Gratitude

The canary yellow hospital gown hung limply off her body. It  felt like hours since the doctor had last left to discuss with another professional about the ‘mass’ in question. Leaving the woman with only her thoughts. The small office she sat in was well lit, yet had an ominous looming sort of ambiance. Although she desperately tried to keep her thinking light, she continued to go back to the day she had first found it.

The woman, the wife, the mother of two, had found a lump on her chest. It was not a lump that could be disregarded with a movement of mind, or overlooked with an adjustment of hand. It was a lump. A lump that tainted her psyche from the first  time her slight fingers ran over it. In a vain attempt to discredit the thing she  chalked it up to a pimple, because in some cruel turn of fate she was at her age creating blemishes and wrinkles simultaneously.  But after several weeks of pretending it was something it wasn’t, involuntary reaching for it and feeling its girth she knew it was not something that would just disappear.

Now as the woman sat, she thought about her life. She thought about the man she had loved since she was a ripe nineteen years old. The man she went on to marry and have two beautiful children with, the man who loved her and their family more than life itself, she was so lucky to have this man. She thought about her children and how just before she had left the house her son asked why she was going to see the doctor, she had replied with a smile, “The doctor is just going to check and make sure Mama is healthy.” What would she tell her son when she arrived home today?

The girl, who was not so much feeling like a woman anymore but a frightened child, had her thoughts cut short by a knock on the rooms door, which now felt much larger than before.

“Come in.”

“Sorry that took so long,” the doctor began, “because of the precarious nature of the masses location, we do feel that it warrants further investigation. I’ve booked you in for an ultrasound and a mammography.”

“So should I be worried?” It was all she could gather herself  to say in the moment, “because if it is…you know…cancer, it is good that the lump is so small right?” ‘Grasping at straws’ was her initial thought as the words escaped her mouth.

“I’m not going to say whether anything is good or bad, for now we just need to get some more information on the mass. Don’t let yourself go straight to ‘cancer’ it could be anything.”

The doctor was right, she thought, he is a doctor after all. The idea did not give way to her spinning imagination. She quickly took the requisition form from his hand and made way for her escape vehicle. She could feel that oh so familiar feeling in her throat as it began to close up, hyperventilation was starting, but the tears would not come. It is too soon to cry, she thought, there are no facts, no  evidence to give way to fraught.  All she had was the paranoia of what could be. How could one small disfigurement cause this sort of upheaval? The woman sat in her car for some time, not wanting to go home, not knowing what to say once there.

As she walked in the front door, she was bombarded by her mother who had been watching the kids.

“So what happened?”

“They’re not sure what it is, I’m going in for an ultra sound next Wednesday to get it checked out.” Stick to the facts, do not let your emotions interfere. Do not scare the people you love, for no reason other than your own anxiety. Her thoughts were choppy and she didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Her son approached her

“Mama, the doctor said you healthy?”

The question was so simple, and yet it was all the woman could do to not grab the child and just hold him and cry out of apprehension, because she truly didn’t know the answer. She could not find a good way to respond to the boy, but knew he wouldn’t really understand an overly layered response either. She could feel her mother’s eyes on her, and knew she was interested in how her daughter would reply to such a delicate query.

“Mama, is going back to the doctors for another check.”  The answer seemed to suffice in the young boys mind and he gave the woman a hug and continued on with his train play. The woman and her mother spoke quietly for a few more minutes, and then parted their separate ways.

This morning the woman woke, with the innate urge to write down how she was feeling. She wanted to write about her fear of the future, her anxieties of this threatening upcoming appointment. She wanted to write about her children and her husband. She wanted to write about herself. Once starting to type these lines, the woman realized she could write about all of these things but one. She could not write about it as though happening to her,  because for right now it still seemed as though it could simply be a story. A tale about an imaginary  woman, who one day  found a lump.

*********

The warm gelatin lay heavily on her chest. The ultrasound technician had left her waiting with breath that was baited, to go confer with the on-site doctor about the images just captured.  The woman could not think about what would be said when the professional entered back into the small room. She waited. She counted the tiles on the roof. 35. She desperately looked around for something to distract her mind, nothing. No posters, wall hangings or anything to gaze at from her compromising position as she lay on the cold hard examination table.

The door opened suddenly, it was not the pretty girl who had been performing the procedure, but an old man who called himself the ‘Doctor So-and-so’. He asked the woman where exactly the lump was, then felt it for himself and took a few strokes with the ultrasound wand.

The woman’s mind reeled, why would the doctor have to come in? Surely this must mean devastation, it was the only place for her mind to go. Then with words so lightly spoken the man said, “From what we can see here, the mass isn’t in the breast tissue, more than likely it’s just a cyst. You will want to get it removed, but I can’t see any indication that it would be cancerous. I will contact your doctor’s office for a follow up appointment.”

With that being said the man left the room abruptly. Leaving the woman to sigh relief in private.  As she dressed her upper half back to its clothed state, she thought about how lucky she was. Walking out of this place she would get to tell her friends and family, who had been so worried, that it was only a mere cyst.

It made her think of those who do not get out so easily, those who have to be told that yes, it is Cancer.  These people have strength that this woman can’t even imagine. Although she had only got a distant image of how her life would have changed in such circumstances, she could see a bit more clearly of how strong and brave these patients really are.  In that small room with 35 roof tiles, the woman gave a silent prayer for all of the people who haven’t got off as easily as her.

On the drive home, again the woman contemplated of her life. Only this time it was gratitude that guided the her thoughts. She was thankful for her parents, who provided love and security in her young years.  Her brother who had always been an open ear and a wide shoulder when life felt lost.  She thought about the friendships which had endured over her years, and gave her strength to conquer in times of strife.   She gave thanks that she was blessed with such a loving husband, who had provided her with the two most important entities she would ever be given. Her children.

It is not often in our bustling schedules that we can take a moment to stop and think about our life. A life that is magnetic and beautiful. A life that is sometimes taken for granted.  I was recently given the allowance to do so, and as fate would have it, with little repercussions.

When I arrived home that day I thanked my mom for being with me.  I hugged my kids. I kissed my husband and I called my best friend. I spent the rest of the day with Jamie and the kids, we built train tracks and played ‘My Little Pony’. We laughed at Lars’ funny and sometimes strange outbursts and reveled in Sophie’s belly laugh.  And for these small rewards, this woman will always be grateful.

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