February in New England after all.
“Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys stops abruptly as I turn the car off.
I quickly walk through the snowy hospital parking lot, shielding my face from the brusk wind. A few people walk by but we don’t make eye contact. Everyone is there for a reason – good and bad – but it’s none of my business or theirs what that reason is.
The automatic doors slide open and I push the number 4 on the elevator.
I called to make the mammogram appointment last week, expecting to wait a while before they had an opening. There was a cancellation for today at 12:30 so I jumped at it. During pre-registration, the nurse tells me that it has been three years since my last mammogram.
Well, you know how it goes. Life gets in the way.
My family history reminds me that this is two years too long.
The elevator doors open and I walk in alone.
I take a deep breath. I think of the incredible women in my life who have made this same elevator trip for the same test and got the scary news. I think about my genes and about the statistics. I think of my dad and the pancreatic cancer that took him and how I wished there was such a test for that.
The doors open and I walk into the imaging center at the Woman’s Pavilion.
The technician takes my insurance card and my license. She notes that my license has expired back in January on my birthday. You know how it goes. Life gets in the way.
I start to tell her how many times I picked up the phone to cancel this appointment but think better of it.
I sit for a moment and scan the outdated magazines. I wonder how many other woman have sat in this very seat waiting for their turn. Hundreds? Thousands? What were their stories? Their fates?
She calls me back to change into a robe from the waist up. “Tie it in the back,” she reminds me.
I change out of my top and bra and struggle with the motor skills needed to tie the strings behind me.
I think of my family and dear friends who have been right here in this exact spot. The women I love who got the cancer diagnosis.
The women I love who made some incredibly hard decisions.
The women who came out alive on the other side.
I get the robe tied and enter the imaging room.
“It’s a new machine,” she says to me. “People say it doesn’t hurt as much and it’s much quicker.”
We make the usual small talk as she maneuvers me into the machine.
“Hold on here. Relax your shoulders. How old are your boys? Wow, you have your hands full. Now hold your breath.”
I stop breathing for a moment as 30 pounds of pressure collapse down on my chest.
The truth is it isn’t life getting in the way.
It’s the fear that something is wrong. The fear that I won’t be around to see my children grow up. Realities that I don’t want to face.
Ten minutes later, I was done.
She tells me my pictures looked perfect but I would hear by Tuesday if there was anything they needed to tell me. If I didn’t get a call, I would get a letter in 7-10 days.
She makes me my next appointment. February 23, 2014 at 10:30.
“So you don’t forget this time.”
I leave the office and head back down alone in the elevator. I start to shake.
Only ten minutes.
Ten minutes for peace of mind.
Ten minutes for these guys.
Ten minutes for me.
Because in order for life to keep getting in the way, I need to be around for that to happen.
This mammogram appointment is dedicated to the women I love who through their strength and grace have taught me that life is too precious to put off a test like this.
I want them to know that I am grateful for the push to make the call.
“She’s just a girl and she’s on fire
Hotter than a fantasy, lonely like a highway
She’s living in a world and it’s on fire
Filled with catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away
Ohhhh oh oh oh oh
She got both feet on the ground
And she’s burning it down
Ohhhh oh oh oh oh
She got her head in the clouds
And she’s not backing down
This girl is on fire…
This girl is on fire…
She’s walking on fire…
This girl is on fire…” – Girl On Fire by Alicia Keys