Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Alien Being in my Boob

I still have not been able to completely wrap my head around this chain of events. And being the 21st century, I have serious doubts about modern medicine. Let me start at the beginning rather than my usual attempts to begin at the end and work my way backwards.

Last October, I met with a psychic who I reference often in this blog. Except for a few minor details, he has been fairly spot on in all areas. During my one and only reading with him, he mentioned that I was going to have a scare with regards to my breasts, but that it was all going to turn out OK. Let me tell you after the past month that phrase, "it's going to turn out OK" is the only thing keeping me going.

A few months ago I noticed a lump in my left breast. A procrastinator to the end, or possibly, due to the resurfacing of my alter ego, Cleopatra, Queen of Denial, I avoided the thought of setting up a mammogram appointment. As it turns out it would not have mattered (but I digress). The lump seemed to disappear on its own, so I did not rush making the appointment. I assumed it had to do with my menstrual cycle and never thought twice.

The hospital where I receive my mammograms is pretty terrific on sending late notices. I never wanted surgery at that hospital, but mammograms are OK. After the fourth late notice and an implied threat that Nurse Ratchet was picking me up at my house and dragging me to the hospital, I finally scheduled an appointment. Even the woman scheduling my mammogram commented that I was a few months behind. Impressive. They take "the girls" quite seriously. Of that I am thankful. Hopefully, their surgical techiques are as impressive as their mammogram follow-up. Although never wanting to have surgery there, guess where I am going?

Upon filling out the form pre-mammogram I answered the question of "Do you have any concerns regarding your breasts". Although tempted to state, "I always wanted to be a C cup", I refrained. Instead I listed the fact that I noticed a lump in my left breast, but could no longer locate it. The poor nurse almost went into apoplexy. "What!? You are only scheduled for a screening! We are not staffed with a doctor this evening. If you have a lump, we need a doctor here and a diagnostic mammogram." Wow! They DO take "the girls" seriously. I assured the nurse that it was OK. I stated that the lump seems to have disappeared, so I was not too worried. Since I was wrapped in a false sense of security that mammograms see everything, I was fine with a screening; assuming that if there really was a lump it would show up. Silly, naive woman am I! My mammogram came back perfect. Two healthy breasts. Obviously, one was lying!

A couple of weeks later, I noticed the lump again. My stomach sunk a bit, but my mammogram was fine. No worries. Telling myself it was nothing, I called the nurse at my doctor's office. Candice suggested I come in. My doctor finds the lump as well and sends me for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.If anyone is unsure of a what a diagnostic mammogram is, think of it as your breasts being flattened to the size of a crepe. OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration. Your breast is flattened to the size of a pancake. Once we hit pancake status, my lump decided to reveal itself; obviously afraid of "popping" if the technician flattened to crepe status.

So, I have a lump that likes to play hide and seek. Great! My alien being has personality. I would not expect anything less. They kindly escort me to another room where I will have an ultrasound. The nurse/technician comes in and positions me on a table. Pours warm (thank you) gel on my left breast and proceeds to look for my "something". Which, obviously afraid of being squashed again, had not gone back into hiding. The nurse measures my lump on the ultrasound screen and informs me that she is going to bring in the doctor. The doctor comes in, introduces herself and proceeds to scare the ever loving shit out of me. After looking at the screen, she points to my something that I am seriously hoping is a nothing, and proceeds to show me where my something has developed its own blood supply. Not only has my something moved in uninvited, played hide and seek, but acquired plumbing?! How rude! Sadly though, the doctor is in dire need of a course in Interpersonal Communication and Bedside Manner 101.

I know I tend to become hyper and wiggy all on my own. I also admit to taking artistic liberties at times, but what I am about to write is the God's Honest truth! While the doctor is pointing at my alien, she says, "It's formed a blood supply. See right there...a blood supply. Hmmm...a blood supply. Tell me, have you lost any unexplained weight recently?" "Uh...no" is my only response, as my stomach starts to slowly sink again and I am sincerely thankful for not having lost the last 10 pounds I've been carrying around since Adam's birth 13 years ago. "I'd like to biopsy this immediately. What kind of insurance do you have?" At that sentence, the nurse pats my knee and says, "It's going to be OK, sweetie. Don't worry."

Really wasn't worried until Doc opened her mouth. Once they learn I am on an HMO, they state that they are sorry, but an immediate biopsy is impossible. I am to speak with a breast cancer case worker and they will schedule a time convenient for me and my HMO. Have I ever mentioned how much I despise our health care system? So, my something that I am seriously hoping is a nothing, is actually a potential something which needs to be biopsied immediately, BUT because my HMO requires pre-authorization my immediate biopsy needs to wait 4 days. This scenario makes as much sense to me as the terms buffalo wings and liberal republicans. Our health care system is in dire need of serious reform. But that is a blog for another day.

After getting dressed, I am escorted to my breast cancer case worker, Kathie, a very friendly personable woman with whom I immediately feel comfortable. She tells me that she is a survivor and not to worry. The advancements in research are amazing. Woah! We have not yet determined that my something is a something. I'm still holding strong to the hope that my something is a nothing. Albeit a very rude something for wreaking a ton of havoc within a very short period of time. I listen to what she says, and nod appropriately, but honestly my memory of the conversation is akin to listening to the adults talk in Peanuts cartoons, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

I leave the hospital with my appointment for my immediate biopsy at the end of the week and a folder with my case worker's business card. Can this truly be happening to me? Surreal...completely and totally surreal...

Folks, it is about to get weirder.

I call home to tell my mom. No matter what age you are, when you are scared, you want Mom. My mom, although knowing why I was at the hospital, answers the phone saying, "I was just walking out the door to by a dryer. Ours will cost over $500 to fix." "Uhm...OK...I just wanted to let you know that I am going in for a biopsy on Friday. They want to biopsy the lump." "OK...Friday? OK. I'm going to go buy the dryer." "Uh...OK. Bye!"

Now, my mom has a way of never showing emotion unless something is extremely funny or you have her so pissed off her blood pressure is off the charts. I've seen it happen - the blood pressure off the charts thing. I've caused it to happen. My brother's have too. So have my children. It's not easy, but it's possible. It's the Irish in her. As my grandfather use to tell her, "Good Irish children don't cry." Interpretted as, never show emotion. Thank, God I have some Italian in me! But, I honestly thought there would be some reaction to a biopsy. Maybe she was in a hurry to catch a special sale at Sears. Maybe she had not wrapped her head around it. Maybe you don't worry until there is something to worry about, which is my mother's general belief. But honestly...lump...blood supply...biopsy... I was scared to death and my mother was out buying major appliances; reacting as if I was stating Friday's weather.

Or maybe, she could not comprehend what I was telling her. No matter the age, us parents never want to hear the words biopsy when referencing our children. I can't even imagine Kat calling me one day with the same sentence. Hopefully, I would act less odd but if the Gods are with me that is one conversation we will avoid forever and always.

I called my doctor's office to get my approval for an immediate biopsy that needs to wait four days. I speak with Candice whom I love. She is young, extremely straight forward, yet sensitive. Something I appreciate. I am already a bit shaky. It is probably evident in my voice. Candice, attempting to put my mind at ease, suggests that my something is probably a nothing - most likely a cyst. And so I ask the question that I was afraid to ask in the doctor's office. I know Candice will tell me the truth. "Does a cyst form its own blood supply?" Dead air. And then I hear on the other end of the phone, "Awww..." (I know she wanted to say "Shit" instead. You could hear it in her voice.) "No. A blood supply? They told you that? No. A cyst does not have a blood supply, honey." I knew that. I just needed to hear it from someone that would tell me the truth. Candice did state that fibroid tumors do form their own blood supply. OK...a 50-50 chance. I can do 50-50.

It took at least 10 days for Friday to arrive. Honest. Initially I planned to go to work after the biopsy, but came to my senses with a little assistance from my boss. He strongly suggested I take the day off after the biopsy. Smart man.

I am truly blessed with great friends. Six different friends offered to sit with me at the hospital. We could have had a party. That hospital never would have been the same. Dara lives the farthest away and is generally on Dara time - a minute or two late. She drove down from McHenry; arriving as Adam walked to the bus. She has known Adam since birth and barely recognized my man/child walking down the street. The only thing that has not changed on Adam are his dimples. We get to the hospital where they inform me that I am a bit early. Funny, we arrived at the exact time they told us to get there.

Dara sat with me in the waiting room watching Oprah and eating Altoids. We chatted about everything and nothing. The nurse stopped by to explain the procedure and told me that they would be inserting a titanium clip during the biopsy so that any doctor could locate the biopsy site forever and always. My own internal GPS.

Dara encouraged me to ask many questions in the procedure room. I have a tendency to just go with the flow. It's not that I am not inquisitive, but my mind became rather numb with the overwhelming possibility that my alien being truly is a something. So, gathering courage from Dara and Altoids (wishing that it was liquid courage in the form of Jack), I start to assert my questions on the nurse. She is clearly not use to one of the flock using their brain. If it wasn't for my friend's encouragement, I would have been one of the masses walking into the procedure room with my brain the consistancy of jell-o. The nurse must have told the doctor that there was a rebel in their midst, because when the doctor arrived, she introduced herself, firmly shook my hand and immediately stated, "I hear you have many questions about the clip." She then explained why they needed my homing device. Since the lump is rather small, 1.5cm, and because it tends to play hide and seek, they need a tracking device (my verbage not theirs) to locate it. Unless there is an understandable explanation, I prefer most synthetic objects to not be inserted in my body. She stated a fairly straight forward case and a reasonable explanation. This alien seems quite insufferable and I wouldn't put it past him to go all incognito on me and disappear again. A GPS made perfect sense. The thought of my lump with shades and raincoat made me giggle. They thought I was nervous.

As the doctor explained the procedure of a core biopsy, I positioned myself to watch the monitor. Both the nurse and doctor questioned why I wanted to watch. It was perfectly logical to me...this something is going to be a nothing, so this would be my one and only opportunity to watch. They may have thought I was nuts, but after the doctor showed me how she would take the biopsy (think tapered lighter to light hard to reach candles with a hollow needle inside) and shot the aparatus off; allowing me to hear it (very loud...must have been invented by a man...few women would have created something that obnoxious), we were off. After 3 good biopsies, she asked what I thought about 1 or 2 more samples. I reminded her that this was our one and only time to do this, because I was not returning. She better make sure she had enough. Famous last words.

Dara and I go out for breakfast afterwards and then I go home to ice my boob and sleep. By the way, seat belts are not a good idea after breast biopsies. I eventually took off my seat belt and said if any cop pulled me over, I'd pull up my shirt and show them my very purple boob. I would either get out of the ticket, or arrested for indecent exposure. I really did not care which.

I went to LT's first home football game that night as I promised Kat's friend Eric that I would see him play the JV game. Prior to that evening Eric held a special place in my heart. But that night, Eric branded my heart. He is the only person who reduced me to tears. Good tears though.

First off, many of Kat's friends call me mom and hug me upon site. Some of the girls even scream and then hug. Full frontal hugging was not a possibility that evening. I got very good at side hugging. After a few enthusiastic hugs and seeing the pain on my face, Kat slowly filled in her friends as to what was going on. I watched Eric play and then sat with the parents of my best friend from high school. They were there to watch their grandson play on the varsity team.

After the JV game ended, Eric walked up to me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen. He patted the left side of his chest and just said two simple words, "You can't." I ran down the bleachers and hugged him. I told him he couldn't think that way. I needed him to think positive. We all have to think positive. I hugged him again. Praised his football game and reminded him that I loved him. He hugged me back and told me that he loved me too. Yep. A 15 year old boy who raids my refrigerator and guzzles lemonaide reduced me to tears. I had been strong up until that point.

Because the biopsy was performed on the Friday before Labor Day, we were fortunate enough to have to wait an additional day or two for the results. This alien continues to piss me off. Stops by uninvited, decides to stay, plays hide and seek, installs plumbing, requires a GPS system and now the damn thing shows up on a holiday weekend, forcing me to wait a few extra days for diagnosis. GRRRR!!!!!

The results finally arrive on Tuesday. There is one nurse at my doctors office that really should take a job where she never interacts with people. Coal mining might be a better position for her. Where was Candice? How dare she take a day off?! Who cares if this is a holiday weekend! Did she not know that this was all about me at the moment?! This nurse did not do a very good job of giving me the biopsy results. First she calls in the middle of dinner to tell me that my doctor has already left for the day, but I need to discuss a lumpectomy with my surgeon. Whoa, there Missy! One, I don't have a surgeon. I haven't really needed one since my tonselectomy when I was nine. He is the same doctor that delivered me and has been dead almost 20 years. My guess is that my surgeon is currently unavailable. And two, does this mean it is malignant? Her response was very non-committal and suggests that my doctor call me in the morning as he has (again) already left for the day. Great! I get to wait one more day.

The next morning I call Candice. She sets me straight. My general practitioner wants me to speak with a surgeon. They will provide me with a name or two. Since Adam has an appointment for a sports physical that night, I chat with our doctor after Adam's sports physical. He basically informs me that my alien needs an eviction notice. They cannot determine if it is malignant or not from the biopsy. I thought tissue was either cancerous or not. How can it be inconclusive? Since they biopsied the inside of the tumor, if any cells on the top or bottom are malignant then they will not know until removal. He gives me the name of a surgeon. I ask if I can wait a month. We have family arriving at the end of September and I really prefer surgery after they leave. He looks at me as if I am an alien being. He sternly informs me that I can wait until the beginning of October, but no more.

Honestly, I knew I needed to speak with a surgeon. But for me, I need to let the information seep into my brain. I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer and occasionally just need to think about things before I proceed. I did not want to accept the fact that my something could in fact be a something. Hell, it now appears that not only does my something show up uninvited, play hide and seek, installs plumbing, goes incognito and has personality. My something can actually be Jekyll and Hyde. Is it malignant...is it benign? Get. It. Out. Of. Me. NOW!!!!!

Since I'm not exactly Dolly Parton I ask if there will be a dent. Most likely. Your breast is small (don't be getting personal here Doc!) and the mass is rather large. (Didn't the doctor who performed the biopsy say my alien was small and that is why I needed a GPS device?) Can you medical-types keep the story straight? Maybe the GPS is because my alien likes to play hide and seek.

OK...dent. Can you fill with a little lipo from my hips or tummy? He stares at me blankly, but Candice laughs. I hate when my humor is wasted on people. No, he states slightly condescendingly, they don't fill with lipo.


I decide even if my relatives are arriving at the end of the month, I better meet with my newly appointed surgeon. I want this done on my time table, but at the same time, I am not liking this parasite setting up shop in my breast. For us women, breasts are hollowed territory and this something needs to go. The surgeon is compelled to give me best and worse case scenarios. Best case is great. Remove alien being, stitch me up inside and then superglue me together on the outside. I never even see stitches. A couple days off and ice my breast. OK. I can handle this. I ask him about lipo. He too is seriously lacking a sense of humor. But I am sure they can fill an empty spot. Can't they?

It appears that the type of tumor I have is generally benign when small. People only need to worry when they are large. When large, they can morph from benign to malignant. It is Jekyll and Hyde!!! I Knew It!!! My tumor is on the larger end. Having never done anything half-assed in my entire life, I would not expect it to be any less. Why did the biopsy doctor tell me it was small. Was she just installing GPS devices for the hell of it?! Is this some type of conspiracy theory? Hmmmm.....

OK...my tumor is an over achiever. Of course it is. The more my sponge-like brain soaks up this information, the lights turn on and somebody is home for the first time since this nightmare began. Get it out of me as soon as possible, especially if he is currently Jekyll and has not yet hit Hyde status.

The worse case scenario is not an area I want to entertain. I would face additional surgery depending where Hyde finally staked his residence. As he begins to explain things further, I realize that I would be looking at reconstructive surgery. Wow, all this from a grape sized lump? Whenever I thought about breast surgery, it was always as an enhancement.

As my stomach is sinking farther and farther and I am becoming more and more nauseous, I continue to take notes and ask questions. The only good thing about our worse case scenario is that radiation would win out over chemo. I remember making some stupid remark about having just grown out my hair out to my desired length and that I would be very crabby about losing it. Sometimes I really wish my mouth would not open because I do realize how stupid I occasionally sound. The surgeon reiterates, this is worse case scenario.


He is fairly confident that it is benign.

Can you be sure?


Crap!!! I want to ask his take about the blood supply issue. But remind myself to never ask a question when you are afraid of the answer.

So, September 30th it is.

Really hoping that my psychic is right about all of this. I will have a definite problem with one of my breasts, but everything is going to be OK.

Please, Dear God. Let this all be OK.

1 comment:

  1. Must have been an agonizing ordeal. All is well that ends well...