Monday, July 18, 2016

And the Complication You Could do Without


Okay. So, remember how I said I got some weird news on Friday before we went to Clear Lake? Well, here's the deal with it:

On Friday I went in for my mammogram. The woman doing my mammogram said, "Wow. You have really dense breasts." and I said,

"I know. I try to do self-breast exams and everything feels like cancer..." Which is really true, and scary as hell.

They did my mammogram and asked me to sit in the waiting room, since I've had to have second views done in the past. They did call me back to take more views and then the doctor pulled me in a room and the tech asked if some students could observe and get some experience. I said, yes. The doctor told me that I had calcifications in my left breast. He explained that it was very common for "women my age" (read: old) to have calcifications, and that usually they aren't anything to worry about, BUT there are three different kinds, clearly benign, suspicious and malignant. Mine were suspicious. Hell, I'm suspicious of most things in general, why shouldn't my calcifications be too? He said that I need to have a biopsy. That it didn't have to be right away, because these things, even if they were malignant, would be VERY early stages of cancer. So, in my head, I took that to mean that even the worst case scenario was pretty damn good. But I was still scared and upset and those students got to experience watching me cry.

My wonderful radiology tech told me they had an opening on Monday if I wanted to get the biopsy over with. Did I ever. 

I went in at 1 o'clock on Monday and talked to a doctor and then the rad tech talked me through the procedure. I had met her before. She was a friend of my ex-husband's friend. I reminded her about the last time she helped with my mammogram and how I passed-out. As many of you know, I pass-out. I pass-out, I pass-out, I pass-out. For whatever reason. I always have. My vasovagal responds very well, thank you very much. She said, "Oh, I remember you. I have an assistant here to help talk to you and take  your mind off of it, so you don't pass-out on us again."

Basically, I had to sit in a chair with my breast clamped firmly and painfully in place, while they took about 75 mammograms to make sure they could find the calcifications, then they try to suck out samples, so they can send them to pathology and see if they are cancerous. Then, they have to put a titanium marker where the calcifications were, so they can go back in and get everything else out if they are malignant, or watch it closely if they aren't, just to make sure they don't get crazy and start growing more in the future. The literature said it shouldn't set-off a metal detector, so I didn't have to worry about foreplay pat-downs at airports. Damn.

The staff was incredible. They kept checking to make sure I was okay during the procedure and I did pretty well. They were happy they got out what they needed. But between the teaching and the many views they needed to take, I was sitting up, with my breast clamped tightly for almost an  hour, Imagine an hour long mammogram? Yeah....Anyway, before they could try to put the clip in, I could feel myself getting the silver spots. I told them I was starting to pass-out. The techs all ran over. One gave me smelling salts, (I'd never had those before, but they didn't seem to work on me) one rubbed my back and the other ran to grab a bin, because I felt like I was going to puke too. Next thing I knew, I thought I was waking up and late for work. I then realized that I was really in the clinic and there were now 5 techs assisting me and I was being leaned WAAAAY back in my chair. My first thought was, "Oh crap. My legs are in the air and I'm wearing a skirt. Did I wear some decent underwear at least? How sad that through all of it, THAT was my first thought? Anyway, they all were wonderful and helpful and I was duly embarrassed. The doctor had to go and do another biopsy and would be back, because they still didn't get that tag inserted. Sigh.

I was afraid that they would have to put me back in the mammo clamp, but this time, they could use an ultrasound and I wouldn't have to be clamped and I could lie down for it. This time it was much better and they got the marker in about 2 cm away from where the calcifications are/were and  three and a half hours after they started, they sent me on my way.

Once I got home, I had to cry it out a little. I know at least with this, it won't be half as bad as other women with way worse cancer, but the whole idea of it and the painful procedure and the fact that I had no idea what the result would be and I was still shaky from passing-out and if they came back malignant, the next doctor I spoke to would be an oncologist and what if, and I'm scared, and so I cried/vented to myself.

I had a woman tell me that I shouldn't worry about my results because I'm so healthy and surely I wouldn't have cancer and I reminded her that babies and little kids got cancer. Cancer isn't a punishment for unhealthy behavior - that's more like jail time, or syphilis. I might get cancer just because I wasn't very lucky.

Soooo. they told me to expect the results for my biopsy on Thursday or Friday. That didn't happen. At first, I was bummed. I would rather know either way, than to create all kinds of scary scenarios in my head (one of my worst "gifts"), but now I'm glad because my birthday weekend was purely perfect and it was nice NOT to have a dark cloud hanging over it.


This morning I called the receptionist, because I got an email telling me to check my chart and my chart only had one word in it that was different than the general description of my procedure, "abnormal". My first thought was, "Abby Normal" from "Young Frankenstein", but it wasn't all that funny. The receptionist said she didn't have results yet, but she would have a doctor call me when they came in.


Just so you know, probably the very worst place you can be when you get bad results, is at work. Lucky for me, my co-workers are funny, salty, women around my age and I couldn't ask for better support there. I was crying after the doctor told me my cells were malignant. She did tell me that it was very early and that  was good, but she didn't say much else. My co-workers told me to go home, and I was glad that I did, because soon after, I was sitting on my porch trying to process it, when a nurse/savior called me and talked me through everything. She said that if I HAD to have cancer, this was the best kind. It was treatable. I would probably need a lumpectomy and some radiation, but I would know for sure after I had a consult with the surgeon, which we scheduled for Friday morning. I was a little embarrassed, but I asked her if it was okay for me to do RAGBRAI next week. She told me, "Definitely. Do RAGBRAI. Have fun. Get a sunburn." I said, "Maybe the skin cancer will take away from the stress of my breast cancer..."Har har.

John has been amazing through all of this. He came home early today and we hugged and cried together and then he just kept asking how he could help. I was mostly worried about having to tell my girls. They are so sweet and empathetic, I didn't want to make them sad or worry them. 

Right now. I keep thinking how damn lucky I am. This will probably be painful and uncomfortable and I'm sure I won't always have the best attitude during this process, but I have incredible support. John, my girls, my family and friends and co-workers are the best I could ask for. It's true about what they say - don't waste time on people who aren't there for you and what you'll have left is an incredible family - both by blood and by choice. In that regard, I have it all..

So, what else I have right now is a lot of hope and support and an inappropriate sense of humor. I'm hoping it gets me through the hard parts...

6 comments:

Lucie Heck said...

Love ya Tara! You're an amazing woman with a great life, beautiful daughters and an awesome, supportive partner. You have a lot to fight for. You can do it! You are a fighter and you kick ass! And that's how it's going to be this time too: Tara is the winner! oxox let me know if I can help in any way ( talking, not talking, delivering wine...)

Kathy Welsh said...

Tara, super sorry abt this! We are here for you! Pls keep your inappropriate sense of humor! *hugs*

A said...

Damn - Sorry you have to go through all this -I've gone through those second look - ultrasounds etc.. thankfully never any further.
I have dense breasts too and everytime they would say "oh your breasts are very dense" I would always think dense = stupid or slow. Kind of matches the rest of me. sorry about your stupid breasts

Polly Monear said...

Tara - I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this. Please keep us posted. Lots of love coming your way...

Dan said...

Prayers your way Lady!

SkylersDad said...

Lot's of love from out here in Colorado! You are amazing, tough, and are going to kick cancers ass!