Last night, a strange feeling enveloped me. It stuck to me like a spider web; it clung to me like a wet shirt. It weighed me down like a diving bell. It constricted my breathing as if an anaconda wrapped itself around my torso. It changed my thoughts to black and white. It played out grey scenes of worst case scenarios.
It was the eve of June 12, the day when one year ago I went in for my breast core biopsies. This dreadful feeling gave me a headache, pulsing in my brain like an alien feeding on the last chunks of sanity. I ran my hands through my hair as if I could just sweep it off me. Brush it out like leaves in the fall.
I sat on the couch, legs stretched out on the ottoman, arms by my side, palms down. I felt tethered to the cushions like Gulliver in the Lilliput land. I couldn’t move. I stared at the TV in front of me, the blasts of images making my headache worse. My eyes burned. I blinked. I sighed. My dog looked at me. She sighed too. Even she knew.
My eyes filled with tears. I couldn’t decide if it was sorrow or just a reaction to the bright TV screen.
My mouth felt sewn shut, frozen solid. No chance of a smile, no whistle, no words. They were all locked in my head. They kept churning and multiplying like if some magical bottomless satchel kept spilling them out into my brain.
My head hurt so bad. I wished I could have drilled a hole in it and all the misery would seep out. Slowly, in a black inky stream.
My mind was in a free fall towards the memories of last year. The drive to the Langone Medical Center in New York City. The minutes in the waiting room spent among other women dressed in bathrobes, waiting for mammograms, biopsies, ultrasounds. They all had blank stares and most of them were frowning. Their backs hunched over, hands laced in their laps, ankles crossed.
I was called in for my first core biopsy and had to lay face down with my head tilted sideways, my breasts hanging through holes in the bed. I felt the anesthesia needle stab the left side of my breast over and over again. Then the doctor made a small incision and inserted a needle the size of a straw. I felt something warm run down my breast. I imagined it dripping down below, creating a small red puddle.
The second core biopsy was guided by the ultrasound. That time I lay on my back, watching the monitor as the huge needle plunged in my flesh. Normally, I would like medical things like that, but I remember feeling queasy. I had to swallow a couple times to suppress the nausea.
The needle gun clicked several times as snippets of my inner breast shot up to its container.
The nurse assisting the procedure commented on my wedding band. It was only eleven days old.
Two days later, on June 14, on Friday afternoon at 5PM, the doctor called me to tell me that breast cancer was confirmed.
I sensed it already anyway. I knew when the PET scan flagged my breast a month earlier that I was on the precipice of something bad. I knew my cards were unlucky when another doctor hugged me when he revealed the ultrasound and mammogram results to me.
I knew, but I still felt like someone punched me in my stomach. I hung up the phone and stared at the computer screen in front of me.
I didn’t cry until my husband came home and I told him. We were standing in an embrace, in the middle of the living room.
It is now a year later and the black veil of that day lays on me like a stone sarcophagus. May this beastly anniversary pass by fast.