This week I went for an annual physical, and I had that mammogram I mentioned the other day, and then the next day I got a call saying they needed to take some more pictures, and oh by the way it needed to be an appointment right next to an ultrasound appointment, just in case.
It’s been a hard few months, and I will admit that I sunk to the floor, even though this was not bad news, actually, only a request to have me come in and give them a chance to get more clarity. But in this era of being afraid to wonder “what’s next?” it felt like hard information to take in, emotionally or intellectually.
Over the next two days I told a few friends, employed avoidance/denial as a spiritual practice, cooked soup and baked muffins from scratch, wielded a shovel with unexpected power and wrote a sermon.
Today, I went for the second mammogram, and I had to admit I was terrified. Suppose something was actually wrong with me? I have a new job and I’m newly divorced and I live alone with a teenager and I have no family in the area and not a long list of the kinds of friends locally who would see you through a crisis because I stopped being a regular person when I became a pastor and became all about my work and my friends are also clergy who work too many hours and…
then I was standing in the dressing room in a gown, waiting. And I prayed.
“I’m all yours. No matter what. I’m grateful to be alive and grateful for the love I have in my life. I’m all yours.”‘
It should not be amazing how much better I felt after that. I mean, I am a pastor. I am living a committed spiritual life. Not that the two necessarily go together, but I’d like to think they do for me. Mostly. But I am so easily spun off my stem, so ready to throw my own petals onto the fire and send myself up into smoke, when there is no need.
It felt good to stop that and pray.
Various new views were taken, in an attempt to get a better view of a suspicious area that might be nothing. The technician was fabulous, explaining exactly what we were doing, as if we were teammates in this effort, which was basically to compress the tissue (aiyiyi!!!) exactly right in case all they had seen was a wrinkle or something, in hopes that the wrinkle or something would clearly not be there after all.
I sat in the dressing room waiting, surprisingly calm, wondering if it was better or worse for her to come back quickly. Did it resemble how long a jury stayed out? I thought about the many women in my new church family who are breast cancer survivors. I thought about how they are thriving, in fact. I thought about how bad news doesn’t have to be the end of the world and wondered why I always assume it will be? I thought all this in an oddly calm fashion, for me.
Then she reappeared, smiling, and said, I kid you not, “Yay!!! We made it go away!!!”
I had to listen hard to understand what she was saying, but then I smiled, too.
And I prayed the same words again. “I’m all yours.” And then, “Thank you.” And I thought, it’s not in my belief system to believe that God would make something wrong suddenly disappear while we were taking more pictures today, but I feel just as grateful as if that had happened exactly.
(Not a picture of me, or my technician, but you get the idea. And weirdly, this was the poem on Writer’s Almanac today: Mammogram