Hey there! It's been a long time I know. I've wanted to post for a while now but have had things going on in my life that needed my attention, lots of attention, and I have gone back and forth about sharing here. I've actually started this blog entry several times and then saved it for later. Well later is finally here. This is post is going to be lengthy so you might want to settle in with a cuppa of your favorite beverage for this one, I'm free flowing here but I promise to censor myself, somewhat, hah.
Just before Christmas I had my annual mammogram, as I do every year. A few days after my appointment I received a call that I needed to come back for more views. This has happened before and it was nothing, but nonetheless, the pit in my stomach was there.
Of course now the kids were on winter break and it was the week of Christmas, so the only possible time to get in the appointment was Christmas Eve morning. I told the nurse that I would come on this day because my husband was home to watch the kids but I didn't want to come in if I'd have to wait for test results over the Christmas holiday. She told me that the radiologist would be there during my tests so I would have the result immediately. Okay then.
I finished my Christmas Eve dinner prep that we were taking over to my father in laws that afternoon and off I went. On my way out the door my son yelled: good luck with your test mom! And my daughter said: hey mom, don't forget our lucky number seven! I chuckled because they had it in their minds that it would be something like a written test that I could pass or fail, and it made me smile :)
I got to the appointment and changed into the lovely pink smock they had for me and waited for my name to be called. Locker no 7 was available, so I took it, thinking about my girlie at home :)
I looked around and there were a few other ladies there too. I wondered if we were all here for the same reason on Christmas Eve. The healthcare provider I use has digital 2D mammography at several locations, kind of like satellite branches of the hospital for imaging services. Today though I was at the hospital because I was getting a 3D digital test and then an ultrasound, if needed. I wondered if it was the same drill for everyone here today.
While I was waiting my turn I saw other women return from their test, take a seat and wait. Shortly a technician or nurse would come out and whisper in her ear. Some of them would leave while others would wait a bit longer and go back in.
Finally, it's my turn. I go in and have a 3D digital mammogram taken. For those in the know and I am now in the know (!), it's technically called a breast tomosynthesis, and then I take my place back in the waiting room, wondering when a tech would come whisper in my ear.
It wasn't long until she came in and whispered in my ear that the radiologist would like me to have an ultrasound and could I please wait for the technician. No problem. I was in the category of the other women I had seen in the waiting room who didn't get to leave. I knew it, I just knew it.
I was told the wait for the ultrasound could take up to an hour but I only had to wait about 15 mins. The tech was very nice and once she has finished the scan, she told me that the radiologist would look at it. Sometimes he comes in and sometimes he doesn't she said, but don't worry. Too late. I was already worried.
You know it's not a good sign when the actual doctor, whom you've never met, comes into the room after an imaging test. He also had a breast specialist nurse with him. He shook my hand and told me there is a nodule and he wants me to have a biopsy. I held back the tears but could feel my voice quiver as I asked him in his experience what did the nodule look like to him. He couldn't or wouldn't answer of course, and I knew that really, I guess, but you never know and it can't hurt to strike up a conversation when it comes to your health and an experienced radiologist is standing right in front of you.
He was very kind and made a joke, a relevant and self deprecating joke as an answer to my question. He had no way of knowing that I have a great sense of humor, and I really appreciated his response. So much so that I got up the courage to ask him some more questions. I am an impatient person. I did not want the unknown hanging around around in my brain over the holidays, so I asked him if it was possible that this "nodule" could be a fatty cyst or a water filled cyst.
He didn't think so because there were cells growing in it and there was no indication of it on my last mammogram the year before. Well, that's all I needed to hear and I told him how very grateful I was that this, whatever this was, was caught early and that I wanted a biopsy right away. I asked more questions, he gave more answers and offered more information. At this point I was told that my primary care doctor needed to order the biopsy. Well let's call her right now, I said.
I am not really sure where this brave and assertive woman came from. It was almost an out of body experience as I heard myself ask question after question and make one request after another. The nurse called my primary care physician, but she was out of the office and the on call service answered and took a message. It was Christmas Eve after all. I heard myself making jokes and even said to the nurse that tomorrow was Christmas day, the next day was my birthday and then here we are at the weekend and then New Years is here. Please may I have this as a birthday present... I NEED to have this done as soon as possible before year end I said.
Who does that? I was kind and funny and making jokes and they were responding to me. I really don't know how I mustered the courage but I switched into auto drive apparently and I am so glad that I did and was able to advocate for myself. I left there without an appointment or a referral for a biopsy and knew I'd have to wait for a phone call from someone, but I left my requests with the nurse if she should hear back from my doctor.
On the way home, I called my husband and asked him to please step away from the kids and I told him what was going on. Thank goodness for Bluetooth in the car. We made a deal not to say anything to the kids or anybody really until we knew more. No sense in having people worry over the unknown, especially over the holidays. We are going to have a wonderful Christmas I said.
We hung up the phone, and I let a few tears fall at the stoplight. I knew it. I thought this was it. This was that appointment you have every year hoping for a negative result but this was it, the positive result. I told myself that I would prepare for the worst and it it was nothing, then I'd be all the happier.
I got home, hugs and kisses all around. Within ten minutes our phone was ringing and based on the caller id, I answered quickly and walked into the other room. It was the breast care nurse notifying me that my doctor had called right back and sent an order in for a biopsy, and would I like an appointment in four days for the biopsy. Wow, they all came through for me. That was quick but it was what I wanted and needed to calm my inpatient self. The nurse added that she had an appointment for me as well on 12/31/15 for the results.The results are always given in person she said. It was then that I knew. I just knew.
I did my research on the doctor and took my primary care doc's recommendation and accepted the appointments.
It is here where I make my long story short because I know I will be writing about this again and I have already written a short novel ;) I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the year. They stopped calling it a nodule and it was then defined as a tumor, just to be technical, you know, haha.
I've had surgery, and am undergoing treatment as I write. I had my second round of chemo two days ago so I don't know when I'll post again but I wanted to leave you with a few words of wisdom and a public service announcement of sorts, for now.
I have had an annual mammogram since I have been of the recommended age, and even a bit earlier actually. My tumor was so deep that I did not feel it nor did my doctor on the day when I had my annual exam and on the day she gave me the order for my routine mammogram. Yeah, it's lousy to have breast cancer. It sucks actually.
Even with that being said, I am so grateful that it was caught early. I am doing pretty good, all things considered, and I am fortunate to have had the benefit of advanced technology and treatment options that millions of women before me didn't have. I feel blessed. With early detection, the type of cancer I had, surgery and subsequent treatment, I have a 96% cure rate and a 98% chance or surviving another five years. Those are pretty good odds. I'll take em, and I'll do everything I can to extend those numbers.
If you're of age and have been putting it off, please schedule your mammogram. Do it tomorrow. If you already get annual mammograms and are considering waiting two years to have another one because recent medical opinions have suggested that it's okay to wait if your last mammogram was clear, I ask you to consider my case.
I had a tumor that I would never have found on my own until it grew large enough to be palpable. It wasn't seen on my last mammogram and if I had waited another year to have my next mammogram... well, I can't even.
I know it's scary to have these tests every year and to wait for the results. It's down right nerve wracking. And I know that the test pinches and hurts your boobs, but it's worth it. I pray for everyone reading this that you will receive negative test results. BUT, if you do not, isn't that why we have screening tests, so that we can detect these things early enough, hopefully, to successfully treat them? Better that than the alternative I say.
Thank you for reading. And thank you for the out poring of love and support from all who have sprinkled me and my family with kind words and prayers, cards, meals, batches of cookies, offers to watch our kids, offers to drive me to appointments and wait with me, phone calls, bouquet of flowers, gift cards for a meal to go, prayer shawls, good luck stones, text messages checking in on us and chocolate, lovely delicious chocolate. You get the idea. Any little thing has been a blessing to us and has meant the world to my family and I, so thank you dear family, friends and co-workers, from the bottom of my heart.
Until the next time, may you take care and keep in good health. xo ... Debra