Ok. Now, I'm just going to do it all in one fell swoop. I visited the surgeon today at 2:30 p.m. The nurse called about 10ish to ask me to come in. My first thought is that it must be bad news for them to want me to come in so soon. I lost my breath for a minute as all the images of the women I wrote stories on for Cancer Survivors' Day (among other topics) started running through my head. Images of these women and their many many stories were all rushing to me. I'm going to be another of the numbers. A pink ribbon will have more significance to me now. I imagined the worst. I called Jesse to come home early and watch Stinkerbelle and then go pick up the boys from their first day of school.
So, off I went to the doctor. I only had a brief wait before he came in the exam room, shook my hand and asked me how the biopsy went. It sucked, I said. It was better than surgery though, he said. If you say so, I respond. He hands me a copy of a report from the pathologist and points out where he circled the word fibroadenoma. Its benign, he says. I'm not sure if he said much else after that. I heard benign and sort of faded away as a rush of relief swept throughout my body. Then, he said, we'll do a repeat sonogram in six months to see if it grows or stays the same. It is, essentially, a tumor. So, it can grow or stay the same. According to WebMD, a fibroadenoma is a firm, noncancerous tumor of a gland, often found in the breast. It is round, painless, feels firm and rubbery, and can be easily moved around. Such tumors are often found during a breast self-exam. Fibroadenomas may occur as one lump or multiple lumps in the breast. They are most common in women in their late teens and early 20s and occur twice as often in black women. A breast biopsy may be needed to tell the difference between a fibroadenoma and breast cancer.
Off I went feeling a little bit lighter. I felt guilty for having all these worries and stresses, but so much better knowing that everything is good.
So, now, do you still want to hear about the biopsy? I thought you would. Sit down, this is a long story.
Upon our arrival at the hospital, I was given the little light-flashing vibrating pager at the registration office. Jesse asked for a table in the corner and if they'd have the breadsticks ready for us when we were seated. The receptionist wasn't near as amused as we were. We had to wait for about 40 minutes before it was our, er, my turn. Army of Mom, biopsy for one, your exam room is waiting. I wish it was that simple. We went to Room No. 7 to decimate yet another forest with paperwork. Again, they try to bleed some money from me. I had $20 in my pocket for my children's remaining school supplies. She said she'd be happy to take it. *sigh* As she wanders off to make more copies of the endless paperwork, I'm left listening to Army of Dad bitch about doctor bills and why do we pay insurance, blah blah blah. Finally, we're done.
We walk the hall down to Breast Imaging. Sounds like an adult glamour shots to me. I can hear the bow chinky bowwow music playing. We go in and sit down. No Rocky on the TV this time. Instead I get to listen to some Chinese radiology tech laugh and carry on about something or another with a colleague. We're running a bit behind she says. No problem. Fortunately, I brought a baby blanket I was working on for Stinkerbelle. A few minutes later, the techs all come in to turn on the TV to check on Hurricane Charley.
Next, out comes Michelle the mammogram tech. We're thinking about changing your biopsy from stereotactic (meaning using the mammogram machine) to ultrasound (using a sonogram). If my doctor ordered the stereotactic, shouldn't we use that? Well, she tells me, he doesn't do a lot of these procedures and the radiologist thinks the ultrasound will be better. It will be quicker and easier for you. Whatever, I say, that will do the best job. Ok, she says perkily (is that a word?) and beebops away.
She comes back and takes me to a room in the back where they do the stereotactic stuff. Another nurse, can't remember her name, comes in and starts asking me questions and then takes my blood pressure. It is 100 over 60. Pretty low for my normal 120/80. She was a little concerned about this. I'm starting to get really scared and nervous at this point. I'm crying and trying to compose myself. Army of Dad is cracking jokes, but they're not doing me much good despite his best efforts. Then, the nurse starts to tell me about how they're going to give me a shot to deaden the tissue, then, they'll take the samples and tag me. Excuse me? Do what? Tag me, she repeats. It means they'll put a little tag inside the mass, so they can find it on mammograms and sonograms easier. Great. Jesse and I start to laugh. I'll be setting off metal detectors at the airport. No, no Mr. Security officer. It is just my boob. I can see the security guards arguing over who gets to frisk my boobs, just for good measure. Then, the image of those microchips placed in dogs to help owners find them if their lost comes to mind. I told Jesse that if I die in a plane crash, he'll have a way to identify me. Well, Mr. Army of Dad, we identified your wife's remains from the tag in her left breast. The nurse is cracking up. She said she never has patients cracking jokes like this.
Then, Dr. Chan comes in. Great, I'm thinking. I've got the Asian version of Doogie Howser. He is awfully young, I'm thinking. But, he seemed really good. He was very matter of fact, while being very kind. He said he would tell me of everything he did as he was doing it. He explained it all again, as the nurse did and answered our questions. We joked again about the tag in my breast and he joined in noting that the government would now be following my wherabouts. The nurse tells him about my low blood pressure and then I get some valium and vicodin. They wouldn't let Jesse in the room because it was a sterile procedure. I'm wondering how having two c-sections weren't sterile and he could be in there, but I didn't argue. I was ready to get this done.
About this time, perky tech Michelle returns. I think she was Michelle. She could have been Kelly. I think the sonogram tech was Kelly. Who knows? I could have them mixed up. I was heavily medicated. They take me in the sonogram room - the same one where I had the breast sonogram a few weeks ago. So, they keep going back and forth, in and out, doing this and that. Kelly is looking for some sample of some woman in these big jars that looked like those that movie theaters keep pickles in, but they were filled with some pink fluid and what looked like big globs of fat. It was nasty as shit. Michelle was looking at me with equal disgust. Worst part was they weren't sure which pile of crap was this woman's sample. I was hoping they didn't get my shit mixed up because I didn't want to do this again.
In comes Dr. Chan. He was really nice. We're all four talking about wedding rings at this point. I'm laid out on a table with my left boob exposed. Michelle and Dr. Chan are putting towels and stuff all around my boob. Michelle is near my right foot, Kelly is by my right boob with the transducer (the thing they rub on your boob to find the image) and Dr. Chan is on my left. He asks me to put my left arm above my head and I grab ahold of a bar that is part of the bed. My right hand is gripped around some sheet or towel or something.
He warns me that I'm going to feel a stick. Boy, he wasn't lying. He inserts the needle to numb the tissue with lidocaine. He pushes it in a bit farther to numb a little deeper. He tells me that the tumor is about an inch in size and about an inch and a half deep into my breast. So, he is pushing it in a little deeper. It hurts and it burns. I continue to squeeze my eyes closed. They've told me to stay still, so I'm trying to keep myself composed.
The whole time, we're talking about wedding bands. Dr. Chan's wife won't wear her wedding band or solitaire because it is too big. The two techs and I are joking about how that is such a problem to have and how we need to talk to her about that. This discussion helps keep me as distracted as possible with three people jacking with my boob and stabbing it with giant needles. Once the tissue is numb, he made a small incision and inserted a catheter type device. The incision is made on the far left side of my boob near my armpit. The whole time he is maneuvering everything, he is pushing down on my breast in the nipple area. He explains that this is to keep the tumor still and make sure he gets the right tissue sample. It hurts and he apologizes. Hey, I would rather you crush my tit than have to do this twice, I tell him. Then, he warns me that he is going to take some biopsy samples. He warns me that the device is loud, making a popping noise, and will jolt me. I won't feel any pain, but I'll feel pressure. Ok. He does it. Baboom!!! Even the sonogram tech jumped as did I. I let out a pathetic wail. Did it hurt, he asks? No, it just scared the shit out of me. It sounded awful. It reminded me of the ear-piercing device they use at Claire's. So, we laughed a bit at the tech jumping, too. My eyes are still closed throughout. He warns me that he is going to take a few more samples. Again, two more babooms are heard and felt, but no one jumped. Each time, I think I may have let out a little whimper. I felt very violated. I can't explain it, but I did. I suddenly felt very sorry for rape victims who have to go to the hospital and have the rape kit done. I can only imagine how degrading it is to have that done after you were raped, too. I know this is nowhere comparable to it, but I still felt humiliated to be doing it. It really isn't something I can explain.
The biopsies are done. Now, Dr. Chan tells me, it is time to tag me. Why don't you just pierce my nipple for fun while my boob is numb, I joke. Dr. Chan and the techs laugh. I think the drugs must have been in full effect at this point. Ok, here goes the tag. Oh Sweet Jesus, that fucking hurt! I'm sorry, he says two or three times. We have to go a little bit deeper than where we numbed to make sure we get the tag in the right place, he explains. It felt like someone shoved a straight pin into the center of my breast. Why the tag? It is like a marker. If you develop another mass near it, this will let everyone know that this mass has been biopsied already so they don't do it again. Ok, that sounds like a good idea. I begin to sob at this point. He takes all his instruments of torture out of me and the tech is holding a sterile gauze pad on my incision. They have me sit up because I'm sitting in a pool of blood. At this point, I'm completely weeping with my body heaving. Do you hurt, the sonogram tech asks me? No, I manage to get out. No more than expected. I'm just glad it is over. The doctor leaves and I can't remember some of the next things, but the techs left, too, briefly. I'm sitting there topless, holding this gauze on my breast and crying. I felt so alone. So, absolutely and utterly alone. Perky girl returns as does the sono tech. I am examining the instruments they used and that needle was really fucking huge - like a few inches long. It is covered in my blood, too. Do you want to see the biopsy samples, one of the women asks me. Yes, I do. A little cup like the ones you pee in at the OB/GYN's office with the lid is produced. In some pink fluid is three little fish poop-looking things. Really, that is what they looked like - fish poop. They were brownish and had that look to them. Hmm. I thought Jesse would have probably liked looking at that. Now, mammogram tech girl asks me if I'm ok enough to walk down the hall to the mammogram room. Sure, I said. I stand up and wrap up in the little smock thing they give you. I look like Napolean, I joke to her, as I walk with my gown wrapped around me with both arms literally hugging myself. Why do I need a mammogram, I ask her. To make sure the tag is placed in the right spot. Great, I'm thinking, but if it isn't, you ain't fucking going back in to do it again. As I walk up to the mammogram machine, she must have read my mind. We won't do it tight like a regular mammogram, just enough to make sure it is in the right place. Damn straight you won't do it hard, I'm thinking at this point. The drugs have killed some of my manners. We go back and I get my clothes back on. Fortunately she put me in a wheelchair because I'm not sure I could have walked out of there. The drugs have fully kicked in at this point.
They give me a little ice pack to slip inside my bra. Fortunately they gave me instructions before the drugs, so I remembered what to do. For the next 36 hours or so, I kept an ice pack in my bra and that helped tremendously. I'm still sore and my boob is pretty bruised. I'm just glad it is over. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from around my neck. It isn't cancer.