Friday, April 15, 2005


I was right, at least on the one score: they did call me back for a second mammogram. However, this time, the people at the x-ray and mammogram center explained to me what was going on. She even showed me the result on the screen. She told me, "There's something there -- you can see it right here. They want to do an ultrasound on you to see what's going on." So I followed her down the hall at this early hour on a Thursday, and lay there while the new technician squirted cold goop on my right breast and expertly wielded the wand over the area. She stopped when she found it. She said, "I'm going to take a picture of this," and "I'll be right back."

While she was gone, I took a peek at the screen. It was a large screen and I know I was looking at a small area enlarged, but there in the middle of the striations was a mass that looked the size of Jupiter's spot, although all in black and white. It sat there, imperiously. While I stared at it, I thought about what was going to happen next. Actually I couldn't stop that train of thought the entire time she was gone from the room -- it couldn't have been more than 5 minutes, but the train kept moving down the track and eventually off the cliff.

I would next undergo a biopsy, I thought. Then, if it's positive, they'll call me in for treatment. Probably some heavy-duty chemo pills. Maybe some radiation. Intense stuff. I could stand my hair falling out, I thought nonchalantly. That wouldn't bother me. When they do the radical mastectomy, I don't think I'd mind that either. However, it's the lopsided-ness, the fact that....could I ask them to do the other one, too? But just then my ghoulish thoughts were interrupted when the tech re-entered with Dr. Bain.

Dr. Bain chewed me out royally when I told him that Kaiser had found a problem about a decade ago, and kept sending me form letters to appear again and again. He moved on, though, to "We want to do a biopsy right away. We'll let your doctor know. But why don't we set that up today." I was very appreciative of a quick decision. I have always preferred to DO something rather than just sit there. When I made the appointment for Tuesday, I was only regretful that I had to wait the weekend.

And wait is right. It didn't sit well with me. I was really good, I thought, at being in denial during the colonectomy, during the time they found cancer in my colon and cut the damn thing out. I went in thinking it would be minor surgery and that I'd recover completely. It wasn't but I did. But now I was beginning to worry. The 2nd time with my history: doesn't bode well. Still, I'll deal with it.

How I dealt with is, I went straight to Trader Joe's and bought a bucket of chocolate. Chocolate-covered nuts plus three candy bars, all sugar-free but all chocolate. An hour later, I was rather sick. And I knew why.

Maybe I'm getting better at recognizing my fears and feelings. Maybe that's why I ended up telling, oh, six or seven friends. (Actually it wasn't that many, but Pam spread the news and then asked afterwards if that was okay. It was. I wanted a little sympathy, not a lot, and maybe even a few prayers floating my way.)

I took the early appointment again on Tuesday, and was there ahead of time with my newspaper. But they didn't waste any time and I didn't get half into how the A's lost their home opener miserably when Dr. Bain appeared and explained the procedure to me. I love it when they explain things to me. She had had me mark the correct breast with a sharpie (boy, that stuff doesn't erase easily), just so, she explained, they don't explore the wrong breast. Since I was awake the entire time, I doubt that could happen. Actually, I couldn't even watch the doctor do his exploration, aided by the ultrasound, which was guided by the technician, as my right arm had to be placed over my head. That was the worst pain I felt during the entire procedure, forcing this seldom-used arm over my head for a period of about 45 minutes.

Dr. Bain told me that the item/mass/structure (he never really called it anything, but I have to pick a noun) was small but deep. I liked "small" even if I didn't like "deep." His plunger picked out 4 samples, and I was done. What a professional job. Now my own job was to wait two days for the results to come in.

At 1:08 pm on Thursday I called the doctor's office, knowing I would never get through to Dr. Schweitzer. But her nurse talked with me, said there was nothing in my chart, but would call the mammography center to check things out and call me back. She did within 5 minutes. "The report was on the doctor's desk," she sighed, and told me the results: "It was benign."

Hey!! What good news!! I thanked her, then hurriedly got on email and told everybody the news. I regretted a bit that I had told these people. Nephew Ricky wrote me back instantly that the news was wonderful and that "I can stop worrying now." That broke my heart. I wrote him back that I never wanted him to worry. "But I realize I didn't do a good job of telling you about the colon surgery last time. I think I was in denial." I promised to do better next time.

Will there be a next time? Two-and-a-half years out of colon cancer. A blip in my right breast. Perhaps. Maybe even probably. I'm going to pay better attention in the future. This denial stuff can get me into real trouble.

I called my friend Rick, who was back in Savannah for his mother's funeral. "I'm so happy about your autopsy results!" he exclaimed happily. "It was a biopsy, not an autopsy. I'm not dead yet," I laughed.

If you're reading this and wondering if you should (1) have a mammogram, and (2) have a colonoscopy, the answer lies in discussions with your doctor. If you're at all at risk -- have a history of cancer in your family, or are over 40 -- the answer is definitely "yes." Please consider having a simple procedure that will put your mind at ease.

Resist denial. It's futile.

1 comment:

molly said...

Linda, Congrats on the progress with your denial :) I hadn't heard about any of this but saw the title when reading your Dream Vacation blogs. We certainly care and are glad to know you're okay for now.