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Walking the road not chosen

Editor's note: This is the second installment in an ongoing column by Barb Kromphardt.

On Monday morning, I was back for my second mammogram in three days, and it was very different from the first time I was there. This time, there were no more exchanging pleasantries with the women at the front desk.

The procedure was familiar because I knew the routine this time. I went into the changing room, placed my shirt and bra in the bag, and then went out to the waiting room.

I didn’t have to wait for long.

There were no more jokes with the technician this time. And instead of approaching the machine with an attitude of let’s get this over with, I approached it with a sense of dread.

The rescan was quickly done. Only the right side this time, as my left breast had been deemed clear for another year.

Then I returned to the waiting room.

I soon discovered Monday morning mammograms were different from those conducted the rest of the week. It seemed me and all the other ladies in waiting were callbacks. Something wasn’t quite right with our first mammograms, and our return visits weren’t routine.

Some women seemed lost in their own thoughts while others were talkers. Some were stoic, and others were damp-eyed. But we were all trying to keep the impending horror at bay.

Everyone looked up whenever someone appeared at the door and called out a name.

Finally it was my name. Great, I thought. I’ll find out everything is all right, and this nightmare will be over with.

But it wasn’t to be. They wanted to take yet another mammogram.

Even now, my fingers get cold remembering how I felt. The other women looked at me as I gathered up my things and went back for another scan. I was numb.

I returned to the waiting room yet again.

The next time my name was called it was almost anti-climactic. I was led into a dimly lit room with breast x-rays glowing on the walls. It almost felt like I was on a spaceship, peering out the portholes at the glowing orbs of distant worlds.

I think they sat me down. As the nurse looked on, the doctor explained that one of the orbs was mine, and there was a problem.

Some of the sparkles glowing in the x-ray of my right breast were good and fine and normal, but not these, he said, gesturing to one area.

These were questionable. They hadn’t appeared on my previous mammogram, so they had to be looked into. Not with a scan this time, but with a biopsy.

I honestly didn’t hear too much of what he said. I vaguely wished for my microcassette recorder so I could catch every word.

But I caught the most important words. They wanted to be sure I didn’t have cancer.

When the nurse led me out of the room, I balked when she wanted to return me to the waiting room.

“No, I can’t go back in there with them,” I frantically whispered.

She was a saint, and she must have been through this before, so she led me to an empty exam room and left me for a few minutes.

The tears poured silently down my face. Dear God, dear God. What was I going to do?

Before I entered the office for my second mammogram that morning, I had sent a text message to my sister and a few close friends. I told them what was happening, that it was probably nothing, but if they had a few spare minutes to send up a prayer on my behalf, I’d appreciate it.

I had no idea how much I was going to need those friends and their prayers in the months to come.

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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