Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Health News

I had a biopsy today. Since my mother had breast cancer three years ago, my health history is a lot less rosy. A close female relative has had cancer. Recently. A friend of mine is doing a 3 day walk for the Susan J. Kommen Foundation, and she shamed me into getting my annual mammogram.

Shall we talk about mammograms? Ugh. Man, it's like they are calculated to make you feel differently about your body. Those aren't breasts! They are tennis balls in a stocking! No wonder they can get stretched and squashed and pressed flat. It's because they are just accidentally attached to your body. I mean, jeepers! As I get older, my skin is becoming less elastic, less able to snap right back to where it was. At some point, if I keep getting annual mammograms, I might as well just leave my breasts there at the doctor's office, since there's no way they are going to spring back onto my chest any more.

I thought that things looked clear when I left the doctor's office last week. But I got a call early this week--doctor wants to see some new views. He will look at the films right there, and possibly order a sonogram. You will have answers before you leave the office today.

So I made the earliest appointment I could, and went back over. I dutifully put my clothing and jewelry into the provided locker, donned the faded patient "robe" and waited to get squashed again.

It was even worse this time. Only one side was questionable, so the up side was that they only had to torture one breast. On the down side, I quickly felt asymmetrical, with one side pulled and stretched, and the other side left alone.

You know the stupid thing about the robes they give you? Once you get into the room with the machine, you have to pull your arm out, at which point you are essentially undressed anyway. And then the technician has to position the questionable boob, pushing and pulling it across a VERY FLAT steel surface. The extra fun part is that, because this is a retake, and they are trying to get a magnification of a specific area, the pain is extra exquisite. Because once the technician gets your boob in place, and squishes it flat like a pancake with the automatic Boob Squisher (I think that is the actual name of the device)--she then has to give the thing an extra turn to really make things painful.

So, there I am, squished and bent over a very solid and very square machine, which is also COLD, and the final turn has knocked the breath out of me. So it's really not necessary for the tech to say "hold your breath." Because really, who's breathing?

I went through this three times, and then was sent back to the waiting room while the doctor reviewed the films. I hadn't even made it all the way through an US magazine when I was called into a new room. A "procedure" room.

Turns out that I had calcifications. Not that that is unusual, of course. Lots of women have calcifications. These particular calcifications, however, had changed over the years. They were kind of hard to see. The doctor wanted to be certain, so he wasn't going to order an ultrasound. No. He wanted a biopsy.

And the reason I was in this particular "procedure" room was because that was where the biopsy would be. Right here! Here in this room where there was a large examination table with a hole the size of a dinner plate in the middle of it. Because that's where you put your boob so the doctor can shoot it full of lidocaine, cut it open, and use a computer to take tissue out. But the fun doesn't end there! No! Because as you are lying there, they run the tissue out and x-ray it to be certain they got what they wanted. And then! Are we done? No we are not! Then the doctor inserts a titanium thing that looks like a tiny staple, so that if they need to get another sample, they can go right to the same place. And! The titanium thing works as a marker, so in future years, they can watch for other changes in that location!

So! Do I want to do it now? Or do I want to schedule it for another day? It's clear they would prefer I do it now. Maybe they are afraid that if I leave I will never come back. The idea is kind of appealing. But really, maybe I can just get it over with. So I climb on the table, and have to lie perfectly still.

Which is easier said than done, of course. Because as I find out as the procedure takes its time, when I first lay down, I was very tense. Tension in my arms holding me up from the table, keeping my head parallel to the pillow. As time passed, the muscles in my shoulder and neck started complaining. Which was kind of distracting, and actually hurt more than the shots for the anesthetic.

I had a doctor and two technician/assistants. The two assistants took turns laying a hand on my arm or shoulder--to comfort, or to keep me from moving? You be the judge. "Now the doctor is doing X. Now the doctor is. . ." and the second one said, "Don't tell her what the doctor is doing now. She doesn't want to know."

It wasn't too bad, actually. Especially since I was given a list of things I can't do for a couple of days until the incision heals. Not that they put in stitches or anything. But I should mow the lawn or rake. I shouldn't lift anything over 20 pounds. "I'll bet I can't cook dinner either, right?"

"Oh, not for at least three days, up to two weeks! And no vacuuming. What else should she not do?"

After the doctor was done, I got to get up and. . .have ANOTHER MAMMOGRAM! Oh, what fun! Of course, my whole boob was pretty numb at that point, but this time, they don't need it to be as squished as they needed it every! other! time! Sure--the time it doesn't hurt is the time they don't hurt it anyway.

You know what else? They lied to me. They took the biopsy, but they didn't tell me anything about it. Nor will they. The results will be sent to my primary care physician, and SHE is supposed to call me. Oh, but by the way? She's out on maternity leave.

Well, too bad, but that's where the results are going, and I'm going to have to find somebody there to tell me what's going on.

What can you do? If I don't hear anything by Friday, I should call. Friday--is two days away! So, I'm just going to have to assume that everything is fine, unless I hear otherwise.

On Friday.

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