The callback

Yesterday, a friend and I were sharing memories of the trauma of “the callback.” She received hers last December and I got mine two weeks ago. This is not the callback that thrills an actor auditioning for a part. This callback comes from the radiology department of your health care provider telling you there is something suspicious about your mammogram and you need to return soon for more pictures.

The caller remained upbeat even as she delivered the unsettling news. “We had a question about a change since your last mammogram. It’s nothing to worry about. We don’t think it’s a problem.”

What is a problem is that no amount of reassurance is reassuring. I thought about the call off and on for a week until the date of my return appointment. When I arrived at the hospital I felt calm, but this feeling started to dissipate as I waited for thirty minutes to hear my name called. By then my head had begun to ache.

When my turn finally came, the technician took two more pictures and sent me to another room to wait until she had conferred with the doctor. She returned five minutes later to say that the radiologist was not satisfied and she needed to take another picture.  My feeling of calm had fled by the time she had taken the picture and escorted me back to the waiting area so she could revisit the doctor.

After her second trip to get a third opinion, she poked her head into my hangout and started to speak, but shut her mouth when she spotted another patient waiting with me. “We need a private room to talk in,” she whispered.

At this point I was certain that she did not have good news to share. My anxiety heightened as we wandered the corridor in search of an unoccupied office or waiting room.

The only space she could find was a restroom, which I did not view as the best place for sharing bad news, any news for that matter. She pulled me into the room, turned on the light and apologized for her choice of locations. “Everything’s fine,” she said. “See you next year.”

Even as my shoulders dropped in relief, I wondered why we had to meet privately for this?  I wanted to tell her, “You don’t have to whisper.  Just shout it out, because that’s how I want to receive this news today.”

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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6 Responses to The callback

  1. Sharon says:

    Thank goodness “everything’s fine” regardless of where you learned that!!! There is the HIPPA law after all that “protects” patients from learning anything about other patients. Glad that was the information….YEAH.

  2. Karen Clark says:

    Glad the news was good. I had one of those once – call back for an ultrasound — all OK too.. It is nerve-wracking. Wahoo!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Marilyn says:

    They don’t have a clue.
    My doctor said that they wouldn’t call unless there was a problem. A voice mail message Saturday morning said, “Call our office.” Of course, you can’t call until Monday morning. On Monday, they said, “Everything’s fine.” I told my doctor that I was responsible for my anxiety but your office isn’t helping when you give mixed messages!

  4. Jackie Smith says:

    Ann you did a beautiful job with this one. As the friend you referred to I can assure those reading this that I had the same response pattern you did. . .rather calm, trying to be calm, not calm at all. I’ve read somewhere that some health care providers are moving to mammograms once every two years as these call backs, closer looks, clarifying looks, different angles etc – just to make sure you are still fine are having a worse effect on the woman’s heart, nerves and mind than ever imagined. You can almost understand why some women put them off. . .but then my mom died of breast cancer. . .somethings just can’t be put off.

  5. I loved this posting, Ann. You captured that “call back” anxiety precisely!

  6. Jack says:


    Your story reminded me of another all too common medical anxiety. The biopsy that’s taken on Thursday with the result available Tuesday the next week. Like have a great weekend!!!!!

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