“Holding My Breath”

“Okay Sandra, hold your breath.”

The MRI technician’s voice seeps through the big white tunnel of the imaging machine. It jolts me back to reality. For a moment, I had been thinking about my pink fuzzy socks in my drawer at home…and mittens. Oh yes, mittens would be so yummy right now. It is cold in the imagining room. I am on my back with my arms above my head. My doctor has ordered Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to get better pictures of my breasts and lymph nodes.

The MRI doesn’t hurt. But it is not very cozy. And the intermittent noise sounds like the buzzing when the tweezers touched metal in the “Operation” game I had as a child. I remember the game’s patient. His light bulb nose glowing bright red….”BUZZZZZZZZZ.”

I have been ordered to stay still. “Don’t move or we might have to take the pictures again,” the steely voice of the technician warns me. There have been so many pictures of my chest over the past few days, I might feel like a Playboy centerfold…if not for the flimsy hospital gown I’m wearing and the IV in my right arm.
“And hold your breath again for me.”

As a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient, I’ve been holding my breath often: when my cellphone chimes to indicate I have a voicemail from my doctor. When I replay the message and she says…”I have the results of your MRI,” when my 10 year old daughter looks up at me from her math homework and says, “”Mom? Emily at school says you…..”

Many of you might wonder why I am publicizing such a personal journey. I do it because it’s not just my story. It is the story of the 2.5 million women in the U.S. who are breast cancer survivors. It is the story of millions…and it is the story of one. Because when the cancer patient awakes at 2 a.m., it is her heart being squeezed by the skeletal fingers of fear. When I tell my doctor about this blog. She looks at me and smiles. “That is awesome. People already know you. They trust you. You will save lives!”

It’s only been one week, so far I have not asked the question: “Why me God?” I am approaching my diagnosis with the prayer: “Okay, God I need to feel your presence as I fight for my life.”

I also am learning. My cancer was not palpable. That means I could not feel the marble sized tumor that has set up as a squatter in my body. A radiologist saw something suspicious on my mammogram and ordered an ultrasound, then a biopsy and an MRI. Self examination is so important. But, in my case a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy confirmed the cancer. Almost immediately I wonder what caused the tumor. What are the biggest risk factors? Smoking? Poor diet? Chemical exposure? No, no and no. The biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer according to breastcancer.org are being a woman and getting older. That’s it.

“All finished. You can get dressed now Sandra.” Tomorrow I will get a call from my doctor. “I have the results of your MRI. Everything looks good. I don’t see anything suspicious in the lymph nodes.”

As I press “End Call” on my cellphone, I realize for the first time in a long time, I am no longer holding my breath.

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