I enter the breast care center, check in, and take a seat. Though there are few people in the room; there is a sense of dread and trepidation that hangs in the air. It feels almost like a sacred space as I am acutely aware of all the prayers, meditations, and laments that have been spoken in this room whether aloud or silently. I can imagine behests to God, Jesus, Allah, Adonis, and more, some likely in languages I cannot speak yet somehow understand. Woven of angst, sorrow, and trepidation: I imagine them asking for more time, good news.
My name is called and I complete the mammogram: This is year two post-diagnosis.
In the weeks prior to these appointments, I find myself thankful for business at work and home leaving less time to catastrophize about potential results. I consider myself lucky: DCIS stage zero. Though I am aware of the excellent prognosis the arrival of these exams finds me enveloped in unfettered fear at least for a period of time.
After the exam, I am escorted to a smaller room to await the results. The tiny room creates an almost claustrophobic feeling — though it isn’t the walls that appear to be closing in — more my own mind. Anxiety reaches a fever pitch in these little rooms oft reserved for the telling of unwelcome news. I steady myself for what may come, both in the next few minutes, days, months, even years.
Superstition and pessimism do not allow me to expect good news. Rather I begin to grapple with the unknowns. I spit out my prayers in this tiny room each year and I imagine them adding to the cacophony of those before and after me. In this room, there is a more frenetic tone or at least it feels that way. The last two visits my prayers have been answered but I always wonder about others who have shared this space.
I know I will be back the next year and the news may be different but I know that I cannot allow my mind to remain here in this space. So as I walk out I remember to feel the sun on my skin and shed some of the weight the weeks of anticipation have added. Until next year, breast care center.
Courtney Markham-Abedi is a psychiatrist.
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