Rip Current

“Are you a new patient?”

My mouth answers yes, but my mind rebels: I’m not a patient. I’m here to consult about an abnormality that has definitely been identified as not cancer.

We have a gift for you.”

Presenting me with a large, well-crafted tote bag prominently displaying the center’s logo. Like a welcome gift for joining a club. I take it and say thank you out loud. But inwardly I think: I don’t want advertisement, inclusion. This is not a club I want membership in.

“We have a navigator waiting for you.”

There it is. The unwitting acknowledgement of my feelings and thoughts since the call I received after my ‘regularly-scheduled’ mammogram. Caught in the undertow of the medical system’s ocean. Being pulled ever farther away from the shore of my control and deeper into the turbulence of unknown. A navigator? Can she steer me back to solid ground? Or at least keep me in a depth where I can stand and speak my desires into the situation?

Hours of waiting with very little information follow, progressively leading to frustration, impatience, judgement, sympathy. I’m grateful for the facility, the physicians and staff, the number of rooms. I’m sad so much is needed, and I know it’s still not enough based simply on my wait time.

“You have some interesting things going on.”

Finally time with the doctor. Honestly, this is not a comforting opening sentence to the ears of a generally healthy person. The last time a doctor introduced herself to me using a similar phrase the ultimate agreed upon course was major surgery. However, the issue at that time had significant immediate quality of life impact. Now, no symptoms or obvious physical impairment. Just suspicious blips on a scanned image and unusual tissue incidentally scooped up during the biopsy.

The doctor is patient, providing a helpful thorough explanation and a return of some decision making to me. No surgery, surveillance. So, now I’m a tangential member of the club: every six months for two years – barring any detected changes. The doctor and physician assistant apologize repeatedly for the long wait. Dismissing my self-centeredness in the light of new awareness and compassion for all involved I answer,

“You likely experience days like this much more often than I do.”


Image: Gunnison River, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park