Sparking a memory

Published 11:32 pm Friday, February 14, 2020

By Judith Hensley

Plain Thoughts

The smell of coal burning takes me straight back to the front room of Granddaddy Enos Hensley and Grandma Annie’s home at Smith, KY. There is no other smell in the world like it. I can see the little grate stacked full of coal and people sitting on their cane bottomed chairs telling stories.

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The smell of box elders takes me to the front porch at Grandpa Wick Hamlin and Grandma Florence’s little house on the hillside. We’d sit on the porch in the evening and listen for the sound of bob-whites or whip-oor-wills, and if we ere lucky, Grandpa Hamlin would tell us about bygone days.

All of my grandparents have been gone for decades, but those common smells are a gateway to the past as if it was yesterday.

In similar manner, a Bible story will escort me back to childhood Sunday School days. A song popular in high school will carry me back to my friends from that era and what we all looked like at that age in a split second.

The smell of Highland Leather reminds me of a college beau and the fragrance of Heaven Scent or Evening in Paris has a collection of memories all their own. These are all good things and the occasional flashback is a blessing.

Today, I had to walk through memories I really didn’t want to revisit. I knew I had to go. I knew it was time for my six month-check-up. I wasn’t afraid of the day’s results. But I hadn’t expected the flashbacks of the original diagnosis at the Knoxville Breast Center.

I found the building and the first flashback was from the end of the day of my original visit when I was standing outside the building by a brick post, waiting to be picked up by my ride with the knowledge of the day’s results already clear to me. I walked in the main doors and the sights and setting were the same as they were in August of last year. Only the faces in the waiting area had changed.

When I was finally called back to start the process, I had to put on the robe and find a place in the waiting room. I couldn’t help wondering how many of those women were there for routine check-ups. How many, like I had done, thought they were there for a routine check-up only to have unexpected news before they left? How many had traveled the same path I’ve been on and already been through radical surgery, radiation, and other interventions? It was no longer a waiting room of strangers. We were all knit together by a common experience on one level or the other.

My first procedure was a 3-D mammogram imaging process, which was new and an advanced technique since I had been there only six months ago. When something uncertain showed up in the image, I was asked to wait and have an ultrasound. The waiting in the sterile room alone was a flashback to those waiting hours on my first visit when I knew the outcome was not going to be good. I thought of the other women out there – waiting. I prayed. I thanked God for being with me on this unexpected part of my journey. I thanked Him for the peace that has surrounded me from the very first day.

Today I was confident that what they were concerned about in the image would turn out to be scar tissue. After the ultrasound, I waited again. When the doctor came through the door with a smile, my convictions were realized. Scar tissue. Not cancer.


I will have to repeat this process every six months for the next two years, then less frequently. The next time, however, I have a new memory to replace the hard ones. Not Cancer.