I'm reading an Elle article about H&M's new sustainable clothing line. Typically, I'd be pouring over the story of two women creating cutting edge fashion that's actually accessible, eating every word and hungry for more. Today, I only catch a handful of words on the page. I can't tune out deafening hum of the overhead fluorescents; I can't ignore the too-loud and too-happy talk show hostess blaring on the tv above my head; I can't stop twitching every time a nurse walks in with a chart in her hand. I'm in the sitting room of an imaging center waiting for a mammogram and ultrasound on my left breast.
Last post, we met our friend Joe and talked about the extended meaning of our chosen site name. I'm back today with one of my own stories of being Nowhere Native, on no familiar ground, headed straight uphill with no road map.
It's our first 88˚ day this year in the Greater Chicago area. The nurse apologizes for the temperature in the room as she presses me into pancake form - the AC is out and we're both beaded with sweat. In the changing room earlier, another nurse had me remove my deodorant with a wet wipe as I changed into a gown. I'm growing increasingly ripe as we switch positions again and again with no hope this poor woman is spared my scent.
Twice now today, I've stood in front of this awful machine - it looks like the old climbers in the LSU gym. I'm not a large-chested girl by any stretch, and it's a struggle to roll, twist and mash me onto the glass to get an adequate picture. I try not to think too much about what's really happening, but my only distraction is the sagging apron draped around my waist to protect my reproductive system from the radiation.
I wasn't particularly looking forward to today to begin with. My last appointment was in December before we left and the labs showed only a possible abnormality - a tremendous improvement from when this all started back in June last year. I'm supposed to have labs every three months until I'm completely clean, but the doctor agreed an extra two months wouldn't shift the outcome exponentially in any direction. I sit on the exam table playing The Room waiting for her to get started.
Anyone who says a PAP doesn't hurt is full of crap. Pardon the description, but shoving a foot of cold steel anywhere that wasn't manufactured to take it is just wrong. The doctor comes in and we make obligatory small talk as she lays me down on the table for my pre-torture breast exam. Mid traveling-joy story she stops me, "Haven't you been doing your self exams?" Sure I have, but that lame rubber tit they hand you in high school doesn't feel anything like my own, and who the hell really knows what's a gland and what's not?
She's decided I have a lump. Left breast. I can't feel it, and I'm oddly calm while she tries to navigate my fingers there. At the end of the visit, I have two new appointments - one with the imaging center and one to check out a potential cyst on one of my ovaries - my labs should be available when I come back for the latter - yay.
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly things change. Today is more proof that life's way too short and this journey has infinite surprises around every single bend. Turns out neither the mammogram nor the ultrasound show anything at all abnormal. I walk out with a yellow piece of paper saying I show no signs of breast cancer. It's one small victory. I get in the car, open the sunroof and drop the windows. Tom Petty's on the air singing Runnin' Down a Dream. I drive more than a little over the speed limit back home to hug my husband. I'm not sure I needed another reminder about our precious little time on this Earth, but life never ceases to happen - it's up to me to keep happening to it first.
Every day, I'm Nowhere Native.