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Walking the road not chosen

Editor's note: This is an ongoing column from Barb Kromphardt regarding her journey with breast cancer.

When we first moved to Columbus more than a year ago, I remember driving past the local hospital and wondering idly when one of us would first need its services.

On a gray Friday spring morning, that person was me.

My husband drove me to the hospital early the day of the biopsy. Not being familiar with the hospital, I had him drop me off by the entrance facing the main street, which turned out not to be the best way in.

A hospital employee took pity on me and led me through a maze of halls throughout the hospital to where I needed to go, which was the surgical outpatient waiting room.

In the waiting room, I looked at everyone else, wondering which ones were there for treatment like me and who were there like my husband, the designated “others” — loved ones who were there to worry and pray and watch the clock, and then to provide a ride home.

Finally I was checked in and taken back to one of the rooms. After they took my clothes and gave me a stylish (!) hospital gown, I climbed into a wheelchair for another trek through the hospital.

It was totally bizarre. I didn’t know where to look, whether to smile at people as we whizzed past or to try and ignore them.

Finally we made it to my next stop, another mammogram machine. Using the machine and my previous scans, they would determine where the suspicious sparkles were. Then they would numb my skin and insert a needle into the location.

It took forever. I sat on a little seat, leaned into the machine, and draped my right arm over the top. The technician would run the scan, take the film to the doctor, come back and adjust me a little and then repeat the process.

Thank God my angel – the nurse navigator from the mammogram center — was there. She probably learned my whole life story, and I learned quite a bit of hers while we waited for the procedure to be done. It never ceases to amaze me that we humans can still manage to find humor and even laughter in some of the darkest moments of our lives.

When they were ready to insert the needle, I kept my eyes straight ahead of me. I had enough to deal with, and I didn’t need a visual image to make it any more vivid.

Back in the surgical waiting area, I stopped in the bathroom. I looked in the mirror, and tears began running down my face. What was I doing? How could I do this?

But by this time, nothing was required of me other than to climb back into bed and let the nurse start the IV.

The surgical nurse came for me, and I took yet another trip through a portion of the hospital, this time to the operating room. It was full of people, women who peered at me over their masks and tried to make small talk while getting me into position.

I moved onto the operating table. My right arm was stretched out into position to get it out of the way for the biopsy, and my left arm was arranged in the opposite direction so they could monitor the IV.

The random thought went through my head that I felt like I was being put onto a cross.

As I waited for the doctor to begin, I was numb with fright. I was terrified I wouldn’t wake up again, and I didn’t want to die like this.

The last thing I remember before the drugs put me to sleep was whispering to the nearest nurse, “Please take good care of me.”

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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