I was out shopping with my mother-in-law yesterday. In one store we stopped to look at greeting cards to attach to our gifts for an upcoming baby shower. MIL walked away for a few minutes to look at something else and while I continued to browse the cards, a woman standing next to me starting chatting about how the cards in this store were such a bargain, etc. She then turned to me and in a low hushed whisper said, “Hey”. You know that surreal feeling you get when someone says something in a strange way suddenly catching you off guard and you just kind of stand there not sure how to react? Yeah, that was me. Just kind of standing there in front of the rack with the “Happy Baby Shower” cards wondering if she was going to offer me some black market cards from her trench coat or start talking about how she just landed on earth and could I take her to our leader or something. I glanced around to see if MIL might be making her way back.
The way her tone took a complete 180 from being all friendly and chit-chatty to suddenly low and covert obviously made me suspicious. When she actually said what she intended to say, once again, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. “Have you made an appointment to have your mammogram?” She just stood there waiting for an answer.
“Uhhhh….” I stammered. You are never quite sure how to answer such a personal question from a complete and total stranger. It was funny though, because right at that very moment in my planner, inside my handbag, hanging on my shoulder was an order from my doctor to schedule my base line mammogram. I picked it up last week when I went in for my annual checkup and yes, that is correct, I am 47 and have yet to have even the first one. I began to wonder if in fact my doc was having me followed to make sure I follow through this time.
I told the woman that I actually was about to schedule one and she explained that she had a mammogram a month ago and had just had surgery last week, “You should do it. It happens very fast.” She snapped her fingers as if to illustrate the importance of what she was telling me and then just like that, she walked away. Kind of like an angel or something. Weird.
After she left, I realized what had just happened. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead, she was on her own personal mission. She was not going to wait for a public service announcement, celebrity charity walk, or cheesy television movie to spur me to action. She wasn’t going to wait for me to not schedule it again this year, so that I could be reprimanded by my doctor one more time. She didn’t care what I thought about her or how odd her methods. She did not care one iota. The most important thing to her at that moment was in the telling. What she had to say was so much more important than how she said it and she knew it and now I do too. She conveyed during those few seconds that she didn’t want me to be another statistic. God bless her and shame on me.
Shame on me because my own mother had breast cancer and after a mastectomy and chemotherapy, she had five fairly good years before the evil thing returned and took her from us, almost ten years ago. I of all people should know better. I of all people should have been the first one in line to have a mammogram, because I of all people know what an evil beast breast cancer can be. Shame on me.
Thank you to the stranger who took two minutes to care about another human being. Thank you to the stranger for prompting me to do something that should have been done long ago. She was an angel, of that I am sure. Our meeting just a coincidence? I don’t think so.