From the Mommy Files…

Posts Tagged ‘breast cancer

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.


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BooBoo BeDoux

Bebs LaRoux

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