I walk into the small changing room and sit down facing the mirror. For 15 minutes. I finger the too large gowns that open in the front. And then someone knocks on the door asking if I’m OK. I say yes, but am I? No. With all the seemingly back-to-back bullshit that’s been finding its way to me, no, I am not OK. But I stare in the mirror at this unsure person who I don’t believe I’ve looked at all morning and shake my head no while saying yes out loud. When I come out, there are three women waiting to change. My bad.
I hug the over-sized gown to me, ashamed that it wraps around twice, angry that something foreign has formed itself in my small breast. I sit in the waiting room fighting the urge to cry and run. It’s amazing the amount of things that float through your mind in a small amount of time:
Will it hurt? Will it be cancerous? I wish I had some leave so I could go home after this. Where is the nearest Chipotle? I should buy a flask. This room smells like feet. Will it hurt? Did I eat all the Pringles? You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have the facts of life. It’s 9:08. Will I still be sitting here at 9:20? It’s 9:25. Sometimes I think being a crackhead would be so much easier than trying to be normal. It’s 9:30.
When she calls my name, I gather my purse and bag and follow her into the same room I had a breast ultrasound in two weeks ago. She’s young, speaking too fast with a slight Caribbean accent. When she asks if I understand, I just nod. I’ve understood nearly nothing she’s said though. My head is swimming. I feel faint, nauseous, and my stomach hates me yet again. I feel the familiar stirrings and vow not to shit on myself on this table. Commence to clenching. Concentrate. It’ll pass.
When she starts talking about leaving a titanium marker in my breast for ease in finding the lump during subsequent mammograms or sonograms, I balk. Where is the adult who should make this decision for me? It won’t rust, won’t set off metal detectors, but it may show up on x-ray screenings at the airport, she’s saying. Where is the adult who should make this decision for me?
Unable to make a decision, the nurse coordinator comes in to expound on the helpfulness of the marker. Where the hell is the adult who should make this decision? She has to be here somewhere; she wouldn’t have just left me on this table in a too-big, poorly laundered, once pink gown. Maybe she went for coffee.
The original, accent laden nurse asks if my age and number of children is correct on the form. Because I look so good to have had three children. She hopes to look as good as me when she has more; she’s 28 with a 10 month old. And I don’t look tired to her. And I don’t look 38 to her. And I’m so slim. And she touches my knee. I immediately think I should call my husband to say there’s a young girl who wants to make out with me. And I might at least let her rub my back.
Still unable to make a decision, the doctor enters and explains that the marker will aid them, isn’t a risk factor for aggravating the lump, and she needs to know my reservations. I don’t know my reservations. My adult has left. Gone for coffee and a chocolate scone. The doctor explains the procedure yet again and I lie back with my right arm above my head. Will it hurt? I should have painted my nails. I don’t like the new Dora. The back of my hair is going to be flat. Avon should have never told them where to find Stringer Bell.
The doctor finds the lump via sonogram. Lidocaine burns. It doesn’t hurt, but there is lots of pressure. It’s mobile, she says. And big enough to where they won’t need to leave the marker anyway; it’ll be easy to find again if the recommendation is surgical removal. Its mobility is an indicator of it being benign, but it’s always good to make sure. Afterward, the nurse touches my shoulder and I almost tell her that yes, she can rub my back. If she lets my husband watch. I am so thoughtful.
On the subway, an older couple asks for directions. I tell them which train they need, but all I want to say, to shout to everyone within earshot, is I had a needle in my boob earlier. At work later, whenever someone asks a question, my mind shouts Needles! Boobs! Back rubbing nurses! I take every Tylenol given; the soreness is a nuisance. At home I lie down, a small boy cradled in the crook of my legs watching Shrek. I am not responsible for dinner or homework or baths or books or tucking in. I am grateful because the tears have been threatening all day and I’m sure that somebody asking for more chicken is going to push me over the edge. My husband rubs my head and I smile, thankful that I don’t have to wash the dishes. I wish this was some sort of elaborate ruse I’ve devised to get out of dish washing. Oh, how I wish. (Also laundry. The act of folding fitted sheets is devil borne).
As I remove the dressing the following day, I again stare at myself. I stare at the biopsy site, at this woman I sometimes don’t know. This too-small breasted non-adult. This woman with gauze taped to her chest. And then I vow to not accept that nurse’s advances. She is the worst titty taper ever.