I am on hold with the MRI department at the Princess Margaret Hospital. When (and if) I get through, I will tell them, with shame and regret, that, for the first time in the 13 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I have missed an MRI appointment. That’s right. Apparently I had one scheduled for Saturday, and I completely forgot. In my defense, I have MRI’s at least once a year, sometimes twice, coupled with mammograms. My breast(s) get far too much attention, and not the fun kind either. If my penance is to sit on hold indefinitely, only to be chided by an admin assistant when (and if) I get through, then so be it. MRI machines are booked 24/7. They are costly, in great demand, and booked far in advance. Clearly I am not worthy of magnetic resonance imaging.


I’m still on the line. The recorded message assures me that my call is being held in sequence. When the secretary comes on, she or he will have to reschedule me, and the subsequent follow-up appointment with my doctor will also have to be moved. I am a nuisance, a jam in the medical machine, a head-in-the-clouds flibbertigibbet. It’s no wonder I can’t hang on to my boobs.


I continue to wait. You might wonder why I subject my one remaining breast – the good one, I call it, although the man-made one looks better in a sweater – to such unrelenting scrutiny, and lately, I’ve been wondering that myself. Ever since the initial diagnosis, which required surgery, chemo, and radiation, the slash/poison/burn response to aggressive cancers, the good breast, like a neglected child, has been acting up. There have been numerous scares: phantom lumps, enlarged nodes, funny bumps and a general sense of malaise. “Get rid of it”, my gynecologist advised me recently. “Pardon?” I said. “Advocate to have it removed”, she said calmly, “Better safe than sorry. You’ve been though enough”.


I finally connect to the booking clerk. I profusely make my apologies, but he doesn’t care – why should he? He promptly reschedules me for a date two weeks from now. I hate MRI’s. No one likes them, and I have spent far too much time in the clangy tube worrying about what cooties they might find. I might heed my gynie’s advice, and see about lopping the good one off. Going full Angelina Jolie, as it were. Doctors do not like removing healthy tissue, but I have taken up countless hours of time with surgeons, nurses, technicians, and radiologists, all to hang on to something I do not need or particularly want anymore, something that might even turn on me and kill me. “Don’t be so melodramatic”, says my son Ronan, reading over my shoulder. “Also, ‘hours of time’ is redundant.” He’s an English major, sadly, and not a med student.


Anyhoo. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. It may not even be an option, and if it is, it is a time consuming one, requiring rest and recovery and reconstruction, not to mention a challenge at the greeting card store (Sorry For Your Loss/Get Well Soon/Tata to your Tata) We will see what the doctor says.


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