"We have the results of your mammogram. Please call our office to schedule a follow-up appointment."
The woman's voice on my answering machine startled me.
What's wrong with the image taken yesterday?
My heart hammered in my chest, and my mind raced. What horrible thing did the radiologist find?
The appointment the day before was just a routine annual visit—the kind I scribbled on the calendar and didn't give much thought. Now many thoughts tumbled—all of them negative, but one in particular the strongest: This won't be something harmless, like a benign cyst. I must have breast cancer!
Hands trembling, I forced myself to call the doctor's office about the report. A nurse casually explained that a spot on my right breast appeared larger compared to last year's image. The radiologist just wanted to see if the change was due to the center's new imaging equipment.
Knowing I hadn't felt anything in my regular self-exams the past few months, I calmed down. Maybe it's no big deal.
Or was it? A few days before the second mammogram, news stories related to breast cancer seemed to be everywhere. A celebrity had been diagnosed with it. An Internet site reported on the "buddy system" in which two women agree to remind each other to do self-breast exams. The morning paper featured a picture of local women walking to raise awareness of breast cancer. I saw pink ribbons and women with bald heads from chemo—all symbols of the horrible disease. This is silly, I told myself and pushed the matter aside.1