Earlier this week I had my 5th follow-up diagnostic mammogram and breast ultrasound in under 3 years. The first time I found out I needed these scans was a few weeks into starting chemo for ovarian cancer. I had tested negative from the BRCA mutation, so I was very much in a What, are you fucking kidding me? place.
The scans were negative then, as they are now, but the thing that is different has been my admitting fear beforehand. My brand, for as long as I can remember, has been “quietly brave, strong, and independent”. I don’t know if that’s how others would describe me, but inwardly, a part has regularly incanted, It’s not a big deal. Don’t cry over nothing. You’re not going to cry until we know there’s something to cry about.
But this time, on the day before the imaging, I told my mom, “I’m nervous about this.”
And that “quietly brave” part of me was like, Nooooooooooooooooooooooo! Never admit weakness! Under any circumstances!
It’s okay, Sweetie, I told it. We’ve tried stoicism for a while now, let’s give honesty a go, just for a bit.
As I lay on the cot, my arm above my head, warm goo being chased around my breast by an insistent probe, I breathed and thought about how, in the past, I had focused on looking calm, breathing deeply, smiling and joking to put the technician at ease—all to show how “quietly brave, strong, and independent” I am.
The truth is, I am all those things. Sometimes. AND, at that moment, I was also scared of how “bad news” might impact my life. AND, I was tired of having these scans done. AND, whether I liked it or not, I was dependent on both the health professionals conducting the appointment and my family at home wishing me well.
Abandoning my former actions, I melted into one word: surrender—to the mattress beneath my body, to the breath that has never once abandoned me, to the kind woman pressing deep into my flesh to get the best picture possible.
I allowed the fearful thoughts, the what-ifs, to trot around my brain, unbridled. I caressed each one with tenderness, and before too long, the hoofbeats quieted.
Funnily enough, I didn’t feel less brave or strong. If anything, I felt a deeper sense of trust in myself and in the willingness of Life to hold me—no matter the circumstances. It seems that in softening, I am starting to realize how durable I truly am.