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Walking the road not chosen

Editor's note: This if the first in a series of columns by Barb Kromphardt.

So despite staying up all night studying, I still managed to fail my mammogram test.

Those are the words I’ve chosen to tell people about what has happened to me during the last several months.

I chose these words very carefully. They’re really quite my style, funny, a little sardonic, and not revealing too much about how devastated I am.

It all began when I went in for a regular doctor’s visit last fall.

“When was your last mammogram?” she asked.

Hmm, it had been a couple of years. You see, I’m such a hypochondriac about some things, but I’ve never really worried about breast cancer. We’d also had a lot going on in our lives, and I just never got around to making an appointment.

And I put it off again.

A couple of months later I got another call from the doctor’s office. Had I scheduled my appointment yet?

Well, no, but I had no good reason to put it off any longer. So I scheduled a time, and off I went. The procedure went fine, with very little nerves from me. I cracked a couple of lame jokes with the technician to show how calm I was, got dressed and went back home.

Two days later, there was a message on my voice mail.

“There’s a dense area on your scan, and the doctor wants you to come back in,” I heard.
I could feel the blood drain from my face and a cold dread settled over me. But I found my voice and made a second appointment for three days later.

I was busy that weekend, so I didn’t have a lot of time to focus on what was coming. I didn’t tell anyone, but my husband what was going on. It’s funny, I didn’t want people to worry, but I’d be devastated if nobody really worried at all.

I also tried to stay calm by reasoning things out to myself.

Just because I have to go in for a second mammogram doesn’t necessarily mean I have cancer.

They might take a better look and realize everything is fine.

Or maybe they’ll want to keep an eye on it for awhile.

Or maybe I’ll need a biopsy, but it will prove to be negative.

It’ll be OK. Don’t worry about it. That was my mantra.

But I did worry about it. The thought of telling my daughters there was breast cancer in their genetic makeup thanks to me was unbearable.

After swinging back and forth emotionally, bottom line, I decided I thought the second mammogram would go well. I felt like I’ve worried enough about other health issues in my life that I didn’t think cancer was living with me now. In fact, instead of looking at my right breast like a ticking timebomb, I’d been more inclined to pat it gently and murmur words of comfort.There, there, it’s all right.

But I was scared to act too confident.

The night before the second mammogram I felt like I was standing at a major crossroads in my life. I realized I was going to walk out of that doctor’s office in the morning on one of two paths.

A clean mammogram would put me on a path of total joy and relief, but I knew it would be only of a temporary nature. None of us get out of this life alive, and even if I beat the Grim Reaper this time, I knew he would be back to visit me sometime in the future.
And the other path? I couldn’t even imagine it. That path would be a road no woman ever wants to walk.

Barb Kromphardt, currently of Columbus, Ind., was a reporter for the Bureau County Republican and interim managing editor of the Tonica News and the Putnam County Record. She can be reached at

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