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Betsy Block




Flat, lifeless -- I know just how this sandwich feels.

How long was February school "vacation"? So long that I was almost looking forward to my annual mammogram the next Friday, because not only would it signal the end of my first normal week in months (see Just Another Manic Monday for more), but it also meant I'd get a reprieve from picking up two children from two schools at two different times that day. In other words, my mammogram was as close as I'd get to a real winter vacation.

Truthfully, though, mammograms can be kind of nerve-wracking, so on my way to the hospital I decided to get some soothing elderflower tea to take with me. I realized I might be a tad more nervous than I'd previously thought when I blurted out to the friendly barrista that I was on my way to my annual mammo; at that point she looked away and got a little less friendly. I guess my smashed breasts weren't an image she really wanted in her mind for the rest of the day, which is understandable, but sometimes when I'm uncomfortable I have a little problem with self-editing.

Still, though I wasn't looking forward to it, I probably should have been even more stressed out than I was because during my first mammogram two years ago I ended up needing four rounds of photos. (Can I call them photos?) After more than two hours of bosom abuse the radiologist had called me into his office to tell me the spots they'd seen were probably benign, but just to be sure they'd want to follow up in six months. A few return appointments had all blessedly ended with good news. Since then, I'm always mentally prepared for a mammo-marathon, but this time the photo shoot took a mere 10 minutes. True, they were 10 long, weird, uncomfortable minutes, but compared to other things we women go through it wasn't even a blip on the radar.

But there was one small thing: since the last time I'd been in, hospital procedure had changed; the doc no longer read the mammogram right then. They'd be in touch with the results. Though this was a little stressful, it also meant that I could leave. I was in and out of the hospital in under an hour. I almost felt guilty - for this I got the afternoon off? (Off, of course, meaning I had to go home and work.) Preventive medicine is the best.

For better or worse, breasts were the farthest thing from my mind the next morning when the phone rang. "Ms. Block?"


"I'm calling from the hospital about your mammogram ..."

Suddenly my heart was pounding and I was no longer quite as cavalier as I'd been a minute before. Would they call on a Saturday morning if everything was all right? I didn't think so. It's moments like this that can change your life; that can turn everything upside down with just a word or a glance - or a phone call.

"... about your mammogram yesterday? I wanted to let you know that everything is fine." I'll admit, my eyes welled up. It so easily could have been different news; for so many, it is. My heart goes out to them, to their loved ones - to all of us, really, because life is just so tenuous. But lucky, lucky me: this time, I'd been given one more free pass. One more day on beautiful planet Earth.

I knew exactly how I wanted to celebrate: with a pressed sandwich.

Post-mammogram Pan Bagnat
(I don't have a sandwich press so this is a low-tech recipe adapted from Epicurious.)
serves 4

1 loaf French bread

2 6-ounce cans of tuna or, if you're cutting down on your mercury intake, wild salmon (if in oil, don't drain; if in water, do)

1 tomato, diced

olives, chopped


a few squirts of fresh lemon juice

salt & pepper

If you used canned fish in water, add enough olive oil so that it's sloppy, but not grossly wet. Cut the baguette in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides so it's like two canoes. Mix all the other ingredients together and fill one of the canoes up with it. Put the other canoe on top, wrap the whole thing tightly with plastic, and place in a shallow baking pan. Smash it down by putting another baking pan on top and then putting heavy cans on top of that. Let stand for 20 minutes. You have to play to eat, so schedule those 'grams and then feast away.