once upon a mammogram

Just in case I get wordy, and can’t fit this whole thing in one post (which we all know is exactly what will happen), let me cut to the chase (because cliffhangers are not for cancer scares).

Doctor’s diagnosis: lump benign. Come back in six months to see if anything has changed.

And now, a story, from almost four months ago.

(journal entries in italics)


It was March 1. Almost midnight. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom. Pulled up my shirt and felt again. Yep. A little lump in my right breast. Painful to the touch. I just stared at myself in the mirror, in shock.

02 March, 8:11am (Wednesday)
Good morning, God. Feeling a little pensive this morning. A little sad/worried about the lump. Wondering how we’d pay if it’s cancer and what would happen to my family if I died. Thank you for small boobs and early detection. Jesus, be near.

I told Gabe. I don’t think he was quite sure what to think, what to say. I kind of acted nonchalant about it (we’ll see how good I am at faking).

I had started exercising with Nina a few days before. I had to stop. It hurt too much when I jogged in place. I looked into mammogram options. Struck out over and over again in Siem Reap. Looks like Bangkok was my best option. We had planned a family trip there in the next couple weeks to go shopping for clothes for the girls anyway. But Alex’s passport was taking a long time.

What if I waited too long? What if I died? What if it was all Alex’s fault?

I heard back from the clinic about pricing. $346 for mammogram and ultrasound. Just $210 for 30-40 year olds. Ha. Why couldn’t I have had this lump five months ago?

I went to tell Gabe. He says something else to me first. I don’t hear him. I’m in a fog. He repeats it. He gets upset that I’m not listening (something I’m usually accusing him of).

“Sorry,” I say. “I was thinking about the mammogram.” I’m more emotional than I’d let on. I’m about to cry. I leave the room.

He comes out to the kitchen, says he’s sorry, holds me, I cry. “I’m a little scared,” I say.

It’s Sunday now. I realize I found the lump on Ash Wednesday. Seems symbolic. I tell a few friends, keep it from a few people I’m mad at, don’t tell the girls because I don’t want them to worry. My friend Sarah prays over me at church.

I tell the girls that night. They are champs. Gabe says I should have told them right away. He’s probably right.

On Monday, I talk about this with my spiritual director. I need to make a decision. Go to Bangkok now or wait until Alex’s passport arrives. She prays for me. She tells me about breath prayers. Breathing in, saying a small prayer phrase. Breathing out, another.

Tuesday morning, I have a breakfast date with Ava. I’m up very very early. I can’t sleep. At breakfast, I tell Ava, “I emailed the clinic in Bangkok about a mammogram appointment tomorrow morning. I’d need to go tonight. How would you like to go with me?”

She’s excited. This will be quite an adventure. I have never left the country without Gabe before (except that one time I went to Okinawa to be a student teacher with my friend Rachel 20 years ago). I’m a little nervous. Gabe always handles all the stuff like getting taxis and getting in the right lines and what have you.

Oh well. I’m old enough to get the expensive big girl mammogram, I can do this.

After lunch, Ava and I try five times to buy tickets to Bangkok online. Nope nope nope nope nope. We hop on my moto and drive to the airport. (What is this life??) We buy tickets like grown-up people, go home, pack. I tell myself over and over to stop worrying about the cost of this. “WOULD YOU RATHER DIE?” I ask me. No. No, I wouldn’t.

Alex, Livi, and Nina take us to the airport around 8pm. Flight leaves at 9:50pm. Gabe is at a meeting. Nina hugs me over and over and over again. Lots of tears. Break my heart. Even Ava’s heart hurt for her (and Ava’s heart had not been feeling many nice feelings for Nina in recent days).

Flight good. Visa good. Small problem with sim card upon arrival. Got it working. Google Maps says 14-minute drive to cheap guesthouse I’d reserved online.

(Storyteller’s note: I feel like I have the skills to drag out the next hour in about 3000 hilarious, suspenseful words. I’ll fight the urge.)

Basically, Ava and I are in a taxi with a very confused driver who searches for this illusive guesthouse for over an hour. It’s after midnight. We end up at a place that has a big pink “T8” on the wall and is reminiscent of a low-income high rise in Inner City, USA, something you would see in a documentary about an undercover human trafficking bust.

Two ladies in pajamas escort us to an elevator, up many floors, to a dark hallway full of doors that have padlocked metal gates in front of them. This is not a hotel. It’s an apartment building. And we are staying in someone’s apartment tonight. Me and Ava. All alone. And no one who knows/loves us knows where we are.


We pay the woman for the room. She also wants a “deposit.” No receipt. I pray I get the deposit back.

I put a chair in front of the door and sleep with my phone in my hand. Well, I mostly toss and turn all night with my phone in my hand. Ask me what I would do with this phone if an emergency arose. I have no idea. Up at 6:00am. At 6:23am the lady comes back with my money. And takes me downstairs to get a taxi. I give her a slip of paper with the address of the clinic.

That morning’s taxi ride was as uneventful as the previous night’s ride was terrifying. I keep pinching myself. You are in Bangkok, Thailand. Where you flew on a whim last night with one of your daughters. You are on your way to get your first mammogram. In Thailand. THAILAND.

We arrive at a big office building. The address is correct. We are very early.

We find our way upstairs to the clinic. I fill out paperwork. We have an hour to burn, so we find a place for Ava to eat a delicious bacon, egg, and cheese bagel and drink a frozen caramel coffee. Me? I haven’t eaten or drunk anything since 5pm the day before, per the doctor’s orders, and cannot eat or drink anything now.

I journal while Ava FaceTimes Livi. This is a happy Mom moment for me, because the two of them have not been friends lately.

I feel nervous, but it’s not too bad. I’m thankful that I’m not here to give a talk or present something. Somebody else will do everything for me, and the results are in your hands, God. What I want is an all-clear, just a harmless, benign lump, and we enjoy the day and go back to our life. But I trust that your plan is the sweetest, even if it’s not the easiest.

Breathe in. Be still.

Breathe out. And know.

Breathe in. Be still.

Breathe out. And know.

2 thoughts on “once upon a mammogram

  1. Sierra

    It sounds like you might have fibrocystic breasts, which is very, very common (but can eventually be a precursor to breast cancer). Removing them or aspirating them will not make them stop coming back (and can be painful and even cause more). What will take them completely away however is iodine (extremely lacking in our diets today, and also pushed out of our cells by bromine, fluoride, and chlorine). The best iodine to take that has both types that our body can absorb has been around almost 200 years–Lugol’s (as a liquid) and Iodoral (as a pill). You can learn more in the book “The Iodine Crisis: What You Don’t Know About Iodine Can Wreck Your Life” by Lynne Farrow and David Brownstein MD. I was in your position, and learning this has seriously changed my life! God bless!

  2. Pingback: adventures in mammogramming (continued) – Marla Taviano

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *