I had my annual mammogram today. Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer -- a little over 13 years ago -- I've had a lot of them. Occasionally something weird shows up, I have a biopsy or an aspiration or whatever, and then we do them three times a year and then two times a year and them we go back to annual mammograms.
I work hard at not stressing as I get close to my appointment, and I'm pretty good at keeping myself busy with enough stuff that I don't have much time to sit around and imagine the worst. And then I show up for the appointment, careful to bring something really interesting to read (today's choice is a fantasy novel I'm working on: Canticle) so that I won't be tempted to pick up on the almost, to a Pisces, palpable fear and concern that fills the waiting room of the mammography center.
I don't really mind the physical discomfort of the mammogram. The more tightly the technician squeezes my breasts between the plates, the better picture she gets. And I want her to get a very good one. And it's only for a few seconds, at any rate.
And, then, she takes the lead apron off of me and says, "OK, you can put your gown on." (It always kills me. I want say, "Babe, Balenciaga made gowns. That's a cotton bathrobe that doesn't really tie together in any comprehensible fashion." Instead, I say, "Thanks.") At that point, she sends me to a chair outside the room with the machinery and takes the pictures to show them to the doctor. I've learned that the longer it takes for her to come back, the more likely she is to say, "Doctor wants just a few more views, so please step back in." She won't tell you anything else. Asking, "Did the doctor see something?" won't get you any good information. But the more times that she comes back and says, "Sorry, we need just a few more," the less likely the news is to be good.
And, so, at that point, sitting there in the chair, sure that too much time has gone by, that's when I ground. That's when I breathe, and focus on my breath, and breathe myself into a still, quiet place where, whatever happens, I'm going to be able to handle it. I stand at the crossroads, not sure if I'm well or ill, and I call to Hecate, Mistress of Liminal Spaces. That's one of the times when I'm most grateful for a daily practice, for all the other 364 days of the year when I've practiced grounding and breathing and calling to my Matron Goddess.
And, most days, like today, the wait really isn't that long and the doctor doesn't want any more pictures. Instead, the technician ushers me into a "consultation room" and the doctor comes in and says, "Everything looks great. See you in a year."
May it be so for you.
Now, when many of us are organizing our 2011 calendars, is a great time to go ahead and make a monthly appointment with yourself to do a breast self-exam. Pick a day a month or two before your next mammogram is due and make an appointment to call and schedule it. When you do schedule it, maybe you can schedule something nice for later that day: lunch with a friend, a trip to a museum, a manicure, a nap. Or don't make a big deal about it and plan to go straight back back to work or to pick up the kids. Whichever, but just do it.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."