A couple of years back I wrote a blog post chronicling my first mammogram. At first, I didn't plan on blogging about the experience because I thought it was too personal. But when I was told there was something irregular on my mammogram I decided to write about it. My original intent for this blog was to discuss the journey from the thirties into the forties. Mammograms are a part of that journey and it made sense to talk about it on the blog. Back then, my follow-up mammogram and ultrasound ended with good news, a pat on the back and another appointment in six months.
I had my annual mammogram on April first—who schedules a mammogram on April Fool's Day? The next day I got one of those calls. It was no prank, I needed to go back for more pictures again. I made my appointment for a couple of weeks later and tried to put it out of my mind. At first that wasn't easy—I'm prone to be a worst-case-scenario sort of person. But with the craziness in Boston last week, I had other things on my mind.
Finally the day of my follow-up appointment arrived and I went through the usual uncomfortable squishing followed by an ultrasound. I thought I'd be on my way shortly after that. Unfortunately, whatever the radiologist saw demanded yet another mammogram. Here's the thing about mammograms... the first one is uncomfortable. But it's nowhere near as bad as you think it's going to be. But with each view, compression, and magnification it hurts a little more. This last one? It hurt. A lot.
I waited nervously for the radiologist to come and talk to me about what she saw. She introduced herself with a good firm handshake and proceeded to look for a chair.
“I'm really tall,” she explained. “And I don't like to look down on patients.”
“Cool,” I said. “I'm really short and my neck hurts from looking up all the time.”
We finally found ourselves chairs of the right height so we could talk face to face. She told me there is definitely a mass in my breast and she's 90% sure it's nothing. But it has to be biopsied to be certain. I asked her again for the name of the mass and she wrote it down for me. As she handed over the paper she said, “You aren't going to Google this, are you?”
“No,” I promised. “Web MD is the devil. Everything sounds like cancer—even the common cold.”
“Good,” she said. “This is a very broad term that covers many different things, only a few of which are actually cancerous. I don't want you to worry.”
I left the office after making an appointment for a biopsy and promising the tech and the doctor that I would try not to worry. So that's where I am this week—trying not to worry, keeping my promise about not Googling, not writing much (except for therapeutic journal entries), and being grateful for my family and friends.
I turned down several offers from people who offered to accompany me to the biopsy. I don't know why. Maybe because if this turns out to be something I know I'll be calling in a lot of favors. Maybe I'm just too proud or stupid to accept help. In any case, my friend Shirley called me on Friday to find out how the follow-up mammogram had gone. Shirley is one of the strongest women I know and is the inspiration for my character Laverne in my work in progress “Lost and Found” (yes, I have absolutely no imagination when it comes to naming characters). She too made the offer.
“Want me to go with you,” she asked.
“Thanks, a couple of people have already offered. I think I'll be okay,” I said.
“When's the appointment?”
“Wednesday the eighth.”
“Okay. I'll put it on my calendar. We'll get something to eat afterwards.”
Did I mention I have great friends?