I don't have cancer. Just before Christmas I felt a lump in my breast. I have been getting lumps since forever, and they always turn out to be nothing, so I wasn't too worried about it. When the holidays were over, I made an appointment to see the doctor for a general checkup. I didn't mention the lump because of magical thinking. He was able to see me in February and I got a referral to get a mammogram because it had been two years since my last one and I have a family history. The nicest facility in Brno has DBT machines, very modern, and is up on a hill around some pretty posh houses, and it's a nice little walk from my place, so I booked an appointment there. I put the whole question of whether I had a lump or a LUMPlump out of my mind: just getting a checkup. I managed to not talk about it and not think about it for basically two months, until the actual day that I had scheduled the mammogram.
In standard Czech waiting room shenanigans, there was nobody to announce myself to when I got to the clinic. Nurses popped in and out of various doors and I tried to say I had an appointment but they waved me away or looked right through me. At one point I actually got up and stood in front of one of them and she snapped that they would call me and to sit back down, so I did. About 30 minutes later, my phone rang, and it was the nurse, who scolded me for being late. "But I'm... I'm right here! In the waiting room!"
So finally she came out and actually looked at me and we went into the room with the super modern machinery and she said that since I was late the doctor wouldn't have time to see me. I scheduled an appointment for the following week, went back out to the waiting room, put on my coat and hat and gloves and Lost. My. Mind.
I just collapsed on a plastic chair in front of the entrance and bawled my eyes out. This is the thing about magical thinking; it only takes you so far. You can convince yourself that worrying won't change anything, which is true, and that you're probably fine, which is true, but somehow the closer you get to reality the more wavery those truths become. I was not worried and I was sure I was totally fine until I was in range of a possible fact, and when that knowledge was snatched from my grasp, it was like someone had disintegrated my skeleton. I kept trying to pull it together and leave and then having another wave of weeping hit me. When I finally got out, I'd cried off all the cold cream on my face, which was red and raw, and my tears turned into little icy crystals while I waited for the bus instead of looking at pretty houses because I didn't have the energy to walk home anymore.
Also, as a side effect of which I am not remotely proud, I wanted very much to find out I had cancer and then go scream myself hoarse at that nurse.
Anyway, so I finally went to the appointment. I was mentally preparing to be kind of snooty with the nurse but it was a different shift and the one who came out of the mammogram door, about 10 seconds after I got my coat off, was perfectly lovely. The whole thing went pretty fast. I told her I'd found a lump, making her the third person I told, and she said "We'll take care of you" in a way that was super brusque and efficient and perfect. Then the doctor called me and said that the mammogram showed nothing but she wanted to do an ultrasound too just to check. She told me I was right to be cautious and concerned, but there was absolutely nothing to on that scan either. So, that's that for two more years.
I passed the plastic chair on the way out and it seemed like it had been years ago. I had been so incredibly frightened -- not of having cancer, honestly, but of not knowing something. I don't know what lesson to take from that -- I almost never let fear keep me from doing what I want to do, even though I'm often very scared I just keep pushing through until I can get to a place where I'm not scared. It felt in that moment like I stood still and it caught me. But walking out of the clinic back into the cold blue felt like victory. Once I'm through it, even if it was awful, it's not a mystery anymore; I think it's the mystery that scares me. I guess that's why I keep doing stuff, because of that feeling, of having the facts, of knowing what the other side of my inexperience feels like.
Anyway everyone knows I'm going to get plowed over in a crosswalk and this whole thing is just to be sure I'm right on that.