The radiology assistant said “Here is your gown, wear it open to the front, and if you used deodorant today, please remove it with one of these wipes. Someone will be in to get you soon.”
I sat there just like I have before. I have had more Mammograms than I can possibly count. I have lost count of the number of biopsies I have had, I know I have had 2 MRI exams, and I have had two major surgeries on my right breast. My naked chest has been seen by many sets of medical eyes.
The first biopsy was to determine if the microcalcifications found on my Mammogram almost 30 years ago were an indication of a malignancy or would it all be fine? Only one way to find out the surgeon said, and the bottom line was he wanted to get it all out and have the lab report say “clean margins.,” so I had an open biopsy in the OR.
I could tell he was smiling behind his mask when he said 80% of microcalcifications are benign. I smiled back behind my mask and said “this will be cancer.”
I don’t know how I knew; I just knew.
30 years this October and I still get butterflies in my stomach, I still get no sleep the night before, I still sweat it all.
I chose breast-saving surgery. I had a lumpectomy. Many times, I wish I had said “off with my breast” because then it would be gone. It would be safer. It would be a new model, matching the other one perfectly, filled with abdominal fat and I would have a flatter abdomen.
I would not have had all those other biopsies because here is the rub. “Things” show up in a tumor bed. Our breasts are fatty tissue. After being cut, stretched, cut again, cauterized, sewn back together, glued back together the fat in the area of the tumor bed will become necrotic. It dies. May times it forms a lump when it dies, and I have found many lumps and when I do here comes the Radiologist with the surgical tray to numb it and go in under Ultrasound guidance to find it.
All these thoughts were front and forward in my head a week ago as I sat there waiting for the door to open into the caverns of the Mammography suite.
I took my phone out and for the first time since I found this new lump I looked to see where the best breast cancer treatment hospital was because I wanted an answer to that question after all, this was a big “What If”.
I live too far away Tampa Florida where countless exams had taken place, and because I worked for years in the breast cancer arena, a local hospital, and a local surgeon were not on my What If list.
My education and my experiences will not allow me to go local. I know the odds of surviving many diseases lies in the hands of the best and the best is not in every hospital.
The door opened and the tech asked me to come in.
There is no turning back. Answers to what if need to be discovered. Mammogram on right breast complete, off to Ultrasound. I ask the tech what she sees, she tells me it’s fatty necrosis and goes to see the Radiologist.
I still wait nervously, the door opens and the Radiologist came in and asked for one more view, that’s enough to make one’s stomach lurch. One more view was taken, and I was sent home with the advice to come back in August for my routine annual exam.
Do I feel absolutely sure, no, I don’t. It is what it is, in August I will be in Florida with my team and go through this ALL again beginning with the what if wait again.