The Biopsy

This post is for anyone who might be curious as to what a patient goes through for a biopsy of a tumor on the breast.

 

The Biopsy

 

I arrived at the Women’s Center for Radiology at 8:15am. The appointment was for 8:30. I checked in, sat down, and was not called until 9:00. Well, at least I got all of my daily challenge games on my phone done during the forty-five minute wait. Distractions help.

This time, the assigned nurse was a pleasant woman. She handed me the appropriate apparel to change into and left the room. After changing, I sat in the chair and waited. And waited. And waited. Bored, I checked out the equipment. There was the table for me to lie on, naturally, but the screen and the equipment tray held my interest. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what input the screen was waiting on. I moved to the tray. Not being in the medical field, each of the shiny, sharp objects eluded me there, too. So, for continued distraction, I gave them names. There was the curvy metal stick. The straight metal stick. The prong thingy. Just as I was tempted to pick up one of the tools for closer examination, the door opened. Dammit. That thing will go unnamed.

The paper covering the cushion on the table crinkled loudly as I got on. That always makes me wonder if the noise is due to how big I am. Does everyone wonder the same? Or does anyone? Yeah, I was deep in my own head at this point.

While reviewing something on the screen, the nurse said, “Uh-oh.”

Damn. That is one expression you do not want to hear a medical professional say.

“Uh-oh?”

“Oh, sorry. For some reason your left is noted, but the scan shows it’s the right. I’ll be back.”

With that she took a clipboard and out the door she bolted.

Huh. That can’t be good. At least she checked before the procedure began. Perhaps I should have been more upset, but instead gratitude for the woman checking was how I felt. Besides, someone would have noticed if there was nothing to do a biopsy on. Right?

Lying on the table, I wasn’t sure if I could get up, or stay put. Deciding to remain where I was, I took the opportunity to self-exam the left breast, and then the right. Nope. Still couldn’t tell there was anything amiss. Good thing they have machines for this.

When the nurse returned she apologized and explained the original mark on the forms had been checked wrong. It was the left side of the right breast, not the left breast. Huh. Well, that moves it from an out of the way hiding spot, to the cleavage. Dammit. I like my cleavage. The actual biopsy shouldn’t leave a mark. But if the damn thing is malignant, that’ll leave a visible scar.

As if that’s at the top of my worry list.

While cleaning the area, the nurse took the time to explain to me everything that was about to happen. First, ice the spot. Then, a shot to numb the area. Then, a deeper shot to numb the area under the skin. Then, the biopsy consists of yet another needle-type apparatus that would retrieve the tissue sample.

Well, that clears things up. Thanks. Please know that I only thought those words. Concern for my sarcastic side coming out kept me from speaking aloud. But, I am an organizer, and I like to know what’s on the agenda, so her description did give a measure of comfort. Had I spoken, however, she would have come to a different conclusion.

The same doctor who was on staff for the sonogram came in and repeated everything the nurse said. Again, concern for my sarcastic side kept my mouth shut. Not everyone understands my humor. Smile and nod, just smile and nod.

Ice held against my breast for a minute or two did lessen the sting of the first shot. That, in turn, lessened the pain of what was a larger needle for the second. The three of us waited for the numbing to take effect while chatting about the recent hurricane, as if I weren’t laying on a table with my shirt open to two strangers.

Needles are not unfamiliar to me. At one point in my life, every six months, I’d had cortisone shots in my wrists to alleviate the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Now that HURT. One time I actually screamed. You might call it a short burst of uncontrolled expression of discomfort. But yeah, I screamed. With that as a benchmark, I figured this couldn’t be so bad.

And it wasn’t.

Even with my (shudder) needle experiences, at the moment of actual penetration, I looked away. There were numerous ways to avoid direct eye contact with a sharp object puncturing through my skin. In this case, the screen on which the needle was being recorded caught my eye. For some reason I found that fascinating. Perhaps because the actual feel of the needle was absent, or perhaps because I wondered at the technology. Either way, it was like watching a TV show about someone else having this procedure.

On the screen, the needle remained in place as a chamber slipped over the barb. The chamber pulled back as the doctor told me that was the first tissue sample. Three or four more times the chamber slipped into view, and then retreated. It put me in mind of the pump action of a shotgun. I’ve got to say how glad I am to be living in an era that allowed me to disconnect with the reality of having tissue pulled from inside my body, and just watch the screen as it happened. Surreal.

With all complete, the doctor reasserted her belief that this mass is benign, and this I hold onto that belief with both hands (folded in prayer).

I’m told the results can take up to seven days, but will probably be done in four. Now, I just have to find something to keep me occupied for the next week.

I wonder what the grandkids are up to.

 

****

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

A Lump

 

Every woman with breasts knows that we’re supposed to get mammograms every year. The accepted time to start this annual torture is the golden age of forty. I was a hold out. Of course, I checked myself often. Admittedly, I was scared of the test. From what was reported, the girls are flattened beyond recognition, and I’m no small bra size. There’s also a kind of not-admitted-to mindset of ignorance is bliss. To add to that, there’s no family history of breast cancer. At least, to the best of my knowledge.

Pressure from my doctor and my husband made me relent by the age of fifty-one.

The first test revealed an “area of concern.” They wanted to do a re-test. Freaked out, I researched and reached out to those who knew more on this subject. Once comforted with the suggestion that the first mammogram may be used as a baseline, I waited patiently for the next test.

Okay, patiently may have been an overstatement.

So the day came and I in went to get my boobs smashed. Again. The results showed that the area was “clear of any unknown abnormalities.”

Whew! Decided right then I’m not gonna do that again any time soon.

After a year of considering, the decision was reached to have the test again. (Thanks, honey.)

Fortunately, that was as uneventful as any test could be. (See? I told you.)

It would be three more years before I subjected myself again to the great mammy mash. Okay, yes, the doctor started nagging me. Sometimes I hate her.

This time, it was not an “area of concern.” No, the good people at the Women’s Center felt their mammy machine wasn’t strong enough to penetrate the dense tissue that is my breasts.

A sonogram was suggested. Not ordered, mind you, just suggested.

(Wait. We can look for lumps with a sonogram instead of turning the girls to pancakes? Why isn’t that the standard for breast exams?)

I signed myself up for the next available appointment. I wasn’t worried. During my two pregnancies, I’d had a few of these slimy experiences.

The ultrasound technician was a serious sort. As she slid the wand across the areas, at least 20 stills of each breast were snapped. Perhaps my question “is it a boy or a girl?” annoyed her. Probably not the first time she’s heard it. Once the examination was completed to her satisfaction, I was instructed to get dressed and wait as the doctor reviewed my file.

Still feeling confident that all was right with the ladies, I did as instructed. Then, going to the designated waiting area, I pulled out my phone and started checking messages and playing games. It did seem to take a long time, but the waiting room was filled when I got there, so the doc’s probably got a lot of work to catch up on.

As the minutes continued to tick by, I’ll admit the fear that began niggling at me. But, I had come in here with a confident swagger, and that persona is what gets me through the roughest of times. There was no way I’d let it go now.

The same woman who performed the test stepped into the waiting area and told me the doctor would see me now. It felt ominous walking into the dimly lit room, where X-rays hung against the lit backdrop on the wall. The doctor on staff put her Big Gulp down long enough to shake my hand at our introduction.

Be cool. I told myself. Smile and nod.

The giant cup back in hand, the doctor pointed to a darkened mass in one of the stills. She explained that this spot needed to be addressed, but it was her ‘gut feeling’ that the growth was benign. A biopsy is the best…

She kept talking. I glanced over my shoulder to see the tech standing rigid. Our eyes met, and she glanced down. The doctor was still speaking. Her voice didn’t convey confidence. Maybe it was my imagination, but she seemed conciliatory. I then realized that many, many women have stood where I stood, with a variety of reactions between them. The two employees of this facility must have witnessed enough of these to understand the need for soft lights, easy speech, and delicate approaches to information. Along with back up.

I almost felt bad for them. Pulling myself back to hear the doctor’s words, I repeated what she’d said. “Yes, single mass, probably benign, sure.”

Okay, maybe not her exact words.

Then the biopsy was scheduled. One week and two days later.

One week and one day has now passed. During this time I have waffled on whether I should talk about it and to whom. I spoke to a very dear friend who has faced this and came out well on the other side. She was encouraging and supportive. I thanked her and she said to call anytime I feel like I want to talk. I told her I didn’t want to even think about it again until the day arrived.

Nice try. Yeah, I’ve tried to block it. But the worry comes back bigger and badder every time. Still, I got my swagger.

The biopsy is tomorrow. The results, of which I’m sure will be benign, another three or four days after that.

I hate waiting.

 

Gratitude

 

Gratitude is an internalized emotion, which does nothing until externalized.

 

A birthday for a young nephew came around, but my husband and I live in a different city. As it was a ‘big’ birthday, we shipped him a special present. After several weeks, we’d not heard anything as to whether the item was appreciated, or even received.

When I spoke to my sister about the present, it was apparent I’d hit a nerve.

“Yes. He got it.”

“Did he like it?”

“Yes.”

Long pause. Then she said, “Didn’t you track the package? It would have shown we got it.”

“Yes.” Then I sighed. “I had hoped to speak to my nephew. Maybe hear that he liked it.”

“You mean, ‘thank you’? Is that why you sent it? You wanted to hear thank you?”

Stunned, I didn’t know how to respond. Needless to say, the conversation ended on a sour note.

I recall this exchange thanks to Hurricane Irma. She rattled our home, snapped our elm tree that fell across the driveway, and disconnected us from the grid. It was a rough night. But, we woke the next morning whole, and with a roof still over our heads. Thank you, God!

Without power, we faced the option of (what we now know to be) seven days of no air conditioning, refrigerator, stove, etc. Of our two sons and their families, only one had power. We all went there. With four children under the age of four and six adults under one roof, we had to find a way to make it work. “Please” and “thank you” were expressed by the adults to encourage the children as well as one another.

Irma wreaked havoc on our state. My family was richly blessed. The worst of it was the loss of power. So many others lost so much more. We are grateful beyond the pale, and expressed it several times each day.

My daughter-in-law, whose home we commandeered, is an amazing woman. During the time we were there, with all of the commotion and activity, she received a phone call. A woman from her church asked if she could come that evening and help with distribution of hot meals. Not only did she agree, but she made cupcakes and cookies to add to the meals. Then she took one of the four kids to the church with her, so that they could see gratitude in action. (Do you think the angel wings tucked into her shirt makes her itchy?)

When we express gratitude, it not only encourages those who give, but it connects you to that person on a spiritual level. By making cupcakes, or helping clear debris, being a nurse, working at the shelters, the doctors, firemen, police, these people understand that their work is satisfaction enough. But to hear and see the gratitude of the person for whom you do these things is to form an emotional connection. Sure, whine a little. Pout and/or cry for the tangible things lost. Even if all of your possessions remain undamaged, a traumatic experience such as surviving a hurricane is a legitimate reason for shock. Just don’t drone on for too long. Those around you trying to help will begin to feel frustrated that their assistance is unappreciated.

Gratitude feeds the giving spirit.

One moment you are in the position of giver. In the next moment you might be the receiver. To offer gratitude in action or word is to complete that circle.

Even if it’s nothing more than saying thank you.

 

****

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

 

Fearmongers

Fearmonger (a/k/a: scaremonger): Definition:

Psychological manipulation that uses fear-based tactics (scare tactics) including exaggeration and usually repetition to influence the public in order to achieve a desired outcome.

 

If you’ve been following me in any way, you already know that I am a fourth-generation Floridian. South Florida was my home for the first twenty years of my life. For the next thirty-six years, Orlando has been home. Florida is a wonderful place to grow and live. Our state motto should be: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

 

A few hurricanes have hit my home state in my lifetime. Prior to the ‘net, we depended on the three available TV channels for updates. My dad became so frustrated with the talking heads of the time he turned it off and told us to go outside if we wanted to know what the weather was doing. Wise man.

 

Today, Hurricane Irma is making a beeline for us, after leaving a trail of devastation across the islands as a Cat 5. The warnings issued would have the entire state evacuated. But, hold on a sec. If there is any concrete fact about hurricanes and the direction they take it is this, we just don’t know. Sure, there are more than a few educated guesses. But there’s a reason it’s called a “projected path” and that’s because we just don’t know.

 

One of the forecasts now show a decrease in strength to a Cat 2 as it reaches Central Florida. At the risk of offending every hurricane-fearing reader out there I’ll quote an old saying. “Don’t wake me if it’s under a Cat 3. That’s damn good sleeping weather.”

 

Now, for the scaremongers. Look back at the beginning of this post and re-read the definition.

 

The first part is the most important to understand. Psychological manipulation. They work to keep you afraid. Why would the powers-that-be do this? To keep the general populace tuned-in, and look to the government for assurance. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but certain individuals may indeed benefit from your fear. How much money have you spent over the last week prepping? Yes, there is a genuine danger. Look at the islands that Irma crashed. But they do not know any more than can be guessed. A theory is an educated guess, and that is what we are seeing on screen.

 

The second part of the definition is fear-based tactics (scare tactics) including exaggeration. Not one to point fingers, but come on. Tuesday saw the forecast as Irma shredding the East Coast of Florida as a Cat 5. Did that drive you to collect all things hurricane related? Of course it did. What sane human (who has never been through this) wouldn’t? Yes, have a disaster package ready. At all times. Put up shutters when the storm turns in your direction. But mindless panic of buying every bottled water on the shelf is a bit extreme.

 

Now, for the media. The part of the definition that makes the biggest impact on our lives is, repetition to influence the public. In no way, shape, or form would I consider the genuine warnings of an oncoming hurricane fake news. However, there are those who allow anxiety-driven newscasts to become a part of their minute-by-minute lives. Compelled by fear, their anxiety is amped up to the point of not realizing what they are doing to those around them. Loved ones look on in dread, not knowing how to communicate with that terror-filled family member.

 

If this is you, please, stop. Step back. Take a deep breath. Look around at the faces of those who love you. Including your pets. Anxiety is unintentionally shared. Do you want to see everyone around you becoming bat-shit crazy as well? No? Then turn off the hurricane updates for an hour. Your nerves will thank you. Your family will thank you. Your four-legged friends (read: pets) will thank you.

 

Yes, Irma is to be feared. But, if you have done everything in your power to protect what is yours, no amount of fear or worry will change anything. So, take a minute to relax and appreciate the camaraderie that a storm like this can bring to the general public. Do not allow Irma to tear apart relationships, as well as property.

 

As for me and my family, we are prepared. thanks to plenty of advanced warning from The Weather Channel app, MyRadar app, and The Orlando Sentinel. The people in tornado-ally don’t get near as much warning as hurricane-prone states. An earthquake in Mexico struck with no warning, and has left dozens dead. In that light, we should consider ourselves fortunate.

 

I’ll write another post once Irma passes through. It’s now projected to come right on top of us. Most know that once a hurricane is over land, it quickly decreases in strength, not increases. But, whether a Cat 1 or 5, there is nothing more we can do.

 

Just so you don’t think I’m completely cavalier about Irma, I’ll close with this:

 

Hold on tight, folks. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.