Women in waiting . . . for mammograms

Oct 08, 2012
Photo by: file photo As they say at Bethel Middle School: "Be where you're supposed to be, doing what you're supposed to be doing." During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that just might mean getting a mammogram at your doctor's office.

Pumpkins, hay bales, and potted mums lined the exterior walk way leading into the hospital, with occasional splashes of pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. I didn’t schedule my mammogram appointment to coincide with the event, but the synchronicity is not lost on me. My grandmother, a six year survivor (thanks to annual exams and monthly self checks) occupied my thoughts as I made my way through a corridor of laboratories and into the waiting room.

The only other patient, a grey-haired woman I assumed was asleep, sat slumped between an orderly and a nurse. The woman raised her head as I entered, and her body swayed like a sapling in a storm.

“Hellooooo,” she said, holding onto the last syllable as she leaned toward me, struggling to focus. The guy on her left reached out a hand to stop her before she ooo-ed herself face-first onto the floor.

“Good morning,” I answered. “Everyone,” I added, because of her spotters. The guy smiled at me tiredly and settled the woman back into her chair in a more or less upright position.

The nurse, a 50-something woman in scrubs and a disapproving glower, skipped over the pleasantries. “Take a seat,” she ordered.

“Yes, ma’am.” I sat.

“I’m going to see where that technician went off to. I got things to do.”

After she’d marched out of the room, the woman in the chair leaned toward me. I put her age at 60 and her physical state at “sedated out of her head.”

“I got nervous,” she said, trying for a whisper and missing it by a wide margin. “When they first took me . . . “ she tried to wrangle her restless thoughts into words. “. . . took me in there.” Her eyes went wide and she gestured vehemently to a door on her right, nearly whacking the orderly in the groin. I had to hand it to him — the guy had good reflexes.

She stared at me expectantly.

“I see,” I said.

“I made just a leeeettle . . .” She brought up her thumb and forefinger to indicate how leeeettle. “. . .  fuss is all.” Behind her, the orderly held up his hands for my benefit. They were stretched wide. “Then,” the woman said, bringing my attention back to her, “then . . . “

“Did they give you something to calm you down?” I offered, trying to be helpful.

She considered it, then nodded. “Twice.” She looked at the orderly for confirmation.

“Oh yeah,” he said.

I raised my eyebrows. “Wow.”

“I’m feeling mush better now,” she slurred, “but they keep waiting . . . “

“We want to make sure that last dose kicked in,” the orderly said, patting her shoulder.

I thought if it kicked in any more, they’d have to pour her onto a gurney. As it was, I didn’t know how they were going to get decent images on her mammogram. There’s a lot of “lean forward” and “shoulders back” and “be still now” to a full set of images. My companion had the “leaning” part down pat. Anything else would be a stretch.

“I like mums,” the woman offered.

“That’s super,” I said, looking around the room.

“Mummms. Mummmmms.”

A suspicion beginning to niggle at the back of my mind. Then I looked at the orderly. “Is this where I need to be for a mammogram?”

“Down the hall,” he said, pointing. “This is MRI.”

“Oh, don’t go,” the woman said, clarity shining briefly in her eyes. “You’re making me feel better.”

I looked at my watch, then at the woman again. Fear was still there, bubbling below the surface. I sighed.

“So, tell me your favorite color of mums.”

The woman reared back, smiling in surprise. “Well, what about that?” she asked the orderly. “I was just thinking about mums!”

Angela Dove is an award-winning humor columnist and author of the true crime book, No Room for Doubt. For author information visit www.AngelaDove.com.

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