A few days too late for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I returned to the “Breast Health” center at my hospital for the first time since I lay sobbing on a table with a biopsy needle in my boob just over a year ago. Each time I enter, the atmosphere of instant intimacy across age, race, class, religion, ethnicity strikes me. Pick any one of the silly variables that divide us daily; they all disappear.
In the first waiting room, I chatted about coupons with the African-American woman at least ten years my senior who has rung me up at the grocery store and pharmacy for years. The South Asian technician, who placed my ungainly glands in the vise devised to identify any cells with sinister schemes, shared a laugh about our husbands’ eccentric reactions to childbirth. Afterwards, I waited for a changing room with other women ambivalent about heading into a Friday at work. Everyone suggested that someone else go first. As I left, a daughter about my age explained to another technician that her mother would go straight from whatever procedure she was about to endure to her treatment. It was but the beginning of “a very long day.” The mother looked drawn and wan as she slipped behind the changing room door.
Which of the women there merely needed an annual check? Which were about to have the ‘diagnostic’ mammograms and ultrasounds that preceded my biopsy? How many would fight tears while the machine charged with extracting a ‘sample’ and a bit of their soul whooshed in the background? Of those, how many would dance down the hall as I had when the doctor said all was well? How many would get a different call?