Pulling Together

By .

I wakened Tuesday as most everyone did, dreading what news the day might bring about COVID-19. What I didn’t expect was to find a small but definite lump in my breast as I casually brushed my hand over my left side. I froze and thought, “Really? Is this some kind of cosmic joke?” To make matters worse, I knew my family doctor was away until April with no backup.

Over the next two days I lived in various states of panic between periods of calm. I contacted my Ontario Breast Screening Program and booked an emergency mammogram for the next day. They needed a doctor’s requisition, so with the help of my daughter in Toronto I found a nearby walk-in clinic. Wednesday was a time of angst, with a mammogram and follow-up ultrasound. The technician said if there were any urgent news they would call the Walk-in clinic. Thursday afternoon I was wakened from a nap by the phone ringing, and I saw it was the clinic. The receptionist said she would put me on hold, as the doctor wanted to go over the results of my mammogram. I doubt I took more than a shallow breath or two during the agonizing wait for him to come on the line.

“You have a benign growth,” he said. “No need for follow-up.” I could only thank him profusely and take the deepest breath since I had wakened two days before.

I walked with relief to the apartment lobby to check my mail for the first time in two days, disinfectant wipes in hand to shield me from the elevator button and door handles. In my box was a package—strange because I was not expecting any online deliveries. When I opened the shoe-box parcel upstairs, I found a small box of exquisite chocolates, sent by a long-time colleague and friend. A note said, “I want you to know you are admired by me and I value our time together.”

I am rationing these delicacies to one a day. As I sit alone in my apartment I will savour the chocolate, but even more I will give thanks for a health care system that works in times of need and friends who reach out with breath-taking kindness and generosity.

Ruth McQuirter

About Ruth McQuirter

Ruth McQuirter is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University (Hamilton Campus), where she teaches Language Arts. Ruth enjoys writing retreats at Five Oaks Retreat Centre in Paris, Ontario, only partly because she can say, "I'm off to Paris to write."

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