My hands were resting in my lap as I waited in the X-ray room. It was 8:30 in the morning and I’d already been through two orthodontist appointments with the girls. I was trying squeeze in a chest X-ray my doctor had ordered weeks before.

The technician came in, she wore raspberry scrubs and had a warm smile. “Good morning, hun. I’m going to have you undress to your waist, everything up top comes off, then you put on the robe, ok?”

I nodded. The door closed behind her and I looked around. The austere and dated room was jarring— no pastoral scenes taped to the ceiling over where you might lie down like in a gynecologist’s office, no signs to read or magazines to flip through to pass the time. My nerves began to ping and I tried to keep my breathing steady, I laughed in spite of myself because I was there to probe deeper into a shortness of breath issue.

I took my layers off, hesitating before removing my bra. There was a door in the corner that was wide open, through the threshold the dark corners of another room. It felt strange to stand there with it open. Despite the woman’s kindness, I realized how little who we are matters in these rooms. I am:

Magee, 42y F White—Chest Lab

I looked at the robe, frozen. I never know which way they go. I put it on like a jacket and fumbled with the ties. I sat with my hands in my lap. I thought about how long overdue I am for my pap. My doctor’s death has been an excuse for me. It’s not ok that I have postponed my health. I clasped my hands together.

I felt something as my hands touched, I couldn’t identify it at first. My skin felt soft and warm. As I rubbed my hands and then squeezed it felt as if someone was there with me. I felt comforted and loved. I took a long, deep breath. It was effortless and before I knew it there was a sound in the room.

“I love you.”

I was saying it to myself and the most startling part was that I believed it. I looked at my hands as if I’d never seen them before. I held one out in front of me, turning it forward and back while my other hand rested on my wrist.

There was a knock at the door and the technician came in. She walked me through the process of standing against the wall, filling my lungs and holding the air inside. We did this four times and then she said, “Ok, hun, we’re all set. You can get dressed and scoot straight out.” I thanked her and watched her leave.

I took the robe off and ran my hands over my arms, I pressed my right hand in to my belly. I traced my finger in my belly button like I used to do when I was a little girl. I thought about who I am beyond the numbers on the paper and the statistics of this political cycle, I cupped my face in my hands and closed my eyes. I imagined being able to kiss my own forehead like I do with Sean and the girls.

Once I was dressed I looked around the room once more, the small area where the technician had stood beamed with a soft light. Two images of my lungs glowed. I looked over my shoulder and then crossed the room to look closer.

I thought about the years I spent smoking, the miles I’ve run, and the deep sobs that have filled those lungs. I wondered if I’d hurt myself or if the bolt of shit happens lightening would strike me with a terrifying prognosis. Hours later I would answer the phone at close to 6 to have my doctor say that it is asthma.

As I waited it wasn’t terror or whispered promises to a higher power in exchange for my health that happened. There was an exchange but it was entirely between who I am and who I have been. It feels in some ways that I was in a delivery room, allowing something to come into the world that I’d never known before. I felt love for myself that had nothing to do with weight, accomplishment, beauty, or mood. It was not vanity, it was compassion for self. Imagine that!

I love you.