Bracelets, Manicures and Mammograms: One Survivor's Tales

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Megansili.jpgMegan Silianoff was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer just 13 months ago. She says three abdominal surgeries and one prescription for a pain reliever were instrumental to her current status of remission. Cancer has provided Megan with wisdom beyond her 29 years. She says her most profound take-aways are that life is short and painkillers are fantastic. Megan uses her blog, Greetings from Texas, to share about her cancer drama, in addition to other musings she finds comical.

I had a checkup last week at MD Anderson. It started as they always do, getting a bracelet placed around my wrist. This bracelet has your medical number, date of birth and picture.
In my case, it's a terrible picture.

You'd think that being in a cancer hospital, surrounded by people who are truly sick, I'd check my shallowness at the door and not be bothered by such frivolity. Thinking that, of course, is wrong.

I decided to ask the front desk lady to retake my picture.

Me: "Excuse me, miss? I really hate this picture. Can we retake it?"

Front desk lady: "What do you want? A glamour shot?"

Me: (Noting her sarcasm but choosing to ignore it) "Yes, please!"

And that's what we did. We retook my picture. And now I'm looking forward to my next appointment because my new photo is fantastic!

Yesterday I got my nails done at my usual spot. Unusually, my manicurist was wearing an MD Anderson Cancer Center T-shirt. These are pretty common in Houston, especially in the Texas Medical Center area where I live. It's a huge hospital and I always assume the people who sport these shirts either work at MD Anderson or are patients there.

Because I know my manicurist is a manicurist, I assumed she was a patient. Discreetly, I winked at her and whispered, "I'm a patient there, too." In my mind, I pictured her to be recently diagnosed and my comment to be encouraging. What I did not picture was what actually happened:

Manicurist: "You're a patient where?"

Me: (whispering and embarrassed): "Oh, uh ... MD Anderson, like your T-shirt says." (I pointed to her shirt.)

Manicurist: "You're a patient? You have cancer?"

Me: (still whispering, hoping to encourage her to do so as well.) "Uh. I'm fine now. But I still go there. I thought you did, too, because of your shirt."

Manicurist: "No. I don't go there. You poor girl ... have cancer. Are you OK? Are you going to die?"

Me: "No, I'm not going to die ..."

And just when I thought it couldn't get worse, it did because she started tearing up. She ceased filing my nails, got out of her seat and hugged me as the rest of the salon stared.

Me: "Uhhhh ... can I pick my color now? I'm going to pick my color."

I picked blue, the color of silence -- which is what I'll do moving forward when I get my nails done.

I spent my afternoon waiting for a mammogram. It was terrible. I was still waiting an hour past the time at which my appointment was scheduled. I convinced myself this was no way to live.

If I did, in fact, have breast cancer, how did I want to spend my remaining time? Cooped up in this waiting room or outside living life? Enjoying the sunshine! Spending time with loved ones! Making it home in time for "Ellen" at 4:00 p.m.!

Based on this philosophy, I dramatically stood up and exited the waiting room. "Free! Free at last!" I told myself, as I walked out the door and heard the nurse call my name.

I followed the somber nurse back into the mammogram area.

Nurse: "OK, Ms. Silianoff, please take off everything from the waist up and put it in that locker there. Next to the locker, help yourself to the alcohol and ... " (interrupted)


Nurse: "Yes, help yourself to the alcohol and gauze prior to your procedure."

Me: (now seeing the array of medical supplies, including rubbing alcohol): "Oh, right."

So, to all my friends who've yet to experience a mammogram, learn from my experience. Mammograms are much like anything else in life, BYOB. Also, record "Ellen."

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