So a funny thing happened as I was getting my mammogram. Well actually it wasn’t very funny. At all.
I had gotten the standard x-rays and been sent to my cubicle to get dressed. The technician would come get me after the doctor gave me the all-clear and I’d be able to go on my way. Except that’s not how it happened. The technician returned to me and said that the doctor wanted two more pictures. At first I was annoyed because I thought the technician had somehow screwed up the initial series, but when I stepped into her room I noticed the machine was set up for an angle she hadn’t used before. She took THAT picture then changed the plastic piece to a very small square one, concentrating on one area of my right breast. I got concerned. When she was done, she told me she wanted me to stay in the x-ray room, keep the gown on, and wait for her to come back after she had shown these additional pictures to the doctor. Now I was nervous. “Keep the gown on.” “Wait here.” Neither of those things sounded good to me.
She returned to the room, and said as sweetly as she could that the doctor had seen something, probably nothing, and that he wanted me to go down the hall to have an ultrasound of the breast. Annoyed to nervous to terrified. As I waited for the ultrasound I had time to text my husband – one of the weirdest texts I’ve ever sent. I hated to tell him like that, but with little time and no access to a phone it was the best I could do.
The ultrasound technician came and introduced herself with a sweet smile – trying to be reassuring. I wondered how many times in a day they go through this routine with some unsuspecting woman. I didn’t feel reassured. I was wishing someone else was with me – my husband, a friend – someone to hold my hand and steady me. As the technician escorted me down the hall to the ultrasound room I grew more and more anxious, beside myself even. I felt myself shaking. I didn’t want to cry in front of these strangers, but I could feel the tears welling. Suddenly time started moving very slowly. Our walk down the hall seemed to take forever.
I lay on the exam table as she maneuvered the wand over my right breast, pushing, pausing, moving etc… I thought I might have a panic attack right there. I knew I needed to calm myself, so I started some self-talk.
- “If there is or isn’t something there, it’s already there, this panic isn’t going to change anything so calm down.”
- “You just got a gyn exam three weeks ago. Dr. W. examined your breasts and didn’t feel anything. If something IS there it must be very small – and small is good.”
And then, I was reminded of my very own words in my sermon this past Sunday – “God comes to us in the midst of our FEAR and speaks PEACE. ‘PEACE be with you.'” In the midst of our fear Jesus speaks peace. I was certainly afraid. Very afraid. Could I say those words to myself? In the midst of this real fear could I accept Jesus’ words of peace for me? Or was it just an empty platitude? Very seldom had I ever had to put my own words (AND Jesus’ words) to the test in such a very serious way.
I said just two days ago that peace would not change the circumstances around us, but that peace could change us. “Peace be with you,” Jesus was speaking to me. I repeated it like a mantra – “peace be with you” – over and over and over as I lay on that table, eyes closed, while that wand pushed, paused and moved. Then the self-talk changed, ever so slightly, but really quite substantially.
- “God is with me, no matter what’s in my breast.”
- “God is with me no matter what happens today.”
- “I have peace through Jesus whether I walk out of here healthy or not.”
- “Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace be with ME.”
And my breathing slowed. And the tears dried. And I was still scared, but it wasn’t like panic. Even when the technician paused the ultrasound and went to get the doctor, and the doctor came in person to do his own pushing, pausing and moving. I didn’t know a lot, but I knew I had Jesus and his peace.
Then the doctor told me I was fine. I WAS FINE.
What he had seen on the x-rays and ultrasound was simply very dense tissue. To say I was (and am) relieved is an understatement. I felt physically lighter. I felt like dancing. I could’ve hugged the man, but he left the room before I sat up. Before he left, he said to me, what I say to all of you women – and those who have women in your lives – “Remember, it’s important to get checked EVERY year.” Amen.
Never in my 20+ years of preaching have I had the words loom so large over me. There was FEAR, and there was PEACE. After I calmed down a bit I was amazed really, and can only chalk it up to the work of the Holy Spirit. Days after preaching about fear, even fear for our own health, I was confronted with exactly that, and was able to find Jesus’ words, Jesus’ peace, to calm me – to center me. And I was/am SO thankful.
So – a few hours removed I’m still a little shaky, still reliving most of the morning, trying to allow the experience to find whatever more permanent place it will have in my life. A scare like this can be a good thing – keep us on our toes, remind us to be grateful, remind us what is really important (and what is NOT), remind us that life is precious and that we are never (despite how we may feel) alone.
Women – if you’re over a certain age – get your mammograms. Those of you who LOVE women over a certain age – make sure they get them.