adventures in mammogramming (continued)

Read Part 1 (and the end of the story) here.

So I was drooling over Ava’s breakfast, journaling, and saying breath prayers.

Then it was time.

We go back upstairs. 11th floor, I think. I get weighed. They take my blood pressure. They ask me to wait outside an office.

Doctor (male) comes out, invites me in. Asks me a few questions.

I head back to the mammogram lab. Wait in another seat.

Finally go back. Take off all my clothes. Don a robe. Put my shoes on (they told me to).

Go to mammogram room. Unwrap robe. I am standing naked in my shoes with a robe hanging off my shoulders. The sweet, older (but also very no-nonsense) Thai woman’s eyes are level with my breasts. I do not laugh. I want to.

Looking at the big machine takes away the urge. I have always wondered how someone with small boobs gets a mammogram.

I know now.

The first part doesn’t hurt.

The lateral smoosh? On the right side where the lump is?


I blink back tears.

Left side is better. All done. Robe tied. Go to ultrasound room. The technicians (both women) cover me with a blanket from the waist down and put a white cloth over my chest. The older woman has the wand and gel. The younger woman is at the computer.

Wand woman swipes in all directions slowly. I can’t see the screen. I can’t understand their language. But I can tell when they see things. I think they see a lot of things.

All I can do is breathe breath-prayers.

Breathe in. Be still.

Breathe out. And know.

Breathe in. Be still.

Breathe out. And know.

They are smiling and laughing a little, so I want that to mean I can’t possibly have cancer. Who laughs and smiles when they see cancer in someone’s body on a computer screen? Not anyone with half a soul.

All done, gel wiped off, get dressed, they tell me the wait will be 15 minutes.

Or 40. Whatever. It is so surreal.

Finally. Someone comes to get me. Results in hand. Takes me to another doctor (a woman this time) to discuss.

“You have lots of nodules. In both breasts.”

My heart sinks. I have cancer. The whole conversation is a bit of a blur to me, with bits and pieces standing out. I really thought she had just told me I had cancer and everything else I hear, I hear in light of that fact.

She asks me how old my youngest child is. I thinks she’s asking because she is sad for my children that their mother is going to die.

She tells me she wants me to go see a doctor friend of hers, a surgeon, before I leave Bangkok, so like right now. My mind fast-forwards to surgery, then mastectomy, chemo, hair loss, no more boobs, dying.

My head is spinning, I feel weak, I try to read the notes from my scans upside down.

I see the word “benign.”

“So…” I say. “That says benign. Do I have cancer?”

“No. There are a lot of nodules, but there are no calcified spots around them, so they’re benign.”

I take a deep breath, a sort of choked breath. I want to cry.

She tells me to do a self-breast-exam on the 7th day of every cycle. She takes me into a little room and draws a mark around my lump with a pen. She calls her surgeon-friend, and he agrees to work me in today.

She says he will tell me to either 1.) leave the lump as is. 2.) aspirate it (let out the liquid) or 3.) surgically remove it (I would have to come back for that).

She gives me explicit instructions for using the BTS (Bangkok Transit System) which I have never used, and sends me on my way.

I pay. For some reason, I am charged only $150. Not even the listed price for the young pups. This is amazing news.

I want to do flips. I walk calmly instead. Ava and I figure out the BTS and even get off at the right stop and walk back to the hospital across busy streets and what have you. I feel like I could conquer the world right now.

We see Auntie Anne’s Pretzels in the lobby. We do not buy pretzels. We promised Nina we wouldn’t. This is her favorite food in the universe, and it would be cruel to eat it when she cannot.

Long story short. Doctor does a quick exam (with his medical student, a young man, who becomes the 7th person to see my bare boobs in less than two hours). He’ll leave the lump. If it gets bigger, he’ll aspirate it. Follow up with another mammogram in six months (September).

Ava and I celebrate our joy and relief with an Auntie Anne’s lemonade. We are pros at the BTS now, so we go to a mall. We share a delicious footlong spicy Italian Subway sub, some yummy chicken wings, fries, and Pepsi. I haven’t eaten in 20 hours, and I have no shame.

We go to mall after mall until we can’t take it anymore. Sit in a Starbucks and order fruity drinks, charge my phone. Decide to go to the airport early and wait there for our 8pm flight. We take the BTS all the way to the airport. Sweet.

Get to the airport. We’re over 2 hours early. We go to the 4th floor. Look for Air Asia.

Why don’t we see Air Asia?

Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no.

Bangkok has two airports. We’re at the wrong airport, aren’t we?

I ask at the desk.

Yep. Wrong airport.

How far away is the other airport?

An hour and a half by taxi. You could possibly still make your flight. Possibly.

We run. The down escalator is blocked. Wait for elevator. Run. Try to get a taxi but don’t have a ticket. Run to get ticket. Spot 41. No one there. What??

He pulls in. Can you take us to DMK airport?? AS FAST AS POSSIBLE????

Yes. Tollway is faster. But more expensive.


We found out our mistake at Airport #1 at 5:38pm.

At 6:38pm, we were in the check-in line at Airport #2.

Our taxi driver was FLYING.

We were through immigration in about three minutes (world record) (even with the officer asking me about Donald Trump) (YOU ARE WELCOME, FELLOW AMERICANS, FOR TAKING ALL THE HEAT/LAUGHS/NOT-FUNNY JOKES IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES ABOUT A MAN I DID NOT EVEN VOTE FOR).

Through security in two minutes.

Even had time for chicken McNuggets at McDonald’s.


We made it home.

That night in my journal:

I feel like I’ve been given six more months of a normal, cancer-free life. In September, another mammogram. Until then, lumps I find won’t scare me. I don’t have cancer. PRAISE JESUS. God, please be near those who do. My heart aches for them.


At some point (I’m not really sure when–maybe a couple months ago?), the lump went away on its own. GLORY.

Fast forward to yesterday. Another lump. The left breast this time. Bigger, harder, more painful. The fear is back. My mind races.

I can’t stop pressing on it with my fingers. I can’t stop writing about it in my journal. It’s going to be okay… right? Why can’t I believe this?

Breathe in. Be still.

Breathe out. And know.

Breathe in. Be still.

Breathe out. And know.

4 thoughts on “adventures in mammogramming (continued)

  1. beth

    be still and know. i had a scare a few months ago with a lump and was told several times that something cancerous is rarely painful ~ although i understand your situation and how access to medical care is hard to come by. praying for answers this time and for healing.

  2. Sharon

    Oh Sweet Marla. Thank you for sharing this with us. Praying for the peace that passes understanding. Trusting that God will keep you Cancer free.

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