I feel their eyes on me, whenever I walk into the breast specialist's office, or in the waiting room at the mammography suite. There's just a flicker. As most of the women in these rooms are here for their own reasons, whether recently diagnosed, survivors, or those who are currently in treatment. I never really know their stories. But, I note the varying levels of fear hidden behind their eyes. When they see me, I note their faces, which say: Why is she here? So young. she looks so healthy. Is she sick...maybe a young survivor?
I have similar thoughts as I furtively scan the room, taking in each woman perched on her cushioned chair. If I am being honest, I'm always looking for Mom. She's there in the hopeful eyes of the younger patients. She's there in the efficient and warm greeting of the office staff (she was everybody's favorite patient). I see her clearly in the eyes of the ladies who look to be between 50-60 years old, scrolling through photos of their grandchildren on their smartphones. And, as discreetly as I can, I look to find her in the elderly ladies that sit in their respective chairs. But she is not there. She didn't get to make it that far.
My breath catches a little, and I steady myself, putting my head back into the world of the book in my lap.
These are not rooms, where people strike up chatty conversations. Most women keep to themselves, or quietly talk with whomever they have brought as their support systems. But, me? I come alone.
My mother was 37 1/2 years old, at the time of her first diagnosis. She was so young--too young. Recently divorced, and single-parenting three kids ages 3 1/2-12. She had to be so damn brave. And, she was. She had a close friend that would come along to her appointments, or she had her mother by her side. But, when she came home from chemo to the three of us, and to that empty bed, I can only imagine how scared she must have been.
Whenever I find myself in these waiting rooms, I can't help but feel my mother sitting in the empty seat beside me. So, no--I'm not alone, really. I have my angel planted firmly by my side, keeping me calm, and reassuring me, that if a diagnosis were to come, that I am fully equipped to fight head on, like she did.
Of course, my larger hope is that I will only come up close and personal with breast cancer once a year--when I hold my breath, as the compression of the mammography machine squishes my flesh as flat as a pancake, and when my doctor, gives me an "All clear. See you next year."
But, if there comes a time, when I am called to play the hand that my mother, and other women like her have been dealt, my prayer is that I will be able to meet it head on, without fear, and put cancer on the list as just one more thing that I have overcome.
This post is dedicated to every woman who has been touched by breast cancer, and who has fought the good fight. May the cure be close at hand.
With love and gratitude,