In Sickness and in Health: Getting Through a False Alarm
In my fear, I felt as if I were totally and irreversibly on my own. Those words have echoed in my ears ever since my skydiving instructor said, "When you leave this plane, you are totally and irreversibly on your own." It wasn't a tandem jump. It was a static line, so you were, in fact, on your own. And as I floated past the soft green grass of a landing field where you were supposed to land, and headed toward the parking lot of metal cars, where you were not supposed to land, I realized "on your own" was not the best place for me to be. In my defense, although I was steering (there were cords you could pull to turn slightly right or left), there was a giant arrow on the ground that the people who worked there turned to point you in the right direction, and the parking lot was in the direction the giant arrow was pointing.
What I failed to notice (since I was totally and irreversibly on my own) was that, at a certain point, they turned the arrow in the opposite direction so that I would be heading into the wind, which naturally slows you down. But by the time I noticed, it was too late. I was too low. I remember people yelling supportive things like "Don't land on my car!" and I remember that instead of the five-point landing we had practiced over and over (feet, calf muscle, thigh muscle, buttocks, push-up muscle), I did a one-point landing, on my butt, directly onto the gravel.
So I was not so good on my own. And cancer seemed like something you had to do on your own, because in the end, it's a battle inside your own body.
My fiancé went with me to the follow-up appointment, and this time when I got the mammogram, it was all about the left breast. There were more angles, and more care was taken to get the X-rays exactly right. Then the two of us were told to wait in a special room for results. There was another couple in the room. They were older. They seemed as if they'd been through this before, as if this testing and waiting were part of their lives now, and I feared we too might be destined to become people for whom this would become routine.
After what seemed like an eternity (20 minutes?), the nurse asked me to follow her back into the exam area. I remember that my fiancé did not want to let go of my hand. I thought they might need more film taken, but instead, a female radiologist was waiting to see me. She was sitting in front of my X-rays, which were black and blue and lit from behind. My heart dropped. But she immediately alleviated my worries. She said I was fine. She showed me what had troubled her in the first X-ray, and how the new ones had confirmed that it was just something on the film, or the angle at which the photo was taken…. To be honest, I'm not sure what she said. I don't think I heard anything after "You're fine."