Lynette Vialet, MD

Summer 2010 - Volume 14 Number 2

Yesterday, she brought me a gift: chocolates—artisan chocolates, individually wrapped by hand in delicate foil, boxed in bronze satin paper, and tied elaborately with gold ribbon. I had not expected anything. Rather, I feared the repercussions of bad news given unexpectedly.

I had not seen her for over a year. Not since the day I said, "You need a mammogram and follow-up for this." I did not give voice to my suspicions, but perhaps she felt something in my words, in my voice: caution, warning, or fear.

That particular day, she was 1 of 20 patients on my schedule—1 of 20 women who had come in for a routine Gyn exam or a problem or questions. I should have known. I know the numbers. I can recite them. One in 9 woman will have a breast lump that, as much as we all hope and pray and wish, will not be benign.

She handed me the box, glimmering bronze and gold, and smiled with tears in her eyes. "Thank you," she said. "You found it, otherwise it would have been a long time before something was done about it."

For her, something being done about it included surgery, followed by radiation, followed by chemotherapy, her hair falling out, and finally the recovery, the fear, the "what if?" Why thank me for that? But I thanked her back, told her she shouldn’t have and the other niceties we all say when we are given something we know we don’t deserve.

I resolved to savor each tiny morsel of delectable, smooth chocolate. I picked an elaborately decorated chocolate square, bit into the sweet coating, dark and rich. As I chewed I suddenly felt a crack, a tiny nut of hardness. I remembered her exam, and many others like it: the same smooth tissue soft, pliable, until all of a sudden there is that startling stone, a hard bit, randomly placed. But this chocolate, this time, rather than be surprised, I will bite down, press hard with my teeth, hit that edible pebble and know that the chocolate will never be the same, for I did not deserve such sweet perfection.

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