Published: September 28, 2023
By: By Susan Rosser
The other day, I underwent a series of medical tests that are all too familiar as I age: a mammogram, breast ultrasound and a bone density test. Ah, the joys of getting older, right? As I sat in the waiting room, donned in my pink gown, a delightful woman with a fabulous British accent moved gracefully through the room, offering each woman bottled water, purse-sized packets of hand lotion and stress-relief toys which were 3-D versions of the hospital’s logo.
Three years ago, I found myself in that dreaded category of individuals called back “for more images.” Fortunately, they caught my cancer at stage 0, a term I hadn’t even heard of before my diagnosis.
Since then, I’ve been on a six-month routine of MRIs, mammograms and ultrasounds. My anxiety leading up to each test is palpable. After all, these tests aren’t hunting for strep throat or pink eye. However, I always remind myself that I’m doing what’s necessary for my well-being.
The nerves typically kick in a few days before the test, but the “day of” is a whole different story. I may not wear my anxiety on my sleeve, but inside, it feels like my organs are vibrating — and not in a good way.
Who am I kidding? If you were to ask my husband, Richard, I am pretty sure he would tell you my anxiety is not only on my sleeves but also on my pants, shoes, socks, the car dashboard, kitchen counters, inside the fridge and everywhere else. I can get a touch cranky.
After the test, I sit anxiously waiting for my results and do my best to center myself. I close my eyes and summon happy memories, favorite places and the faces of people I love.
Often, my mind wanders to the serene image of the soaring poplar trees at the summer camp of my childhood. I picture the low, early-evening sunlight as it whispers through the leaves and settles on the front porch of my cabin. I hear the familiar slam of a screen door, and the low laughter of friends brushes the air. This scene never fails to calm my frayed nerves.
I’ve always assumed that some women might experience nervousness, but my level of apprehension probably pushes the boundaries of what is normal. If people truly knew how frightened I was, they might think I was a touch unhinged.
Yet, this time, as I shared the waiting room with a group of unfamiliar women, it struck me that I was not alone in my mammogram-induced hysteria. Virtually every woman accepted the little rubber stress toy, and each one eagerly tore open the shrink-wrapped packaging and began squeezing away. A few women even requested two toys, staring straight ahead, squeezing and releasing each fist with a beat Ringo Starr would appreciate. It was a small, silent acknowledgment that the anxiety of these tests is a shared experience among women, and it somehow made the wait a little more bearable.
Maybe next time, they’ll serve snickerdoodle martinis.
Susan Rosser is the editor of South Florida Family Life. She suffers from acute white-coat-fever but powers through. And no, she has never had a snickerdoodle martini.