By Lisa Huddleston
The subtitle of this blog site is “Intentional Living in the Second Half” so I think it’s fair (even right) to share my recent experiences with a bad mammogram simply because they are all too familiar to too many women of a “certain age.”
Don’t panic anyone–I have no news yet, and Chuck and I definitely expect it to be good when it does arrive. But I thought it may help someone else stay calm/know what to expect/find comaradery to share what I’ve experienced so far.
I scheduled my yearly mammogram a little late this year. I hadn’t received a reminder from my GYN’s office so by the time I remembered to book an appointment with her I was already a few months late. Then I put off the mammo until after the holidays–you know, just in case there was anything that needed to be dealt with. We women always expect “it” to happen some day, and the holidays are crazy enough as they are so I waited just a little bit more.
On the first week of January, I went in for the annual smooshed pancake photography session. No fun but no biggie. All seemed well, although they did take a few extra shots on my right side. I left feeling unconcerned and happy to check that off the list for another year.
A week later I received “the call.” They had seen something suspicious and would like me to come back in for some more pictures. They promised me that I would “know something” that day. I made the appointment for Thursday and let it go. Truly. I felt calm and a little supernaturally distant from the whole idea. Lots of people have “bad” mammograms that turn out to be nothing. I really wasn’t worried.
That day my attitude began to change a bit as picture after picture was made trying to get a better look at whatever it was they saw in there. It definitely was small (“Good news,” I thought), but they sure were determined to see it–enough so that my pancake felt more like a crepe by the time they were finished!
Finally the radiologist appeared from his darkened office to tell me that he really couldn’t tell me much. (“What?! They promised!”) He felt it would be wise for me to have a “needle biopsy” done to be sure that there wasn’t any cancer. Okay, he may not have actually used the “C” word, but it was heavy in the air and in the doctor’s and tech’s sympathetic faces. I acted nonchalant and joked with the tech as she told me I would be receiving a call later that day from the hospital. My brain iced over just a little, but I still felt abnormally calm. I mean, how surprising can it be when breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in America? We all know people who have been touched by it, and I think we all secretly expect it to come to us one day. (Maybe that’s just me? Maybe not.)
Nope. No call that day. The next day (Friday) a nurse from my GYN’s office called to say she would make an appointment for me with a group of surgeons in Nashville. Hmmm … surprise! Not where or with whom I had been told to expect, but still okay. Probably a good choice. But I didn’t actually get the appointment scheduled until the next Monday. And, finally, after another week and a day of waiting, that appointment was, ta da, yesterday.
Chuck went with me (oh I love me that man!) It’s always great to have a medical translator along. My own, personal patient advocate. But I must admit, it was awkward and a little weird to have him sitting in the corner of the room holding my bra, sweater, and purse while I received the most thorough breast exam the world has ever known. (Ever kneaded bread dough? Yep.) We have been laughing about it since then, but overall the visit went well. We liked the doctor very much. She doesn’t expect to find “C” and said there’s an 80 per cent chance of its being benign. Good.
But she did say I need to have a stereotactic biopsy rather than the simpler needle biopsy I expected. Surprise again! Next week. Ugh. (I have a friend who said it’s like have a curtain rod jammed into you!) But there will be Valium and local anesthesia (thank you, God), and I will survive.
So … intentional living goes on and will keep going on regardless of the results of next week’s test. I’ll keep you posted on the whole curtain rod thing, and I’d appreciate your prayers. I still believe that it’s going to be okay, but either way, nothing surprises God.*
We sang “His Eye is on the Sparrow” in church Sunday morning, “And I know He watches me.”
*(Disclaimer: It’s easy to sound brave now. I know. It will be much harder if the news is not what we expect–and I won’t even try to fake it. I hope I don’t sound flippant to those of you who are fighting cancer right now. My heart goes out to you. Blessings!)