By Lorri Barrier
“Okay, the doctor will look at these pictures and be in to talk with you in just a bit.”
The table is comfortable, lights low, it’s blissfully quiet. In any other circumstance, I’d drift to sleep. But this is my second mammogram in two weeks, and I’m on edge. The first one was easy, but then I got the call about the spot, “the area of concern.”
I look around the room, notice fancy drop ceiling tiles that would look nice in our basement, if we ever get around to remodeling it. I close my eyes, become aware of Steve Perry’s familiar voice singing “Faithfully” ever so softly, coming from somewhere in the room.
Faithfully. I was in middle school when that song came out. I was already a C-cup by then. I remember the boy sitting behind me in history class reaching around me, trying to cop a feel. I turned and punched him twice in the shoulder—hard. He never bothered me again.
But later that day I remembered where his hands had been, and they left a sense of shame. Something’s not right about these breasts, announcing to the world that I’m a woman. Because I’m not. I’m still a little girl.
I spent the rest of that year hiding under sweaters and jackets, waiting to grow up.
I look at my watch. 1:22 pm. I take a deep breath and tell myself not to worry. I put my hand to the breast with the spot, try to feel something. I don’t.
A boy I loved touched my breasts when I was sixteen. I remember feeling shocked awake, electrified. I gasped when he kissed me, his hand still under my bra. My breasts were alive for the first time. Sexy.
Sexy, when I lean down to kiss my husband, and he whispers, “Nice view.” This is what I will miss, if I had to lose one or both. How will I feel that way without them?
A knock on the door and the doctor and nurse come in. The doctor is youngish, red-haired, wearing a plaid scarf and coat, as if he just got here. He reminds me of Doctor Who. I smile a little.
“I’m just going to take another look with the ultrasound wand,” he says.
I have to roll on my left side facing the wall, to give this stranger full access to my right breast. I put my arm above my head. His hands move my breast to the desired position. “This gel might be a little cold.”
There’s a picture on the wall, right at eye level, for all of us forced to look this direction. It’s a lone dandelion magnified, a few seeds caught in flight, pulling away from the center, weightless. I think of blowing dandelions into my daughter’s face, her eyes closed, laughing.
It’s odd having an ultrasound on my breast and not my belly, though the connection is unmistakable. All my children preferred to nurse on the right side. Even now at age seven, Morgan often rests her hand there while we read a story or if I lie with her as she goes to sleep. Her hands remember. For the first part of her life, my breasts were food, comfort, home.
I look back at the dandelion, and I see the similarity to the image they took earlier, my ducts and veins aglow with radiation, like strands of Christmas lights, like fragile white dandelion fluff clustered around a nucleus. Not like my breast at all—a cross section in a textbook. From my angle I had to look askance at the image, my untrained eyes searching for the spot.
“I think it looks okay,” the doctor says after a few minutes. “I’m happy with this. The same spot on the second mammogram doesn’t look like something we need to be concerned about. We’ll see you in a year for your annual.”
I exhale the breath I’ve been holding all week. I practically jump off the table.
I wore my pretty bra, pink with black lace, and I look at myself in the mirror as I pull it back over my shoulders.
In the hallway to the lobby, I see exam room doors closed, and I know there is a woman behind each one. A woman with a life, a woman holding her breath, another woman releasing hers, another still waiting to take the next step of a difficult journey.
Outside, the sky is a perfect Carolina blue. I inhale. It’s warm; it feels like spring in February. It feels like a new day. It feels like a second chance at everything.
The radio says tomorrow we might get snow. It will probably just be a little bit, but the kids will be excited.
I’ll believe it when I see it.
About the Author: Lorri Barrier is a teacher at Stanly Community College in Albemarle, NC. She married with three children, and lives in Mt. Pleasant, NC. She has always enjoyed writing, and finds her inspiration from nature, daily life, and childhood memories. She feels lucky to live on farmland that has been in her family for over 100 years, and much of what she writes is tied to her rural upbringing.
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