I’m sitting in a dressing room waiting for my second mammogram films to be read, dressed in a hospital gown with my clothes in a pile on the bench. This is the second one since April because they found calcification in both breasts. As I sit waiting to hear the results, I alternate between fighting tears, visualizing healthy breasts, and praying. It’s the longest hour of my life, waiting to hear my fate, and I’m almost in tears as I write, just thinking back to that day. Do I need further tests, ultrasound, a biopsy? Is it cancer? I’ve always felt that since there’s no family history of breast cancer, I was somewhat safe. Foolish thoughts, I guess.
The technician has been very kind and helpful, explaining everything and answering my questions. It helps keep me calm. And did you know that the trick of looking up to the side really does stop tears from dropping? I don’t want to cry because I fear that I won’t stop and will be a blubbering mess very quickly.
Here she is-I have to have ultrasound of nodules. Thought they weren’t a concern. Damn.
The above passage was written a few months ago, back when this journey began so let me backtrack a bit and fill in the blanks. But first let me say “Ladies, please get a yearly mammogram!” In 2008, I had my last mammogram for several years. Before that, I faithfully went once a year, no problems. But since then, all the life changes and issues somehow got in the way and I missed going for several years. It flew by in terms of mammograms and I actually thought it was only a couple of years. So in April, 2014, I finally had one done. They requested my old films to compare and I blithely trotted over to pick them up, confident, never realizing what was ahead. Yup, changes that were an indication of “something” so after a few mammograms, an ultrasound was scheduled, then unscheduled, and then I was told that I had to get this new 3-D imaging done instead. And here’s where it got a little crazy.
The Nurse Practitioner that I was seeing sort of dropped the ball. She felt that too many of these were being ordered and not really necessary, just the latest fad, so to speak. At the same time, I started a new ”job from hell” full time, and had limited time to make phone calls. I followed up with her from work, as best as I could, but when she didn’t schedule it, finally heard again from radiology, telling me to come in. She never did schedule the 3-D imaging so when I arrived at radiology, they actually had the specialist there that day who showed them new forms of mammogram torture so that they could get the images that were needed. My right breast was rolled, pulled, tucked, smashed, squished, ….You get the picture! And yes, there was calcification that needed to be checked further. Nodules were no longer an issue. And this time I cried. I needed a biopsy.
Oh my God. Breast cancer!! No. God, please no. Damn, tears while I’m writing again. So I went outside, got into the car, and prayed, and cried some more. And then I got my head back together and drove home and went in to work. And waited for the appointment. What I got was an appointment at the Delaware VA Hospital for them to check what the Philadelphia VA Hospital found. Time has become my enemy because now almost 6 months have gone by. So I went to Delaware, was checked and it was confirmed, biopsy. I expressed my urgency to the surgeon after he told me it would take several weeks for the appointment and by the next week, I was in. Thank you doctor!
I only told one person about this, my best friend since college, Kathy. Someone had to know and I didn’t want it to be my son because I’m a mom and he’s my baby. He shouldn’t have to carry that around in his head. Anyway, I went alone to Delaware, Christiana Women’s Breast Center, and had the biopsy. What an experience that was. You lie on your stomach with your breast through a hole and they work from below. Glad I didn’t have a view of that! They numb you with a needle, which didn’t hurt much, and then when numb, kind of drill out tissue. Then they wrap your breasts to prevent bruising and tell you to keep the wrap on for three days. Ick. No shower, don’t remove it!! I managed to hide this all from my son, daughter-in-law, and the baby, and finally took it off on the third day. I wore my loosest tops because DD’s in no bra is not a pretty sight at age 65!
And then waited. I was told if it was cancer, they would remove breast tissue and underarm lymph nodes. Much more than I bargained for, but it would probably get it all so deal with it! I prayed, continued to work, and still told no one. On my day off, three days later, I was home with my son and got the call. It was negative!!!!!!!!!! Thank you God!! I had to tell my son at that point because I finally gave myself permission to fall apart. And I did. Of course, crying again while I write. But he took it in stride and was supportive, as usual. 6 months of torture, waiting to hear. I guess it helped that I have a “job from hell”, but that’s a story for another time.
Anyway, my next mammogram is in 6 months and you can bet your butt that I’m going to get that one done as well as every year from now on. I am thankful that I made it through this in good health and just want to move forward now.
Apologies to my sister, brother, and sister-in-law for not telling but I didn’t want anyone to worry unless there was a real reason. If it was positive, believe me, you would have known pretty darn quick!
So, I move forward, continuing the journey of recovery from my husband’s betrayal, continuing to grow, being happy, enjoying my beautiful grandson, my family, and friends. Thank you God, for your blessings. My prayers go to all of you who have gone through this, will go through this, or have lost someone to this. Thank you to Kathy for being there for me and checking on me. Dee, Deb, and Joe, I know you would have done the same.
Breast cancer is a horrible disease, filling the breasts that have nurtured children, filling the breasts that we were so proud of when we got our first “training” bra, and filling the breasts that are so much a part of who we are. But, when faced with this, my first thought was “cut that cancer out of me”. I don’t need to be defined by having breasts. Rather I will be defined by my heart and soul, my strength and love, my family and friends, and my life.