We grow old. We…women…have to start having more “tests” as we age.
Throughout the years: We do our breast exams, we get paps, we watch for moles….blah blah blah. We reach 40 and now we need mammograms. You groan when you get the news. I even considered not getting a mammogram but decided better safe than sorry. So I was scheduled for one. I went in…remember now no deodorant or powder on your upper body (but wait! I have to go to work afterwards!! Grrrr okay wear a T-shirt and bring deodorant and a fresh shirt.
I get there and do the necessary paperwork. And wait….not a long wait, so that wasn’t too bad. I’m called back and the tech explains what’s going to happen. She gives me a nice warm exam gown…I change into it and then head into the mammogram room. There’s the ominous giant machine. It’s cold, metalic, and looks more like a giant press of some sorts rather than a machine that is going to squish my “girls” and take a film.
So she gets me positioned and squished and turned and wiggled. After several films I’m done. She shows them to me and asks for my email address as I can have the results emailed to me either that evening or the following morning. Well now I LIKE that idea!! No waiting for mail or a call from my doctor just an email. The tech tells me that since this is my first mammogram that I might need a more extensive one to establish a baseline to compare future ones to. So to not be surprised if get called back in for another more extensive one. It’s Friday and I have to work late because we’re having a dinner for our head start students that are moving on to kindergarten.
I get done with the dinner and check my email…nothing. It’d been a long day so to bed early because I was exhausted. I wake up the next morning and there’s my results in email:
Dear Ms. Strongheart:
Your recent mammogram examination on 4/17/2015 showed a finding that requires additional imaging studies for a complete evaluation. Most such findings are benign (not cancer). Please call 907-XXX-XXXX to schedule an appointment for these tests if you have not already done so.
Okay…well she said this might happen…no worries. Monday I get a call from the hospital to schedule my 2nd mammogram. Well we’re wrapping up for the end of the school year at Head Start and I had 22 home visits to complete in addition to the regular classroom tasks. So I set my 2nd mammogram for May 5th.
I go to work as usual that day. Have class with preschoolers in the morning as usual and then after they left for the day I head to the hospital for mammo #2. I head to radiology, never been here before because my first one was at their clinic in Kenai. So here I am at the hospital in Soldotna….waiting….and waiting….have they forgotten me? Good thing I have my smart phone and can sit and whine on facebook and play some games whilst I wait.
I finally get called back. She shows me to the changing room and explains that they want to do a more extensive set of films….but just on my left breast. Well now that sets some alarm bells off. Only the left one…huh? Okay…suck it up buttercup! We can do this! I change into a cozy warm exam gown and wait for her to come get me. We go back and she shows me the two films from my left breast that I had done before. She points out why they want to get a better look. Well huh…there’s some gray streaks and a most definite white spot about the size of a very large pea.
I step up to the machine and she takes more films using more precise imagery. She takes me back to the changing room and says the Doctor will be in to see me to let me know if I need an ultrasound. And I wait. I post on FB about it being only my left breast and that I’m a bit anxious. The tech comes in and tells me that I’ll need an ultrasound and that the ultrasound tech will be here to get me shortly.
And I wait…again. And again I vent on FB not at all happy about having to have an ultrasound. The ultrasound tech comes and gets me. She takes me to a darkened room and I lie down on the bed. She puts some ultrasound gel on my breast and starts the ultrasound. I can see in a screen above me and to the left what she’s seeing.
Hmmm wonder what that spot is? She stays focused on it, she measures it. She attacks it from different angles measuring and recording. Then she tells me I can get cleaned up and dressed again. She will go and show the doctor the results and he will come talk to me about them.
So I get dressed and pace. Waiting…thankfully it was only a couple minutes and the doctor arrives. He introduces himself and shakes my hand. What will he say, I wonder?
He tells me that they have found something (really? I think I might’ve noticed!) He tells me that there’s a solid mass in my breast and he thinks we should do a biopsy to determine what it is. He assures me that in cases like mine that only about 3% turn out to be cancerous. He tells me what will happen, I ask if my native clinic will cover the costs. He assures me that they will but that sometimes they prefer to send women to Anchorage for biopsies but has done a few for them here in Soldotna.
I tell him that I hope I can get it done here becuase I’m a single mom of two small girls…one who is autistic…so picking up an going to Anchorage just doesn’t work well for me. He says he’ll be sure to add that to his report and tells me to talk to my doctor about it. He asks if I have any questions….at the moment NO….I’m in shock. All I can think is…breathe!! Don’t break down and start balling. Nod, smile, breathe…breathe….don’t panic…it’s just a biopsy! It’s just some needle sticks to numb it, a small incision and a ginormous needle shoved into my left boob to take a sample. (really I’m not panicking….really!! breathe!!)
Well I do have the sanity enough to ask him how long it will take to get the results… 3 to 5 business days. I try to schedule it so that I can do it on my two weeks off before I start working summer camp….no dice. He’s not available. And he wants to do it sooner rather than later …breathe…okay…let’s just do it next week!
So he says his goodbyes and the ultrasound tech takes me into the hallway to wait while she talks to scheduling. We’ve decided it best to get me penciled into the schedule so if the clinic does approve for me to have it done here then I’m all set.
Again I’m waiting…not in a private room but in the hallway…but thankfully no one’s around. The tears threaten…some escape…breathe…I can do this! Breathe…breathe damnit! I will not break down now…here…in a hallway. Breathe!! Onto my phone again…post on FB that I’m scared…I need a biopsy. BREATHE!!!! No crying!! I’ve been through worse…I can do this!!
The ultrasound tech comes back and I’ve been penciled in for May 13. She hands me a card and we say our goodbyes. BREATHE!!! Hold it together. I text work because there is no way I’m going to be able to work this afternoon…I’m emotionally drained. I head home.
The girls aren’t home. Glenna is at daycare and Cecelia is with her staff so I have an hour or two before they’ll be home. Once at home I let it all go. No longer can I contain the emotions. I cry and I yell…I curl up in a ball and let it all out. Breathe…deep breath… moment of weakness subsides. I grab my phone and call the clinic. I speak with my doctor’s case manager. They’ve already received the report and the referral for the biopsy. They approve for me to have it done at the hospital here…whew….one hurdle down!
I know someone who just went through this and I text her. I ask her some questions. I find out that she wasn’t allowed to lift anything for 48 hours after her biopsy. Well that’s not going to help. That means I cannot work for two days after. The last two days of school. :-( But I cannot do it later the next week b/c the doctor isn’t available for the two weeks that I am off before we start summer camp. So it is what it is.
I’ve lined up a substitute teacher for my classroom and am trying to get as much done as possible before Wednesday so my co-teacher isn’t stuck with tons to do. Now I wait….and wait…and stew…and over think things….what if this….what if that….sigh…
Sometimes I really hate growing older. I don’t have time for this crap. I’m trying to NOT think about it but how can I NOT think about it. Even after the biopsy is done I’ll have to wait some more as it takes 3-5 business days to get the results. Plus they have to come from my regular doctor so who knows how much longer that will take….grrr…