Photo: 6 inches of snow today. Barely plowed. Had to go out.. just exhausting. The Orioles are playing today in Camden Yards. I’d give just about anything to be home right now.
Just before we moved into this house, I felt a lump in my breast and freaked out. I saw my primary physician, she felt around, sent me to get an ultrasound. Readers who have been with me for a while probably remember my writing about it–it turned out to be nothing. A small piece of fatty tissue called a lipoma. Considered harmless, I was told that it can become irritated, so stop messing with it. If there are any changes, come back again.
Well, last month there was a change. Pain in the area connected, I think, to my cycle. I happened to have a physical scheduled anyway, so I sat on it and let my physician know. She felt around, reassured me that it didn’t feel serious, but wanted to reassure me–so she scheduled another ultrasound. I felt better. I just want to know…
So this morning, snow falling and everything, I dropped my boys off at school and popped over to the hospital for a 9:30 appointment.
I’d distracted myself this weekend by thinking about all the big, glorious things that we have in store as a family and I have to look forward to personally. There is writing, there are projects with my sister, there are so many things that we want to do to the house and the yard… I kept my eye on the large delights that are ahead of me. The distraction got me to today, but when I woke up this morning, all of my anxiety solidified as a heavy boulder on my intestines. I hugged my husband for a long time this morning, admitted that I was scared. He kissed me and told me I was fine, then went on to work.
The worst part about this morning was the waiting. There were multiple steps to get registered, multiple procedures that needed to be done, and each of those stages came with long waits. Constrained by school time, the anxiety only intensified with the passing minutes. I had to get two tests: a mammogram and an ultrasound.
Have you ever had a mammogram, Dear Reader? Today was my first. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. Quiet unpleasant. Lots of cold plastic on warm skin, lots of bending, lots of “hold this here” and “pull this over here,” lots of squeezing, so much squeezing and “don’t breathe, don’t breathe, don’t breathe,” until “go ahead and breathe” and release.
So many pictures. Then it was “go back to the waiting room for your ultrasound while we wait for the results.”
I did so. For an hour. Over an hour, actually.
I explained I had to pick up my children. I had been there since 9:30. Could someone please see me?
The weather had slowed everything up. People coming in late. Etc etc…
I called the school and asked if it would be ok if I was “15 minutes late or so?” I don’t always love this preschool, but I was beyond grateful for the “yes, please, don’t even think about it. Take the time you need.”
As soon as I hung up the phone, the tech was standing behind me waiting for me. I laid down on the exam bed and she squirted on the (mercifully warm) gel and put the ultrasound instrument on my skin
and looked around. And couldn’t find anything. So I shifted position. There it was.
“Oh, it looks like it’s a little bigger than last time,” she said. “Maybe?”
“Okay,” I said.
“There is certainly a change from last time. But it’s not a lot. But it’s something. I’m going to go get Doctor [–] to look it over. I’ll be right back.”
Just imagine being in a darkened room on a hospital bed, next to a machine that’s putting out plenty of white noise. It’s cold, you’re hungry and tired, you’ve got gel that’s slowly melting and dripping off your shoulder and into your hair.You’re in a funky hospital gown that’s covering you, but isn’t helping you. All you can think of is picking up your children in the nasty weather outside and how you didn’t leave anything to thaw on the kitchen counter
and you realize a lot of time has passed.
Where is the doctor?
The knot comes back. It’s taking too long. Why is it taking so long?
When the doctor comes in, she says, “there is a change for sure. I just looked at it. I think I want to look at it again.”
She puts you in position, looks, can’t find it. You shift position, she finds it. She has you shift and move while the camera is on it.
She rubs her hands.
“Given everything, I recommend a biopsy. Just to have someone consider the options.”
Sometimes in the movies, someone delivers a devastating line to the main actor and then the sound cuts out. Sometimes it’s silent. Sometimes it’s rushing air. Sometimes it’s just muffled sound and sorrowful music. It’s dramatic, for sure, but it’s real. As soon as she said biopsy, my brain cut out.
“But I want to tell you that I don’t think you have cancer. I see your face, I’m seeing that look–”
“I have two young boys,” I mumbled.
I have two young boys. We’re talking about trying again. We have all this stuff to do. We just got here. We just got settled. I’m so far from home. I can’t do this so far from home, so far from people who love me.
“I just want someone to look at it. They might take it out, they might not. It’s bothering you and we should know, because it’s vague here. So I’m going to give you this card of the surgeon who we recommend.”
“Okay.” I couldn’t hold back the tears. I was trying to hold it together. Grace is so difficult, especially under the circumstances.
“Here, this is one of [the cards]. And there is another. My assistant will get the other one for you. Listen, I need a few more pictures of your upper right breast. I think there are some benign [medial word… calcifications?] up there, but they are at the edge of the film. I just want to be sure.”
“My right breast? Not my left one?”
“Yeah, no. The right one. Just a few more pictures. We’ll send you back to the waiting room, ok?”
“Okay.” More tears.
“But… I just want to say again, because I just want you to hear it: I don’t think you have cancer.”
“Okay.” I thought I should say something else. Southern politeness kicked in after a pause. “Thank you.”
The tech took me back out to the hallway. I tried to wipe away the tears. She was talking. I just kept saying “okay” at appropriate intervals. I sat in my seat and waited. I texted my Mom. I texted my husband. They had questions, but I couldn’t answer because I was sent back to the Mammogram room.
Two Mammogram rooms, many pictures and another 40 minutes later, I was told I could leave. “The Mammogram came back fine,” I was told. “It’s good we have a baseline now!” She gave me some forms.
“What do I do now?”
“Wait on your primary and she’ll give you direction. Okay? Thank you so much for your patience. Are you ok?”
I was doing everything I could to not fall apart. The tears came rolling down. There was nothing I could do.
“Okay. You’ll be ok. Let’s get you dressed. Okay?”
“And if you have questions, call [this number]. I always have questions when I leave the doctor. We’re here to answer them, okay?”
“Okay. Thank you.”
I got dressed, went to the bathroom and cleaned myself up. I stepped outside into the snow and unhappily cleaned off my car. A Black man was unloading a truck not far from me. “Some weather, huh? New England, yeah?”
“It’s Opening Day in Baltimore. I wish I was home.”
The man shrugged. Why is this crazy woman thinking about Baltimore?
I got my babies from school an hour late. The principal was so gracious, the boys were so happy. I couldn’t keep together, tears in my eyes as I thanked her for keeping them past time for me. “Oh, don’t worry about it. Never worry about us. We’re the easy ones.” She didn’t understand the give she’d given me by keeping them. I’ll bake her bread for Wednesday.
I’m so tired, Dear Reader. I know what the doctor said, but I also know what she didn’t say. It would be a lot better if it was, “it all checks out. You’re good to go.” But this little bit of something… this extra step… it makes me so uneasy.
There is nothing I can do until I see the next set of doctors. I’ll share as I am able, Dear Reader.
Until Wednesday, take care.