Thursday, October 27, 2016

As I pull into the parking lot I am suddenly overcome by fear and anxiety.  I laugh out loud at my trepidation and step out into the light of a new day: I'm 40 now.  My first mammogram.  A bizarre rite of passage I hadn't expected to hold with any significance.

Anticipating the usual trappings of a doctor's office I march myself inside the ordinary medical building and am greeted by a courteous and calm younger woman who directs me to an inner waiting room where Ellen is playing on a large screen TV over a huge stone fireplace.  A point to clarify: it's not just any Ellen episode; it's Snoop Dogg and Martha Steward.  Awesome.  I laugh again as I take in the comfortable couches, a coffee/tea station and no cheesy magazines in sight.  Only Cosmopolitan. Bizarre.

Very unlike a doctor's office, I hardly wait a moment before my name is called and I am transported to a boutique spa instead of the expected sterile clinic environment.  Low wood tables with orchid arrangements and tasteful art greet me.  We wind through a maze of corriders as I fight a sensation of Alice falling down the hole with tables, clocks, paintings on the walls all breezing past. I'm ushered to a changing room by the spa medical attendant.  This is no cell-block with green curtains or heavy hospital doors like at a regular clinic, but truly a changing room with sliding wood doors, hooks on the walls, a comfortable bench and again, flowers on a low wood table. It feels more like changing rooms at a high end department store than a medical facility.

Just as I am disrobed and ready, the attendant returns and ushers me into the sanctum sanctorum, the inner room. Here the illusion is disrupted. This is a sterile, though warm, empty space of a room with a large x-ray machine in the middle.  The machine looks like a giant telescope or ray gun with an odd little tray table right at chest height.

I've heard about the squishing mechanism of the machine, but have not visualized exactly what that looks like until I see it in person.  Yes.  It squishes.  Yes.  It hurts.  Yes, it's a bizarre sensation. But when it's over I realize the fear I've been feeling is past.  I'm not afraid of cancer.  I'm not afraid of doctor's offices.  I'm not afraid of anything but my own failures.  And here, I have not failed.

To reward me for my bravery I'm given a bright pink gift bag with chocolates, a nail file, sanitizer and a pen.  Things a woman needs?   Things I've earned?  Still- I walk out with a proud sensation that I've accomplished something.  I retrieve my clothes from behind my wooden door and fill out a raffle ticket for a lovely gift basket in the hall.  The signs lead me back through the maze (now I'm brave, I can find my own way) and dump me back out into the bright parking lot.

Lately I've been talking a lot about being brave.  About riding on the power of your own wings.  This little procedure is nothing compared to what I'm sure I will face in my future.  But for now it is my secret little victory against fear.  

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