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Mother Knows Best

Mother Knows Best

– Non-Fiction by Suzanne O’Brien –

Mother and daughter in a field facing away from the camera.

The call I was expecting came just after two o’clock on a blustery March afternoon. Instead of going home after my meeting, I had ended up at the library. I sat in my car alongside the building, watching the leafless shadows of swaying elms along Minnehaha Creek.

My cell phone rang. I hit the green answer button, my mouth dry. “This is Suzanne.”

“Hello, Suzanne. This is Megan from Piper Breast Center.” Her voice was warm and efficient. “I’m Dr. Johnson’s nurse navigator.” She paused. “Are you in a place where you can talk? I have your results.”

I recalled without wanting to the startling snap of the biopsy needle in the darkened room. That was Tuesday, two days ago. I had just popped in for my annual mammogram and afterwards I planned to run a few errands and get home in time to meet the school bus.

Staring out the window at the gray-brown grass, I swallowed. “Yes, I can talk.”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you that the radiologist confirmed invasive ductal carcinoma in your right breast.”

I let out a breath that I’d been holding since Tuesday, when the technician (named Lucky, I’m not kidding) had asked me to step into the waiting room for a follow-up ultrasound. It wasn’t relief, exactly, but there was something freeing about knowing. “Okay,” I said, sitting up a little straighter. “Wow.”

“I know this is hard to hear,” said Megan. “But I want you to know that it’s early, and this is a very small tumor, the size of a pencil eraser. And I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

“Thank you,” I said. It seemed an absurd response.  Then I made it even more absurd. “It must be hard to do this part of your job.”

“It is, but it’s important,” she said, and then went on to talk about next steps. How she would be my main contact. How she would be in the room to take notes when I met with the surgeon and again with my oncologist next week. I already had an oncologist? We said goodbye, the sun went behind a cloud and came back out again and I realized that I hadn’t asked a single question.

I turned up the heat. Right now, the only thing I wanted was to hear my mom’s voice. I picked up my phone again. Twenty past two. This was Mom’s good week. She always bounced back right before the next chemo treatment. She would still be with her needlepoint ladies at the Picket Fence.

She answered on the first ring. “Hello?” Like she was talking into a corded phone.

“Mom?” My breath was coming in small, sharp inhales as I fought to speak through threatening tears. “Piper just called…” I couldn’t continue.

“Oh, Suz.” Her voice caught and then she said, like she always did about the hardest things, “Hang in there, babe. We’ll get through this together.”

Mom could have said anything. Her voice had soothing powers that had calmed my fears and mended my broken heart many times over. Just listening to her was like tucking into a soft, warm hug.

After we hung up I sat still, feeling the shock and numbness fade. I brushed the tears away. And a moment later, there it was… a tiny, familiar bud of hope growing in my heart.

Suzanne O'Brien
About the Author – Suzanne O’Brien

Suzanne O’Brien writes about the health benefits of spending time in nature. Based in Minneapolis, she seeks out new adventures at home and away. From learning the Japanese art of nature bathing to practicing winter survival skills in the north woods, Suzanne writes stories that celebrate life and its imperfections.

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