Updated: Nov 19, 2017
By Olivia Clarke
Post-cancer treatment, there’s something about the anticipation of getting a mammogram that makes me insane.
There is really no other way to say it.
The days leading up to my mammogram create so much worry for me. What if it comes back? What if I’ve got to go through treatment all over again? What if. What if.
In January 2017, I scheduled another breast reconstructive surgery followed by a mammogram in the same week. I probably should have quarantined myself from the world so that my insanity remained contained to our condo — but I didn’t. And while I think that I’m containing it, the worry seeps out of my pores like slow moving lava down the side of a volcano.
On the Sunday before my mammogram I went out with my husband and three friends to one friend’s favorite restaurant that served mainly fondue. I didn’t have much experience with fondue but it seemed easy enough. I was so excited to hang out with these friends but I was also trying to keep my worry inside. At the bar before we sat down for dinner, I quickly drank two whiskey sours — no big deal. When we walked to the table I realized that maybe those drinks were a bad idea. I should have decided to stop drinking alcohol so that I could enjoy my friends and the fondue.
Sadly, I chose the path of nonsense and kept drinking those whiskey sours. Now I'm not a tremendous cook sober, but drunk and with fondue requiring a lot more work than a regular meal at a restaurant -- this had all the makings of a hot mess. For the life of me I could not figure out how to cook my food in those pots. I kept burning my mouth by eating the vegetables or meat too quickly after I cooked them. Or the food never made it to my mouth because it got lost in the fondue pot. My inability to master cooking food with a metal prong meant my friends needed to cook my food for me or dig out each piece of chicken or tomato. I still possessed enough sense to know that everyone was very annoyed with me. But the cloud of alcohol made me think that my annoyance was endearing.
After we got home that should have been the end of what I would later realize was an embarrassing night for me. But as I mentioned at the beginning, my worry, concern and sadness seeps out uncontrollably the more I think about the upcoming mammogram and surgery. I ended up going to bed, but not before I called one of my friends from the dinner crying.
Oh to go back and stop myself from making that call. I’d thought I had done such a good job of hiding my fear only to have it manifest itself into a drunken call. I consider myself a pretty confident person but at that moment I became that ugly, homely high school student. I cried about being ugly and scarred. As I look back on it I can only cringe out of embarrassment. Being the good friend that he is, he humored me by saying he didn’t think I was ugly. But I later felt mortified that I put all my insecurities on him and asked him to make me feel better.
Now this could be considered a sad, pitiful story. But I choose to see the humor in the situation. I can only imagine the horror for my friend who thought the “Olivia Show” was over for the night, only to realize that there was an encore. I also can imagine that so many friends and caregivers experience these types of situations where they are like “Good God who has possessed my loved one?” I don’t think I often gave my husband and friends credit for walking the cancer walk with me, one volcano eruption at a time.