August 25, 2011

9:05 p.m.

There are times we girls — even we 60-somethings — flat-out need our mamas. Today, I certainly longed for mine.

There I was, in one of those designer gowns that opened down the front when the tech positioned me this way and that. Snuggled up to the “mashing machine,” I would have ordinarily entertained her and myself with mammogram jokes. Still, the smarting pain paled against the rigors that possibly lay ahead. And this time, with my mother not around to comfort and support me, I would have to be the brave woman she brought me up to be. So, why did I still feel as panicky as a five-year-old lost in a crowded mall at closing time?

Suddenly, I broke down. Although I tried to muffle my sobs, the sniffling gave me away.

“Kim?” Pat asked, after she had taken the last picture. “Are you okay over there?”

“No! I miss my mother!

She bustled over to where I stood, handed me a tissue, hugged me, and waited for me to calm down before she opened the door.

“I’ll be right back with the doctor.”

“Right back” turned into ten minutes, long enough to give my Lifetime Channel imagination free rein. I cooked up all kinds of scenarios, each one worse than the one before it. Because school starts on Monday, I planned instructions to leave my substitute if I wound up in a hospital. Then, there was Russet to consider. I wracked my brain for friends I could ask to feed and walk her. Most of all, I would have to be a big girl because Mama, who never left my side during the critical stage of my hospital stay in 1995, wouldn’t be sleeping in my room, arriving early in the morning, or calling the nurses’ station to check on me at night.

Soon, in bustled the doctor. Although he stuck out his hand and introduced himself, my mind was too numb for his name to stick to it.

C’mon, I thought. Give me the worst of it.

He looked at me for a minute.

“We found a tumor,” I expected him to say. “You have cancer,” I was braced to hear.”

Instead, he smiled and told me, “Ms. Terry, everything’s clear,”

Although he followed the diagnosis with an explanation, I heard only bits of it: “Compared the 2009 and 2010 mammograms…2010 with 2011….” Somehow, the details didn’t matter, anymore.

I already heard the only news I wanted to hear — that I was going to be okay. As I opened the door to leave, I realized that Mama had been present in that room with me, all along. Her spirit, filling me with her strength.



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