Fear of the Unknown
Everyone lives with fear. When will the day come when we have to face one of our biggest fears? For me, the day came at age 47, when I went in for a routine mammogram and emerged with devastating news. "We found a cyst cluster. You need to come back for a stereotactic biopsy."
Those words sounded like a foreign language and took hours to sink in. Then, the English translation finally hit me: I might have breast cancer.
Now if you look on the Internet (which they always tell you not to do), it’s easy to find a cyst cluster explained away. Oh, it’s something that happens with age and it’s usually benign. Usually. I was not reassured. My mother had recently finished breast-cancer treatment and my best friend had died from the disease. “Usually” did not ease my worry.
To add to the trauma, I had to undergo a procedure I had never heard of. A stereotactic biopsy is not a plain needle biopsy — it involves lying face down on a table, fitting your breast into a hole, and having a needle inserted from the bottom. I had no idea if it would be painful or how long it would take. All I knew was I was too afraid to take the appointment they offered me for the next day. Instead, I chose to prolong my own agony and put off the procedure for another two weeks.
What a mistake. It would be bad enough waiting for the results, but the extra weeks of anticipatory anxiety were paralyzing. In the middle of the most mundane activities, a voice inside my head would mutter, “What if you have breast cancer?” I had three children and a husband who needed me.
When the dreaded day arrived, I somehow kept my nerves in check. The radiologist could not have been nicer and the procedure was quick and mostly painless. The next few days would be much worse: the fear was overwhelming.
Three days later, the phone rang at 8 am. I answered with my heart pounding through my chest. As soon as I heard the word “benign,” I realized that I had been holding my breath for weeks. I hadn’t spoken the words out loud to anyone but my husband, hoping I would be fortunate enough to be able to share the happy-ending version of my story. Seven years later, I’m so grateful that I can.