-Christina Rosetti (1830-1894)
Today is a banner day for the Colorado Travel Bureau.
It is clear as crystal. The warmth in the air has made a triumphant return after wintering somewhere in the southern hemisphere.
No doubt there will be photos taken today and published in a Rocky Mountain Travel Brochure in the future. Photos of optimistic cyclists on mountain passes. Of baby calves with their dark hair matted and pointing in all directions but down, their newness in stark contrast to the golden, dry fields they play in. Of the spring blue in the sky and the mountains popping off of it in the forefront. Of the feathery promises of the clouds to bring an afternoon shower.
All of this, a blanket apology for the lateness of spring, for the tulips that have yet to bloom and the trees who stand naked and stubborn in the sunshine.
Driving back from Boulder, today, I was struck by a memory of a day much like this one several years ago. Before The Babe was born.
The Producer was shut up in an office in Topeka, missing that fabulous day. I was in for my dreaded yearly exam, making small talk with my doctor as she peered closely at parts of me usually viewed through the safety of mood lighting (or not at all, thankyouverymuch.) Half way round my left breast, my doctor's face fell and our small talk came to an abrupt halt.
She found a lump.
I was precipitously scheduled for a mammogram and an ultrasound later that week.
Leaving the office, I dreaded the call to my husband. I knew the news would sound more dire because of the miles between us.
"Awww. That sucks, Em." I could hear the disappointment in his voice, wishing he could hug me through the telephone.
I immediately told him how I was sure it was nothing. I was 26. I have no history of breast cancer in my family. "And, it is well documented that I have lumpy boobs."
I'm sure at this point he said something clever like, "Yeah. No one can argue that."
Two days later, he flew home for six hours so that he could accompany me to my appointments. (This is just one of the quadrillion things The Producer has done that puts his Sterling Heart on display.)
We sat in the perfunctory waiting room, discussing his flights and schedule and missed meetings, I'm sure, and ignoring the 1200 lb. heliotrope gorilla in the room.
A rather harried nurse called my name. We followed her. She showed me to a room where I could disrobe and The Producer to another perfunctory waiting room, set aside for family of radiology patients.
After donning the lovely paper gown over my bare chest, I was taken to yet another waiting room, though this one was darker and had only three chairs and was for women, only. This was the room where potential cancer patients are taken to reflect on their potential prognosis.
And there I sat. Alone. In the dimness. I giggled at the memory of The Producer's recent pinch on my bum as he scooted past me in the kitchen and teased, "Move your droopies," then laughed wildly at his own wit. I wished he was sitting next to me.
After 20 minutes or so, I was shown back to the mammography room, where the same harried nurse from earlier was waiting for me with her frigid hands. After being squished, squashed and sufficiently man handled, I was returned to my little waiting room. My mood began to darken with the lighting.
I was beginning to resent the isolation. I felt for those women who would come here and find out that in fact, yes, they do have breast cancer. I assumed I did not fall into that category. I was sure these tests would show that everything was as it should be in the land of my mammaries. But those poor women who had to sit here, separated from the support of their husbands/friends who had accompanied them... And my husband had flown home from a business trip for a few, precious hours, and I was wasting them in this dark room and paper gown.... I was stewing and very nearly ready to throw off my gown and walk, topless down the hall in revolt when the next technician came to retrieve me.
She said my name and tears sprang to my eyes before I could do anything to stop them. This nurse, evidently, had a little more compassion and a little more time on her hands. She put her arm around my shoulders to steady me as I shook with sobs that completely took me by surprise. She left me by myself for a moment while she hurried to The Family of Radiology Patients Waiting Room to fetch The Producer.
He met me with an embrace and a look of concern, no doubt wracking his brain to try to remember how quickly we would be getting the results from the mammogram, worried that I had received bad news.
"I'm fine." I said thickly through snot and tears, trying to spread an authentic smile across my blotchy, telltale face.
The sonogram technician showed us to the ultrasound room and, with a tender look, announced that she had something else to attend to and would return in a few minutes.
The Producer, pulled me in close, and my sobs resumed in earnest as I tried to explain through splutters, "I'm sure everything is f-f-fine with the tests, I'm just s-so s-s-sorry that you flew home to s-sit in a w-waiting room. I didn't want to do any of this b-b-by myself, but I totally could have."
A few minutes later, I had pulled myself together. The Producer sat next to me on the exam table when the technician tenatively poked her head through the cracked door to see that the emotional tidal wave had subsided. She rubbed my arm and reassured me that more than likely everything was fine.
I reassured her that I was certain everything was fine.
The Producer held my hand through the whole ordeal.
After 15 minutes and a thorough tour of both breasts' tissue, the technician announced with a toothy grin that my genetically lumpy boobs (fibrous tissue) was the culprit. In the face of her certainty, I realized how superficial and pale my own certainty had been. Hot, liquid relief spilled through my veins.
Very soon after that, I decided to begin training for my first triathlon, to take advantage of my health. And very soon after the completion of that triathlon, I was pregnant with our third daughter.
On my way home from Boulder, today, gratitude swelled inside my chest, unencumbered by disappointment or hope differed. Instead full of promise.
This is what spring is for. To remind us that there is new life, new opportunity after the malignant gloom of winter.