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.