I knew we weren’t going to get good news, so I turned away. Technically, we hadn’t received any news at all—the ultrasound technician had said perhaps ten words the whole time—but that was its own evidence.

When previous scans had been normal, it had been apparent fairly quickly. Because of liability issues, technicians aren’t supposed to say much, but body language and demeanor say enough. When the technician cheerily points out the baby’s head, its chin, its heartbeat, fears are quickly alleviated.

Our technician didn’t speak and hardly looked at us. She stared straight ahead at the monitor. One hand operated the machine’s controls, and with her other arm, she somehow manipulated the ultrasound’s transducer without looking, almost as if she were an extension of the machine.

 

I go for my yearly

mammogram

and

the lady says

if I don’t get a call

in two or three days,

that means

everything is

fine

and then

a postcard comes

in a week.

 

But,

I do get a call

the very next day

in the car,

coming home

from volunteering

with the dogs.

 

The nurse says,

the radiologist

didn’t like

what

he saw.

 

She says,

you have to

come back

and get a

different

mammogram

and

if he doesn’t like

that one,

an ultrasound

too,

she says.

 

I say,

I’m in my car

passing

Mt. Sinai

right now.

I say,

 

I can drop my dogs

home

and

be there in

five minutes,

I say.

 

No,

that won’t work,

she says,

I don’t have any

radiologists

right now.

The soonest I

can get you in

is next

Wednesday,

she says,

at 2:00,

she says.

 

Okay,

I say,

but there’s

no way that

I can get in

earlier?

 

Well,

she says,

I can put you

on the

waiting list

for cancellations,

but,

you should know,

most people

just don’t

cancel

for this sort of

thing.

 

Okay,

I say.

 

I drive home.

 

I have a bad

feeling.

 

I call the

number back.

 

I say,

can you tell

me

which breast

he doesn’t

like?

I say.

 

She shuffles some

papers

and says

he doesn’t

like

the right one.

 

Oh,

I say,

 

thanks,

I say,

 

see you next

week,

I say.

 

Now

my right

breast

is hurting.

 

I know

it’s in my head

but

it’s hurting

anyhow.

 

The radiologist

doesn’t like

my

right

breast,

I say

to Victor.

 

Victor just

looks

at me.

He never

knows

what

to say.

 

He looks back

at the computer

and keeps

playing Sudoku

while

I talk.

 

If I have to

get a

mastectomy,

I say

to

Victor,

I’m getting

a reconstruction

and I want

it to be

perky

and

I want my

left breast

fixed

to be

perky too,

and

I want to keep my

nipple,

I say,

 

I like my

nipples,

I say.

 

If you have

to have

a mastectomy,

Victor says,

 

you

may not be

allowed

to keep

your nipple,

he says,

 

it depends

where the

cancer

is.

 

I’m

fond

of my

nipples,

I say.

 

That doesn’t

matter,

he says.

 

You’re probably

fine,

he says,

 

it’s probably

nothing,

he says.

 

I have

a

bad

feeling,

I say.

 

Just

don’t think

about

it,

he says.

 

Okay,

I say,

 

but

I am

still

thinking

about it.

 

I am

thinking

about

Vera

and

Pat

and

Ruthie

and

Marcia

and

Sally

and

Michelle.

 

I call

Cindy,

but

she has a

kidney stone

traveling through her

and

she is helping Ken

to move

his collection

of weird-ass mugs

from

one room to

another

and

she will

call me back.

 

She has a kidney

stone,

and it

hurts

and she doesn’t

know

why I called,

and she

probably wasn’t even

told

that

I called,

because they were

busy,

and Ken

always

forgets to tell her,

 

so she

doesn’t call

back,

so I call

back the

next day

but

there is no

answer

and

what could I put

on an answering machine?

 

Then I get

an e mail

from Cindy,

that they have

guests for a few days

and her

kidney stone

has

still

not passed

and

it has been over

two weeks now,

and

I tried and tried

but

I can’t get her

to go to see

a nephrologist,

and now

she has guests

so I know

she can’t

talk anyhow,

 

besides,

her kidney stone

is

100% real,

 

I only have

fear

of something

that

probably is

nothing.

 

At night,

Victor

examines

my breast.

 

Do you feel

anything?

I say,

 

I feel your

ribs,

Victor says,

 

it really isn’t

fair,

he says,

you hardly have

any breasts

at

all,

 

but,

it’s probably

nothing,

he says.

 

I am

trying

to read

but I am not

listening

to the words.

 

I am

trying to paint

but

my mind

is off on a

journey

of its own.

 

Now it’s a week

later,

I am

in the first

waiting room.

 

I feel shaky

and

my brain feels like

it is filled up with

cottonwool.

 

People speak

to me,

but

the people

talking

in my head

are making

so much noise

that I don’t

hear the real people

until the second

or

maybe

third time

they speak.

 

The nurse

takes me to a

different

changing room

than

last time.

 

She gives me

a nubly soft

white

bathrobe,

that is decidedly

small.

 

For a regular

mammogram,

you get a light cotton

bathrobe that is

dark blue.

 

I’m wearing

“the doctor

is not

happy

with your

mammogram”

robe,

just like

The Scarlet

Letter.

 

The X-ray tech

takes three

magnified

images

of the spot,

I can see

the pictures;

they are pretty,

like

the sky

at night.

 

If the doctor

likes what he sees,

she says,

then he will send you

home,

she says,

 

then

she takes me

to a different waiting room,

 

this is “the room

where you wait

to see if the doctor

likes

the new images”

room.

 

All the women

are wearing

the nubly white

tiny

bathrobes.

 

I realize

that no one

has a bathrobe

that remotely

fits.

 

The nurse says,

these were really

nice bathrobes

at first

but then

they came back

from the laundry,

now they are half the size

they started out

and all

crooked.

 

I wonder

why

they didn’t

send them

back.

 

The larger ladies

in the room

cannot close their

robes.

 

We all look

silly.

 

The sign on

every door

says,

TURN OFF ALL CELL PHONES!

but every single

woman gets

or makes

several calls

while in the room.

 

Who’s going to

yell at us?

 

Different nurses come

and call out names.

All these ladies

return to the room

after a while.

 

I realize I am

in “the doctor

doesn’t like

your new images

either”

room.

 

When the nurse

calls my name

I put away my

kindle

which is on the

same page

as when I

arrived

two hours before.

 

I follow her

to the

Ultrasound Room.

 

Okay then,

I say.

 

Vickie is nice

and

she talks to me.

She only does

breast ultrasounds;

she specialized.

She is looking for the

spot,

she says,

 

(Out

Out,

Damn Spot!

I whisper.)

 

but it’s small

and hard to

find,

she says.

 

My arm is above my head

for so long that my hand

falls asleep.

 

I just can’t seem

to find what

the doctor

sees

she says,

 

I say,

maybe it’s

nothing.

 

She says,

finally,

here it is!

 

I’ll show you

when we’re done.

She snaps

lots of pictures.

 

I say,

I saw the mammograms

and they just looked like

stars in a

constellation.

 

You’ll see this,

she says.

 

She pulls me up

by my hand that’s asleep

and I look

at the screen.

There is a

little teardrop shaped

spot

surrounded by dots.

 

It’s small,

but it has some

character,

I say.

 

I am shown back

to the

“this is where

you wait

to find out

what the

doctor sees

in your ultrasound”

room.

 

I open my

kindle,

but I can’t make out

the words.

 

A lady comes

after a while.

She is dressed

like a regular

person,

not like a

medical

person.

 

She says,

I’m Amy,

please come with me,

I am the

Patient Navigator.

 

I laugh,

I say,

your title is

actually

Patient Navigator?

 

She acts surprised

that I find it a

funny title,

I took her card

so people would

believe me.

 

She says,

the doctor saw a spot

that was there last year

but this year

it was bigger

so he wanted

to look at it

more closely.

 

She says,

two radiologists looked

at all your

images

and

they both think

your spot

is just an

errant

lymph node,

she says,

 

we need to see you

back in six months

for another

diagnostic mammogram,

she says.

 

I say,

if it got bigger,

why wait

six months

and

look again?

Why not

just biopsy it

and

be done

with it?

 

The Patient Navigator

stands up

and says,

follow me,

I’ll let you

talk to the

radiologist.

 

She navigates me

to another room.

 

I sit

and wait

again.

 

The doctor comes in.

He says he doesn’t

know why it’s gotten bigger

perhaps

it was because different people

did the

mammograms

a year apart,

but,

he says,

it looks like

a totally normal

lymph node.

 

I say,

are there usually

lymph nodes

inside

the breast tissue?

 

He says,

no,

if women have lymph nodes

in their breast tissue,

they are

usually along the side

and

you have them on the side

as well,

but this one is in the

middle,

which is

unusual.

 

Why not take

it out?

I say.

 

He says,

because it looks like

a totally normal

lymph node

that is in

an unusual place.

 

You come back

in six months

and

we’ll do this all

again,

he says,

it’s

probably

nothing,

if I thought

it were

something

I would tell you

and

we would

biopsy it.

 

I say,

okay,

thank you.

 

I go back to the changing

room and

change out of

the silly robe.

 

In the car

I call Victor

I tell him

what the doctor

said.

 

Victor says,

did you tell him that you fell

on that breast in January

hard enough to break

your ribs on that side?

 

I say,

no,

I didn’t say that.

 

He says,

you have to call

when you get home

and tell him;

that was

withholding

information!

 

So I call

when I get home.

After the phone mail,

I get a person

and I ask to leave a message

for the doctor.

 

I say,

I broke my ribs

on the right side

in January,

when I fell on a huge

glass sake bottle

onto the sidewalk

which also hurt my

breast.

She says she’ll

give him the note.

 

My phone is still silent

because of

the signs,

but I

forget

to turn it on again.

 

I notice a message

from the doctor.

 

He says,

falling really hard on

a large glass sake bottle

onto the sidewalk with

that breast

had absolutely

positively

nothing

to do with

this errant

lymph node.

 

He says,

call me

if you have

any questions

or concerns.

 

It is a nice message,

I decide to leave it

on my phone,

 

because,

it appears

it

really

is

nothing.