In the soft light of the small massage room the angelic hum of the tuning forks rang in my ears. My gentle friend whispered kind and humble prayers over my heart, hovering over the suspicious lump that I had earlier confessed my stress of finding and had been confirmed on a recent mammogram.
Just 16 months earlier I had dropped everything that was important to my health with the loss of my daughter. The dentist appointment, the mammogram, the colonoscopy, daily medication, exercise, makeup. When one of the most precious gifts I had been given was taken from me, I lost the ability to care. In the first few days, weeks and months, it took enough effort just to shower, brush my teeth, and eat.
As I sat and watched my youngest daughter getting her nails done for prom last month, I impulsively got mine done, only later to determine it wasn’t something that I wanted to maintain. It has become clear to me that I like control in my life, and I didn’t like having to be tied to a nail appointment schedule every three weeks, it seemed high maintenance
After my nail appointment though, the dentist office called and asked if I was ever going to grace them with my presence again. My yearly cleaning was almost two years overdue. Since I couldn’t hang up with them without making an awkward excuse, I went in the following day for the masochistic dental cleaning treatment of someone that hadn’t been flossing or caring for over a year.
The following week I had to walk by the walk-in mammogram clinic at work. I felt a nagging sense that I needed to go. It was time to care, just a little about my own needs and I knew my daughter would want me to start taking better care of myself. I was escorted into a dressing room, handed a cape and a bathrobe and was seated in the uncomfortable sterile looking sitting room. All the chairs were turned in so we could all stare at each other and wonder who was there for a screening and who was there with something more serious but instead of talking about the elephant in the room, we all sat silently waiting for our name to be called like we were waiting to be called into the principal’s office. You’d think they would personalize the room to feel less hospital like, the art around the room staring at me as if to say, “well we tried.”
The mammogram took extra long as the technician made unneeded small talk while she grabbed and maneuvered my breast into the cold plastic vice grip. As I turned my face and raised my arm so my breast could be flattened like a pancake, I heard her say someone would be calling me in the next couple days. I’d never heard that said before. I’ve worked in the operating room long enough to know what they are look for, so I looked over at the images on the screen. I could see an egg shape image. with solid white in the center. I got dressed and headed back to work. I knew they would call and I knew I’d be back.
A few days later I was shopping zombie style at the corner store after a long day at work, just wandering aisle to aisle randomly throwing things into my cart. My phone rang and the nurse asks me to come back in for two more tests. I told her I’ve been waiting for the call, I saw the images. She seemed relieved that I wasn’t hysterical.
The next day is when I visited my friend at her massage office and I told her about my lump. I told her about how two years earlier, 6 months before my daughter passed, I had no lump visible on any imaging. In a similar amount of time as the time I have been without my daughter, I have grown a lump, but not just anywhere, directly over my heart right over my chest muscle in the breast tissue. I know because I read the measurements, and somehow thought it poetic that my body found that spot as a place to grow an odd-ball lump, right over my broken heart,
I’ve never met a more real person than my friend and massage therapist. There is nothing pretentious about her and I truly believe she has faith to move mountains. After my massage, she placed her hands where my lump was said to be and she prayed. She didn’t just pray like a quick “our father,” or something similar to grace at a Sunday dinner, but whole-heartedly prayed for a very long time.
Before the additional tests I envisioned the process of cancer treatment, of surgery and medications. I thought of the things I felt I still wanted to do in this world. I hadn’t thought about any goals or a future in 16 months. I decided I needed to commit to caring about myself and to do the things I needed to do even if my heart still remains broken. A couple days later I sat nervously waiting after my ultrasound. The radiologist came in and showed me my images What was a round image with white inside was now a scattered layered mass on top of the muscle It did not look cancerous They would watch it I’m thankful for the desire to care again, and thankful for the praying hands.