Yesterday, I finished proofreading, formatting, saving and uploading the last of the documents for my teaching portfolio, which I’ve known about forever, worked on haphazardly for most of the summer and then attacked seriously for the last two weeks. And then I hit SUBMIT. It’s a damn shame that this action wasn’t accompanied by a flutter of digital confetti, or even an anonymous, pro forma, auto-generated email. Thank you for submitting…
But still: it is finished.
Now the files will sit in digital limbo until they begin working their way through/up the system of peers and administrators and directors and the personnel office and the dean, until someone decides at the end of the next academic year that I’m either good at my job (a nice raise) or not.
A week ago, I changed into the hospital gown with the snap closures in the front and when prompted by the friendly technician, presented my breasts one by one for flattening between two plastic plates. I held my breath through the beeping. I was too filled with the customary dread to breathe anyway.
It was my regularly scheduled mammogram, due to a well-documented familial health history that I review at the start of each exam, conjuring my ancestors one by one in my mind. I never miss a mammogram. It’s on my calendar already to schedule next year’s exam the minute my insurance allows me (7/26/2024). I have no reason other than this history to suspect something is wrong, except in the days leading up to the exam, I always manage to convince myself that something is wrong, that the size or shape or texture of my tissue is different, that there is tenderness or pain for no discernable reason. By the time I’m half-naked, my breast being compressed to the flatness of, if not a pancake, then a rounded baguette, I’m in full doomsday mode.
(A word, also, about mammography. Every technician for twenty years of mammograms has said the same thing to me: obviously the machine was designed by a man, and we chuckle wryly as she positions my feet and breasts and chin and shoulders, all parts of me pushed against unforgiving plastic, limbs contorted to get the right image. Can we not, in 2023, do better?)
“You’ll get your results in a few days,” the technician says, and when I exit the exam room to return to the dressing room down the hall, another kind of countdown has begun: the waiting. I go through the motions of life: meeting with my writing group, watching Barbie with two badass friends, a Seinfeld-themed birthday party, my duties as liturgist at church, teaching my online class, commuting to my summer internship. Days pass, during which I log into my health app a few dozen times, and then finally, in desperation, send an email to my primary care doctor. The reply comes pretty fast, but not before I’ve mapped out other dismal scenarios, all of them involving major life changes. The lab is backed up, but you should be hearing results soon.
This morning, while I was in the yard trying to tame the beast that is our upright rosemary plant, my phone pinged with a notification from my health care app. I sat down on the front stoop and said a prayer and opened the letter and started crying, because there’s no evidence of malignancy, and because I’m so stupid to let my mind go there all the time, and because I’m so grateful, so damn grateful, to have this news.
Earlier this summer, I went into my home office to find that the metal ceiling vent, along with two long screws and a shocking amount of plaster, were scattered about my desk chair and the surrounding carpet. Directly above the spot where I sit for Zooms of all sorts—but mostly teaching, meetings—was a gaping hole where the vent cover had been.
Will was sitting in the living room, the Padres on TV.
“Did you hear a loud crash earlier?” I asked.
He shrugged. Loud crashes aren’t uncommon in our neighborhood.
After close study by two non-handy people, we realized the vent cover was never going back up there—the missing chunks of plaster were the only place to screw a vent cover in place. It’s a case for the professionals, which means it will sit for a few months until I have a few other projects that all need to be tackled right now, and in the meantime, it’s *delightfully* cool under the ceiling hole and this dodged bit of metal and plaster is another reason to be grateful.
Right now, right this very minute, I’m the sole customer at the Starbucks on Prescott/Briggsmore. Cher is coming through the speakers. I’m caffeinated. My laptop battery is at 77%. I had a good phone call this morning about a new venture (I promise to not always be so vague, but please tolerate my vagueness for just a bit longer), and I’m feeling hopeful.
Things are looking up.
Paula Treick DeBoard