Sunday, December 30, 2012
Approximately three weeks ago I had my first screening mammogram. I should have had my first mammogram when I turned 40, but last year was kind of chaotic, so I finally got around to it this December. When I worked for a hospital's medical clinic in the Milwaukee area, the x-ray department was across the hall from the lab where I worked. I would go in and look at some of the films (yes, they were still actually on film back in the day) and although I am in no way, shape, or form a Rad Tech, when I see a mammo film (ok, "image"; old habits are hard to break) I have a general idea what should be seen and what shouldn't be. Three weeks ago after the tech was finished, I asked if I could see my images which were being emailed to the Radiologist as I was standing there in my bare feet and ill-fitting maroon half-gown. I looked at them and pointed to a round, white circle on my left side and asked, "What's that?" The tech answered, "That is something the Radiologist will probably talk to you about." Sure enough, two days later the Mammography Department called me and asked that I come in for "additional views of the suspect area and an ultrasound of the same area." Ironically, I received a letter in the mail the same day with the results and the word "ABNORMAL" in bold letters. So I had my additional views and ultrasound of the "suspect area" on my left breast last Thursday, December 27 at 11am. The original mammogram didn't hurt nearly as much as this one did. The tech explained that the machine was putting extra pressure on a smaller area, hence the increased "discomfort." Discomfort? It hurt like hell. Then I moved across the hall into the ultrasound suite, padding along once again in my bare feet and ridiculous maroon colored half-gown. The ultrasound didn't hurt or feel like much of anything at all; I was pleased that the ultrasound gel was warmed and not room temperature. This technician said she needed to show the images to the Radiologist who was in another viewing booth. After what seemed like all of two minutes, the tech and the doc came back into the room where I was still laying on the ultrasound table. The doc introduced himself and shook my hand. He was wearing a Mickey Mouse Christmas tie. Then he said what I was dreading to hear: "We've found something on your left breast that we'd like to have Pathology look at, which means..." He went through my surgical options, sounding very sincere until he said,"there is a lot of blood flow to the area and cancers like a good blood supply." He answered all of my questions, including, "I've known women who have had needle biopsies and said it was the most painful thing they've felt in their lives. How do you prevent that from happening?" He went on to explain how they numb the area (but of course can't numb the entire breast) and use a a needle and vacuum to suck out the suspected tissue. He then told me the needle is about the diameter of a ball-point pen. That, I didn't need to know. They left, I got dressed and this is when I started to cry. Both of my grandmothers have had breast cancer. My Grandma Krause had it in one breast and then in the other breast 25 years later. It outright killed my Grandma Porath. But it wasn't my family history that was the first thought that came to me. That was: but I haven't seen the Great Wall of China yet and I want to do that before I die. Granted, no one has said anything about dying, but when you're a woman with my crazy medical history (if something bad will happen or go wrong, it will happen to me) these are the types of thoughts I automatically have. Next I met with a Breast Care Coordinator who is like my own personal guide through the process from scheduling the biopsy to everything else that could possibly happen. My ultrasound guided needle biopsy is scheduled for Monday, 12-31-12 at 2pm. Because of the holiday on 01-01, I likely won't have results until Thursday, 01-03-13. As I write this, it's 24 hours and some change until I put on that damn maroon gown again and have a piece of my breast tissue removed and examined for cancer. I wish cancer would get cancer and die.