Words that Echo and Replay
Sara squirmed and shifted in the straight-backed chair. Its padding, like the others’ in the crowded waiting area, was worn and fading. Gil, dear husband that he was, patted her knee gently, sharing her anxiety.
It might be a long wait. Sara tried to ignore the small, obnoxious boys crawling underneath them and down the long column of chairs, playing hide and seek. Their mother, reading a magazine, seemed oblivious. Even Gil, who usually enjoyed children, rolled his eyes, refusing to acknowledge the rowdy little creatures. Under less stressful circumstances both of them probably would have laughed.
“Sara Culver,” called a voice, finally, from an opened door to their left. Sara rose and followed a young woman in brightly patterned scrubs.
Well acquainted with the routine, Sara still waited for instructions. She smiled weakly at the tech's youthful face, took the offered gown, and stepped into the curtained cubbyhole to change.
Once in the room, the x-ray technician introduced herself. “I’m Amy. I’m following up last week’s series. It seems there is an area which needs a better view – just to be sure,” she said, in a practiced and confident manner.
Positioned uncomfortably at the machine, Sara had a sense of replay. The words were the same as a few days before.
“Take a deep breath, let it all out, then hold your breath. Be very still, don’t breathe, don’t breathe...” Low vibrating sound... click. “Now you can breathe.”
“Try to relax,” Amy said in her cheery voice.
“Relax. Easy for you to say,” Sara muttered low. This bouncy young thing hadn’t been where Sara now stood in the sparse tie-gown. She couldn’t know the unbelievable tension she’d felt the year before at these same words. They echoed back to her now.
“Hold still, don’t move. Don’t breathe...” groaning of the machine...click. “Okay, you can breathe.” On that particular day, now fourteen months ago, Sara had known in her heart there was a problem.
Rapidly had followed the phone call from Dr. Richmond, the quick referral to an oncologist, an ultrasound, a needle biopsy, and a somber consultation with a surgeon.
“Stage two breast cancer, at best,” Dr. Peyton, the oncologist and Dr. Hall, the surgeon had concurred.
There was surgery, lumpectomy to start, then anxious days to hear whether the lymph nodes contained cancer cells. Thankfully, they had not, so no chemo or further surgery was indicated, but six weeks of radiation therapy followed. Toward the end of that, fatigue had set in. Her skin began to have the look and feel of severe sunburn.
Since that time Sara had taken a preventive medication and had assumed a new normal in life. She and Gil had managed, clinging to the Lord and to each other.
But now, this. Her first yearly mammogram was being redone. Sara was terrified.
“Mrs. Culver, your doctor will get in touch after the films are read. It may take a few days,” little Amy-technician chirped. No doubt it will, Sara thought to herself, and dreaded waiting to hear. She mumbled her thanks as Amy hurried to her next chart.
As they drove home, Gil was quiet and Sara did familiar soul-searching. She felt guilty at the fear which attacked, threatening to overwhelm her. She trusted God, knowing He cared for her. Yet, her very human emotions always seemed to react first with alarm and dread of the unknown. As she prayed, remembering God’s promises to her, she became calmer, thankful that her Father knew her weaknesses and understood.
To her and Gil it seemed longer, but five days later the phone rang. Seeing Dr. Richmonds’s number on their caller ID, Sara just stared, vaguely knowing she held her breath. Gil solemnly lifted the receiver and handed it to her.
Recognizing the doctor’s deep voice, she managed to speak.
“Good news, Sara,” he began, wasting no time. “ Two radiologists agree that we are seeing only scar tissue, an overlapping of layers from the excision itself. This is not unusual, but sets a baseline for further mammograms. There’s no indication of a tumor or abnormality.”
Sara felt the tears come. Looking up at Gil she saw his relief as he grabbed and held her.
“Oh Father, thank You. Now, I really can breathe,” she prayed. Then, wryly but honestly, she added to her prayer, “at least, until time for next year’s mammo.” She felt God smile at her.
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