This Kind of Thing Always Happens to Me
November 28, 2018. I felt vindicated when the American Cancer Society changed their guidelines about mammograms, especially for women under 50. Instead of recommending annual mammograms like they had all through the 80s and 90s, they dropped their insistence on mammograms entirely for women in their 40s and only recommended mammograms every two years for women in their 50s. I felt that I was a poster child for the new guidelines. My boobs were always being flagged for further painful probing due to their density (oooh, such dense boobs), or due to a propensity for harmless cysts that came and went. Spare me.
Well, yes, I am in my 50s. Quite deep into them actually. But still. I didn’t want to miss out on the freedom from boob flattening that I had endured throughout my 40s that is now offered to today’s 40-year-old women. I felt that I had had enough mammograms in my 40s to make up for several years now that I was in my 50s.
December 21, 2018. I got a mammogram this December because my doctor quit. My general practitioner, who worked out of a slightly grubby, cramped urgent care center in a grubby, cramped strip mall, just closed up shop one day and skipped town. I don’t know what precipitated her flight, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a call from Johns Hopkins. I was fine floating along without a new GP until I realized that she had not renewed by high blood pressure medication after my last annual checkup. I would have to find another GP so that my blood pressure would not bounce back to its natural, dangerous level. I found a new nurse practitioner in the office that my husband frequented (he never really liked my old GP and had found somebody he trusted not to disappear under cover of darkness), and because I was a new patient, she went through the gamut of health things that I should have been doing, including having a mammogram.
That’s not to say I didn’t argue with her. I asked about the new guidelines in the hopes that she would back off and tell me I had been through enough. I told her of my history of annoying and painful false positives. She told me that I was free to not follow her recommendation, but that her recommendation was to get a mammogram. So I scheduled a mammogram.
And yes, the breast center called me a few days later to tell me that they needed me back in to take some more pictures of my right breast and maybe to have an ultrasound as well. The booking nurse was all, “don’t worry,” and I was all, “this kind of thing always happens to me,” and we booked the appointment.
January 9, 2019. The mammography tech had loaded up the mammogram I had about two and a half years ago and showed me the comparison to my new mammogram. It was obviously the same breast, all the architecture matched, except the new one had little white spots all over it and a suspicious smudge right behind the nipple. That nipple that looked a little different these days than it used to. “This is what we’re concerned about,” she said. Hmmm. This kind of thing happens to me all the time…
The ultrasound tech took a long time. A long time. And she spent a lot of time scoping out my armpit area. “What exactly is she looking for?” I didn’t wonder. My suspicions were confirmed when the radiologist came in to deliver his findings. He was an older fellow who looked like he hated this part of his job when he had to tell a woman that what he saw on his screen was nothing but bad news. He told me the that I had a mass in my breast (although my armpit lymph nodes looked clear) and that the next step was to get a biopsy to see if it was cancer. However, after seeing the lump myself on the mammogram and ultrasound and knowing there were only so many types of tissue possible in a human breast, I suspected that the biopsy was just to confirm what they already knew. Of course, they were saying the opposite: we won’t know anything until we get the biopsy, but their faces were saying we know.
Now that I knew and I knew they knew, we needed to get the work done so that we all could know together. It was Wednesday, I figured we could knock this out before the weekend. No, the next biopsy availability was Thursday. Not the Thursday that is tomorrow, the one that is a week from tomorrow. The nurse looks at me apologetically. Well, what am I going to do? Stomp around and demand a biopsy? Don’t they know who I am? (I’m not even sure who I am.) I enter the appointment in my calendar and go about my week as if I am not waiting for cancer news. (I am totally waiting for cancer news.)
Stay tuned to this channel for More Parts coming soon…