Out of difficulties grow miracles. —Jean De La Bruyere
March 14, 2012
I was waiting to have my forth mammogram in eight months and didn't expect today to be different from any other. As I sat in the waiting room, I mentally went over the list of things I had to do that evening. I was leaving in the morning to head to Toronto to visit my brother, Brian, and his family. Brian's wife had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I was heading there for the weekend to visit them, help out a little with their three small children, and spend some much overdue time with them.
I have a history of breast infections, and I'd had a couple of surgeries in the past couple of years to remove infections, but there had never been any sign of cancer or cancer cells. Other than a great aunt on my mother's side, there was no history of breast cancer in my family, and my doctors over the years had constantly reassured me that the infections I had would not lead to breast cancer.
Mammograms had become so routine for me. I'd had one in July, August, and November of the previous year, and they had all come back clean. This appointment was no different, and I had actually forgotten to even tell Cliff I was going until that morning. I'd had a doctor's appointment the day before, on March 13, and my new doctor ordered the tests because of another flare-up I was experiencing. I was a little anxious about the mammogram, as I was afraid that the infection I was dealing with might break during the compression of the mammogram, and my past experience was that they always tended to hurt more when I had an active infection. My doctor had ordered a mammogram, ultrasound, and a possible biopsy, and I was not concerned, as I'd had these done many times in the past. Routine.
The infection was in my right breast, the same as so many times before, and while I was not nervous, I was anxious to get this appointment over with, as I had things to do and was supposed to meet Cliff for supper.
While I sat in the waiting room waiting for my name to be called, I busied myself texting my girlfriend.
Bonnie (1:43): Have you left for your apt yet?
Me (2:19): Still here now. Sweating!
Bonnie (2:19): Sweating? Why? Nerves?
Me (2:20): Yeah. I know it will be fine but your nerves always play games on you!
Me (2:21): I am the youngest woman here! Everyone else's got grey hair!
Bonnie (2:21): Yeah I know. It will be fine though. Let me know when you're done.
Me (2:22): Will do.
I was called into the room shortly after. The technician completed the mammogram pictures on my right breast and then came around to position me to take pictures of my left breast.
I said, "I don't think you need to do that breast. The concern is in my right breast."
"Oh, we will do both," she answered.
Little did I know that her decision to do both breasts possibly saved my life. To this day, I don't know why she did both, if it was routine or if it was a fluke, but I am so grateful that she did. That decision to take a look at my left breast set into motion a series of events that changed my life forever.
Once we were done, she told me to collect my things and wait in the waiting room until the radiologist took a look. Again, routine. I collected my clothes, held my gown together, and returned to the waiting room, all the while hoping this wouldn't take too long. I still had to have the ultrasound done and a possible biopsy. I looked at my watch and noted that the afternoon was ticking away, and my list of things to get done before my flight in the morning still sat in my purse, untouched.
Me (2:49): Mammogram done. Waiting on radiologist to read to see if I need another. Then off to ultrasound. That hurt!
Bonnie (2:50): I bet. Did it pop like you thought it would?
Me (2:52): No. She didn't compress as much as normal hoping not to break it. But may have to get redone if radiologist can't see enough because it wasn't so compressed.
Bonnie (2:53): Hopefully it worked out good enough. When is your ultrasound?
Me (2:54): They will send me to the other side when my mammogram is read and I am cleared.
I looked up as my name was called, and the technician asked me to come back in. When I entered the room, she said the radiologist wanted more pictures taken. Okay, I thought. At this point I was not too concerned, as this had happened before, and I always thought it was better for them to be diligent.
As I moved toward the machine, I positioned myself so that she could place my right breast on the screen; however, the technician came up behind me and said, "It is the left breast we need to take another look at."
My left breast? Full stop. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Why? I thought, but I couldn't speak. My mouth went dry. The left breast? There is nothing wrong with the left breast! As I tried to settle the panic I felt moving up my chest, I noticed that she seemed very nervous herself. My left breast? As I held onto the machine, she kept apologizing for causing me discomfort as the machine squished my breast tissue, but I didn't even feel it. I was concentrating on holding on, physically and mentally. My hand was so wet with sweat that I was afraid I would slip, causing me to move and ruin the pictures. She said she had to do several different images of the breast and kept pulling and tugging on my breast to get it in the exact position. I kept thinking, My left breast. Why my left one? There is nothing wrong with my left breast.
Once we were done, she asked me to once again return to the waiting room and told me they would let me know if they had all the images they needed. Sitting in the waiting room, I could not meet anyone's eyes. I was scared. Everyone there seemed old enough to be my mother or my grandmother. Women went into the exam rooms, came out with their clothes on and smiles on their faces, and left the building. The TV droned on in the background. I could hear laughter, but all that was registering with me was the blood I could hear rushing through my ears. Every time a door opened, I looked up to see if they were looking for me.
Eventually, the technician who took my pictures came back out and bent down to speak to me as I remained in my seat in the waiting room. I searched her face but could not read anything from her expression; however, her body language told a different story, and I knew there was something wrong. I took some deep breaths and silently told myself to remain calm as she advised me that they would be calling me in for the ultrasound shortly. I kept myself busy by continuing my texting with Bonnie, not revealing my worry but using our communication as a way to keep my mind occupied.
Me (3:10): Just had more pictures taken. OMG I could cry.
Bonnie (3:13): Well hopefully that will be it!
Me (3:13): Another reason to have small boobies.
Bonnie (3:14): They won't be able to get a hold of mine!
Me(3:15): I have heard that it is harder when you are smaller because they have to pull more. Either way, it is uncomfortable.
Bonnie (3:16): I have no idea but either way it doesn't sound like a picnic.
Me (3:23): Now off to ultrasound. No more squishing.
Me (3:23): Two people in front of me.
Bonnie (3:24): You are going to get home at regular time. When do you fly out?
Me (3:25): Tomorrow at noon. At this rate I will be home by 5:00. Wondering if they will still do the biopsy today. They are running behind.
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