Come closer, a little closer please, I need you near. My mood is reflective, the bathroom mirror draws me in, as I observe my nakedness through the toothpaste streaked surface. I carefully scan my gently used skin for irregularities, reflecting on the less than peachy color, a dullness if you will, but mostly what I see is unmasked fear. As I lean over the sink, closer to my reflection, I stare at my estranged features, sometimes familiarity can be so blinding.
I take a hard look, what am I avoiding, what would I prefer not to see? Dean Koontz says, “there’s just something unsettling about studying your reflection. It’s not a matter of being dissatisfied with your face or of being embarrassed by your vanity. Maybe it’s that when you gaze into your own eyes, you don’t see what you wish to see—or a glimpse of something that you wish weren’t there.” Understatement of the year.
I failed my mammogram.
How does one manage to do that you might ask? It has more to do with genetics than talent but in some strange way I do consider it a gift. The truth is it’s most likely benign, I’ve been told fibrous tissues are the classic culprits, but this is when my imagination goes into overdrive, and I find myself contemplating all kinds of implausible scenarios, right up to the message I want engraved on my tombstone. It’s morbid, I’m aware, but I can’t stop my thoughts from traveling to those dark places. I stare into the endless void of my now enlarged irises, I feel numb, that might have something to do with wine, because honestly I would prefer not to feel anything at all.
The word reflection comes from the Latin reflectere, made up of the prefix re-, “back,” and flectere, “to bend.” So it’s bending something back, like your reflection in the mirror, which is simply light waves bouncing your image back at you. This also applies when pausing for reflection, looking deeper, allowing your thoughts to bend inward.
I wonder how many women have been in this very same position, studying their healthy image reflected in the mirror, juxtaposed with the knowledge that some suspicious tissue is lurking just beneath the surface? Shannon Alder notes, “beauty is not who you are on the outside, it is the wisdom and time you gave away to save another struggling soul like you.” This type of fear is held collectively by all women, it’s our ground zero, a place memorialized by grief and suffering. Come closer.
Larry says, “call them back now.”
“Now? Honey it’s Veteran’s Day?”
“They called you.”
“I would prefer not to.”
I get the look.
I scowl at the reflection mocking me in the window.
“I am, calm your tits.”
He waits quietly while I talk with the scheduler.
“What did they say?”
“My left boob failed miserably and they want a closer look.”
“It’s probably just a precaution.”
“Or insurance fraud.”
“When do you get the results?”
“Right there on the spot.”
“I’ll go with you.”
“No, I can manage.”
“You have to work.”
“I’ll make arrangements.”
“What if it’s bad news?”
“Then I’ll be there.”
“Can you go without me?”
I acquiesce, because the truth is I don’t want to go alone, we drove the rest of the way home in silence, which can be rather loud even with the lack of noise. I kept feeling myself up, as if I could locate the problem with my finger tips, and ask it to leave, but I’m met with fleshy skin, no noticeable lumps.
John O’Donohue says
Come closer, a little closer please, I need you near.
I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll watch a movie, there will be heavily buttered popcorn, and wine.
Update: I’ve been given the all clear for an entire year. Apparently since I have been delinquent in my mammograms the images on file were vastly different from the current state of my breasts. This is common as we age, this is why I decided to risk exposure, and drag this issue into the light. This is an important screening for women, something we rarely talk about, and clearly one I would prefer to avoid. So get on the phone, schedule a mammogram, share your experience in the comments, it just might encourage others to do the same! Thanks for all the love and good juju – I’m so feeling it.
- “What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.” John W. Gardner