I realize this appointment is a result of other women’s tragedies. I feel like an interloper in this waiting room full of nervous silence. Here sit women of every shape and size, color and creed, age and accomplishment. Breast cancer is not picky.

A few men sit here too, looking even more uncomfortable and nervous than the women. They are good men. Their presence attests to this, but it is obvious, as they page through Women’s Day and Family Circle magazines; they do not want to be here.

This is my third visit to this office. Each time I return I hope it will be my last. The first time the doctor’s office called after my routine mammogram to say there was a concern, I was scared but confident it wouldn’t be me. But each time I return to this now familiar waiting room, I become more aware of how easily it could be me. Why not me? As I said, breast cancer is not picky, not picky at all.

One woman sitting across from me has a beautiful head of white hair. She is knitting silently, a half-smile frozen on her face. Her chest is so flat it is almost concave and she wears a vest with a pink ribbon embroidered over the heart. I briefly wonder whether she had breasts the first time she came to this office. A middle-aged black woman sits alone and rubs her eyes. Perhaps she is shoving back tears or maybe she’s just very tired. I seem to be the only person looking around, stealing furtive glances at the patients and their breasts. Periodically, heavy sighs drift across the room. The wait, remarkably short for a medical office, seems interminable, probably more so for some.

The nurse, who looks like a young Cher, opens the door to the waiting room and calls out a name. A heavy set young woman with tattoos on her calves glances anxiously at her husband and hurries to follow her. Everyone else returns to their magazines. The nervous buzz may be silent, but it is palpable. I watch as an elderly couple enter together and approach the receptionist. The wife looks lost and the husband whispers quietly and takes the form the nurse offers. He guides his wife to a chair, settles her in her seat, stowing her cane, and begins filling out the paper work.

Finally Cher calls my name. I follow her through the maze of hallways and she unlocks a tiny dressing room, offering a hunter green cover-up and quizzing me about the deodorant and lotions I wasn’t supposed to use today. I know the rules. She nods and says, “Waist up,” before scurrying off for the next patient. In this office, there is no paper gown or worn out pastel cape. The soft cotton shirt snaps up the front and is fitted at the wrists. I put mine on and find my way to the next waiting room.

This room is cozier. A small refrigerator holds water bottles, and granola bars fill a basket. A window looks out on trees in near bloom. There are more magazine options to choose from and a large flat screen TV spouting a cooking show. The room is full of women wearing the same hunter green cover and avoiding eye contact. No one speaks.

A nurse named “Kristie” comes to collect me for my mammogram, I am relieved to leave this room so full of fearful, nervous souls. No one has touched the granola bars. Kristie is a good fifteen years younger than me, and I can tell she has put on her make up with care this morning. She chatters away cheerfully as she handles my breast and places a sticker “bee-bee” on my nipple. Then she maneuvers my breast into a machine which squishes it to obscene proportions, constantly asking, ‘You okay?” but never waiting for an answer.

She gives the dial one last turn so that my breast is pinned painfully and steps behind her controls calling, “Don’t move!” As if I could. The machine whines and then blips. I wonder how Kristie takes pictures of the knitter with the flat chest. Is there any breast to squish? I sigh gratefully and endure three more squishes.

I am returned to the plush waiting room, still wearing my green smock like everyone else. My breasts feel bruised and violated. I feel a bit smaller. I eye the granola bars. Different nurses arrive and go quietly to collect their women. Sometimes they sit down next to a patient and deliver happy news before leading them back to the changing rooms. And sometimes they quietly explain that the doctor is waiting and gently guide the patient, hand on her arm as if she might be breakable.

Kristie returns for me and says, “You’re all finished,” before directing me back to my changing cubby where she explains that everything looked fine and I don’t have to return for an entire year. This time there is no “probably” before the word “benign” on my report. The doctor, or Kristie, has written “normal” on the final diagnosis.

I’ve never been so relieved to be normal. I wait for Cher to escort me out and leave with my head down, guilty that I am fine.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Cara Sue Achterberg

Cara Sue Achterberg lives on a hillside farm in South Central, Pennsylvania with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. She is the author of I'm Not Her, a work of womens fiction published by The Story Plant. Cara is also a prolific blogger (four!) and her essays can be found in numerous anthologies (including Chicken Soup for the Soul), websites, blogs, and magazines. Her most popular blog, Another Good Dog, https://anothergooddog.wordpress.com/ chronicles her family’s adventures fostering rescue dogs. She teaches workshops based on her nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, a handbook for organic life. Links to all her blogs and books, plus inspiration for teen writers can at CaraWrites.com, http://www.carawrites.com/

I Am Not My Child’s Death

In: Cancer, Child Loss, Faith, Grief
I Am Not My Child's Death www.herviewfromhome.com

We are NOT what has happened to us or what this world says we are. That is not what defines us. While we are grieving parents, that is not what our whole story has to be about. Although, at times, we feel that our story is over. We ask, how do we go on and live full lives without our sweet Sophie with us? I’m still not 100 percent sure I know the answer to that. BUT the Lord says I am beloved. I am redeemed and accepted. I am holy and chosen. I am righteous and complete. I am...

Keep Reading

I’m Not Sure How Long I’ll Need an Antidepressant to Feel Normal…and That’s OK

In: Cancer, Child Loss, Grief, Mental Health
I'm Not Sure How Long I'll Need an Antidepressant to Feel Normal...and That's OK www.herviewfromhome.com

I tried to wean off of Zoloft and couldn’t. And that’s OK. I had never really been aware of the world of antidepressants. My life has been relatively uneventful—with the normal ups and downs that most of us go through. I knew people on medication for depression but never understood. How can you be THAT sad that you can’t just be positive and make the best of your circumstances? How can someone be THAT unhappy ALL the time to need medication? I didn’t get it. I felt bad for people going through it. Then my 2-year-old was diagnosed with Stage...

Keep Reading

To the Young Warriors Fighting Cancer, You Are Superheroes

In: Cancer, Child, Child Loss, Health
To the Young Warriors Fighting Cancer, You Are Superheroes www.herviewfromhome.com

Most people never get to meet their heroes. I have, in fact—I have met many heroes. These heroes didn’t set out for greatness; they fell victim to a terrible disease and faced it with courage, might and bravery like I have never seen before. And when we talk about this type of battle, there is no such thing as losing. whether the battle ended in death, life, or debility, each of these heroes defeated. My heroes are the innocent children who battle cancer. I high-fived, hugged, wept over, laughed and played with my heroes for 10 years as a nurse. And you better believe I...

Keep Reading

Cancer Can’t Take That

In: Cancer
Cancer Can't Take That www.herviewfromhome.com

“Hi, I’m Martha!” A lady around my mom’s age with tightly curled blonde hair approached me at my boyfriend’s church softball game. “I’m Jen,” I said, awkwardly waving though she only stood three feet from me. Martha pointed. “That’s my daughter, Stacey, and her kids, Brady, Harleigh and Boston is the baby.” I saw a chunky baby in a baby carrier. “Harleigh is a cute name,” I said. “It’s spelled H-A-R-L-E-I-G-H,” she announced. “Interesting spelling,” I said, bemused. That is how I met Martha. I’d been to my boyfriend’s church once and was then attending one of their softball games....

Keep Reading

I Wish My House Was Messy

In: Cancer, Child Loss, Grief
I Wish My House Was Messy www.herviewfromhome.com

My house is always clean. The laundry gets done quickly. The dishes are rarely stacked up in the sink. My counters are hardly ever sticky and nothing gets spilled. Everything gets put in its place and there is no clutter. My floor rarely needs sweeping and I never step on or trip over toys. My house is usually in perfect order . . . and it’s infuriating. You see, my house used to be a wreck a lot of the time. We had diapers, wipes, blankets, books, applesauce pouches, Cheerios, toys, movies, and any other number of toddler paraphernalia strewn...

Keep Reading

How This 10-Year-Old Is Helping Save Lives From Inside the Oval Office

In: Cancer, Inspiration
How This 10-Year-Old Is Helping Save Lives From Inside the Oval Office www.herviewfromhome.com

The world of childhood cancer is one you aren’t familiar with, until you have to be. It’s a world where more than 40,000 children undergo cancer treatment each year. In this world the average age at diagnosis is six years old, and one in five of those kids will die. It’s the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15 in the U.S. No one wants to be a part of that world. Childhood cancer is not one disease–there are 16 major types of pediatric cancers and over 100 subtypes. The causes of most childhood cancers...

Keep Reading

I Knew I had Cancer Because I Trusted my Intuition

In: Cancer
I Knew I had Cancer Because I Trusted my Intuition www.herviewfromhome.com

Today marks the anniversary of having my cancerous thyroid removed. This day always makes me think about the power of intuition and, how you should trust it. It’s real. Maybe because my dad was only 50 when he died, I was able to entertain the idea: I might get cancer, too. I knew. Breaking into tears on a run surrounded by girlfriends, a year before my diagnosis. I feared. I had it. Something wasn’t right. Months passed. But with gentle nagging from my accountability partner, I finally made an appointment. It wasn’t until the end of that meeting, I casually...

Keep Reading

Having Problems is a Privilege

In: Cancer, Faith, Journal
Having Problems is a Privilege www.herviewfromhome.com

The smell of smoke alerted me to yet another mishap in our morning mayhem. I wanted to provide some sort of breakfast to my eldest son as he returned to college after the holiday break. Each school morning begins with such chaos at our house. Between my daughter’s tangled hair and her brother’s missing socks, I realized I had burnt the cheese toast (the only thing I could find as some sort of parting breakfast for our firstborn). You know when cheese toast is the best you have to offer, you are already in dire straits. Not only was our...

Keep Reading

The Question No Grieving Mother Wants To Hear

In: Cancer, Child Loss, Faith
The Question No Grieving Mother Wants To Hear www.herviewfromhome.com

  My name is Shelby, and I’m a mom without a child. My two-year-old daughter, Sophie was diagnosed with Stage 4 T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma in May 2017. We had 12 weeks of her responding well to treatment when she unexpectedly had a MASSIVE relapse in August. Our doctors had never seen a child relapse so soon in 40-plus years of practicing. We were in the club that even cancer families don’t want to be in, the “rare disease” club. We spent nine days in the ICU getting 15 doses of adult “rescue chemo” that saved her life and knocked her...

Keep Reading

Cancer Warrior, Your Star Will Never Fade

In: Cancer, Inspiration
Cancer Warrior, Your Star Will Never Fade www.herviewfromhome.com

How do you stand so tall? How do you walk so proud? How do you smile easily? How do you laugh so beautifully? How do you comfort others? How do you shine with such grace? With such class? With such dignity? I use to ask my wife those questions. The ultimate Cancer Warrior. She fought so hard. So bravely. With a spirit that left the World in awe. And now, I’m asking you. You:  The Cancer Warrior. How do you do it? To say that I admired her, well, that would be the ultimate of understatements. To say that I...

Keep Reading