From the Mommy Files…

Archive for the ‘mammogram’ Category

The next morning I got that message. The one we dread.

Huh?

I called. “Can you come on Tuesday?” I tried to keep it in perspective, since I was warned that I’d likely get the call. “Tuesday’s 3 days from now,” I thought. Perspective. I set the appointment, telling myself I’m OK.

Over the next few days, I’d remind myself repeatedly, that it was a formality; I’m OK. I even tried visualization: The doctor says, “We had to double check, because we don’t have any comparison images. Everything’s fine. See you next year.”

That morning, my husband and I discussed the day’s events. “Last week was the “Panini Treatment.’ Today, ‘The Crusher!’” I said, in my most sinister sounding voice. I thought he’d laugh, but he gave me a bewildered look. “Glad you’re keeping a sense of humor,” he responded. Do I have a choice?

I got the kids off to school and headed downtown. I approached the women’s hospital and thought, “I really hate this place!” This is the same place I went for my D&C, and chemo. I reminded myself that my younger daughter was born there. I walked inside, and remembered waiting with my husband by the front windows for the tour of the then-new hospital. Smile.

Then there was that familiar feeling: “Here I am again on the damned 4th floor!” I gazed to the right—the cancer center—where I’d spent so much time a few years before. I’m OK. I’m OK.

This time it was a left turn. The sign greeted me: “Diagnostic Mammography/Breast Ultrasound.” Couldn’t miss the big sign on the back wall: Lynn Sage Comprehensive Cancer Center. Deep breath. I’m OK. A volunteer greeted me and showed me the changing room. Ahhh, the lovely green ensemble. This one had a different print. How chic! NOT.Imaging Sign

“You brought a book!” the volunteer said. “You’ve been told how things work here.” “No,” I responded. “I spent a lot of time on the other side of this floor. I know how it goes.” She looked puzzled, but then gave me instructions.

I waited with 2 other ladies, all in lovely green gowns with different patterns. No one spoke. We all waited. One lady was called for her test. The other was told she would need an ultrasound for verification. No one made eye contact. Everyone seemed to do their best to keep calm. I opened my book, but then took out my notepad instead. I wrote: We just had to double check, because we don’t have any comparison images. Everything is fine. See you next year for your regular mammogram. I recited the mantra over and over. Everything is fine. It HAS to be.

Then it was my turn. “Microcalcifications,” the tech explained, showing me the original mammogram. “We don’t know why women get them, but usually they’re harmless. Oh, and it has nothing to do with how much calcium you get in your diet.” She also informed me that 1 in 4 women are summoned for further imaging, and of those, 75% are first-timers—meaning it’s the baseline mammogram, and they require additional imaging to see all angles so they have images to compare in the future, and also to get a closer look at anything suspicious. Both breasts were to be imaged, because both had these pesky, tiny “white” calcium spots. Again, I’m one of the “Chosen Few.” I’ve already been one, twice already. Enough.

Disrobe. Approach the torture machine. Be twisted, flattened (even more so than the last time).

I think she took four images on each side. She interchanged different pieces of the machine, then mushed and crushed, and basically put my breasts in a vice. “The Crusher” for sure.

Deep breath, hold it and don’t move. OK. Step back. Now come straight in, hold the other breast away, lean in, sorry I have to make this really tight…

The images would be viewed by the radiologist, and then they’d discuss them with me. I would leave with results! I was escorted back to the waiting room. Woman #1 was back, and was soon called to be told she needed ultrasound. A new woman was in there waiting. Was it the same routine for all?

Twenty minutes later, a new tech came, calling my name. “Come with me. We’re going for ultrasound.” She showed me the images, and told me they needed a closer look at several areas. As I lay on the table, arm behind my head, all I could think of, was “I hope my pits don’t stink too bad!” No deodorant is allowed day, as on the imaging, it can resemble something daunting.

I watched the screen. I was curious. I’d watched all the ultrasounds I had with my pregnancies – even the molar pregnancy. But these images were foreign. She clicked, measured, moved around. I don’t know how to read all the abbreviations on the screen, but it sure added to my anxiety level. At one point, I thought I saw a face, formed by things in the scan. I’ve seen this face before — in the ultrasound where we first suspected the molar pregnancy. I was sure my eyes were playing tricks on me.

“The radiologist is waiting. Just stay here and try to relax. Likely, she’ll want to come and double check.” A few minutes later, the tech and the radiologist entered the room. “The microcalcifications are nothing to be concerned about,” the radiologist said, and gave me the “baseline speech.” Phew! I’m in the clear!

Not so fast!

“This is the area that I wanted another set of eyes,” the tech said, pointing to the right side of my right breast. Using the ultrasound wand, the radiologist scanned. I didn’t know what she was looking for, as she click-clicked to capture images and measure things.

Then the other shoe dropped.

“It may likely be just an unusual convergence of the ducts, but something looks suspicious. I can’t really tell by the ultrasound. You have two options: scan again in 6 months, which I don’t recommend, or biopsy,” the radiologist explained.

Are you kidding me?

“It may be nothing. The only way we’ll know is to check. It’s small. We need to know what’s in there, and we can’t wait. Let’s do a biopsy.”

“Now?!” I murmured, trying not to freak out.

“We can’t do it today. Our scheduler will schedule it for the next few days. Let’s not wait.”

I walked the long hallway back to the changing room. It felt like the last mile. What just happened here? This can’t be happening. Slightly numb and feeling sick to my stomach, I changed and waited for the scheduler.

She wanted me to come back tomorrow. No-can-do. “OK, come back Tuesday at 2 pm. Arrive at 1:45, and plan to stay 2-3 hours. We never run on time.”

I have to wait a week until the biopsy. One week of all kinds of things running through my mind. One week of agonizing over the possibility of throwing my kids’ lives into chaos – again. As I drove home, I prayed. I asked God. “Am I missing something?” “Am I not grateful enough?” “Am I not doing something fast enough, and you’re trying to light a fire under me?” There’s a reason here. I just kept thinking about my kids—I don’t want them to suffer through another malady.

Now, I wonder: For a baseline, why aren’t women brought in for the full gamut of images from the start, instead of scaring the beejeezus out them by summoning them for further imaging? That would make sense, but nothing makes sense in the world of medicine and insurance.

Have you ever been summoned for further testing? Have you ever had to ponder the what-ifs of a life-changing or threatening illness? How did you react? Have you ever had a biopsy that showed everything was fine? Do share in the comments below.

I’m not talking about lunch.

If you’re over 40, you know what I’m talking about.

MAMMOGRAM.

I hadn’t had one yet, even though I’m over 40. With all my health issues, I think my doctors thought I was being monitored closely, and if anything were going on, it would show up in the CT scan and x-rays I had prior to beginning the chemo resulting from the malignancy of the molar pregnancy, and then later the many MRIs and MRAs I’ve had to have over the last 2 years due to the vertebral artery dissection.

In December, I went for my annual check-up. You know, the glorious visit with the gyne, in which you count the seconds until it’s over? My doctor asked, “When was your last mammogram?” “Never,” I reminded him. “Well, you’re overdue!” he said, and wrote the order.

Fast forward to the night before the appointment. As my husband and I discussed the events of the following morning, I informed him that I was going for a mammogram.

“Ah, the old ‘Panini Treatment!’” he joked.mammo

We’ve all heard the stories of having your breasts flattened like a pancake and squeezed like an orange. I couldn’t imagine.

Now, you will survive this, like every other unpleasant exam. And early detection saves lives! It’s pretty quick. You may have red marks from the machine. Some who are very sensitive will actually bruise. But one thing is for sure. It hurts.

I once compared a breast pump to a Chinese torture device. But let me tell ya, the pump’s got nothing on a mammogram machine. Yowsa!

You get one of those fashion-forward green gowns, and are told to undress from the waist up. Then you get to show off your lovely new outfit in the waiting room until your name is called. The tech explains what will happen, even makes small talk to distract you. Then it comes. You must disrobe in front of this stranger, and stand there with your boobs hanging out. Literally. Talk about feeling vulnerable.

So as your breasts are squished and manipulated into this machine, here comes the “pancake maneuver” —  it pushes down to flatten you out. This compression allows for a better picture of the breast. Fortunately, you only have to hold this pose – and your breath – for a few seconds. It feels like an eternity, but then it’s over. But wait! You have to do the other side! And then there’s the side view – both sides! And if your bones are “high up”, the technician will press on them, to move them out of the way.

The things we have to go through!

While I put on the lovely green ensemble and prepare to be dismissed, the tech asked me if I wanted to see the images. So we had a look. Interesting.

Then came the warning: first time screens many times are called in for a follow-up screen. Huh? Apparently, there are some false readings and since this is the baseline and there are no previous images to compare, many women receive a letter or a call (scaring the crap out of them), summoning them for further imaging.

So I likely will have to repeat this little adventure in the next couple of weeks? Ugghh.

That breast pump is looking more fun right now!

And I shudder to think that I will have repeat this experience regularly for the rest of my life.

As I prepared to leave, the tech reminded me that this will be a regular occurrence, and explained that it will get easier. “Right now you have nice, firm breasts. As you get older, they will be less firm, more jiggly, and it won’t hurt so much.” Like that’s supposed to be something to look forward to? Well, at least I have that going for me right now – nice and firm. LOL

And if the men want to poke fun at this humiliating, uncomfortable and often painful experience, I invite them to envision the same type of machine used to scan their body parts for cancer. Then they may change their minds! He he

A hint for the men: do not tease women about these diagnostic checks. We are submitted regularly to basically being violated in the name of health. And there is no dinner or drinks before, or a cigarette after.

Now excuse me while I get the ice pack.

Have you had a mammogram yet? How was your experience?


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BooBoo BeDoux

Bebs LaRoux

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