One of the nice things about having breast cancer is that for the rest of your life you visit your oncologist every year. Sort of like having a “cancer-stalking ninja” sitting on your shoulder. During my annual mammogram two weeks ago, an ‘area of concern’ was spotted in my right tit*. Biopsy was recommended.
It wasn’t a tumor, just a cluster of microcalcifications. These are normally scattered throughout the breast and are of no concern unless they cluster. Even if clustered, they are usually just indicative of pre-cancerous cellular abnormalities, and generally don’t evolve into invasive cancer.
Bottom line? It was no big deal. Even if it was bad, it wasn’t bad.
So the biopsy was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Both of my children, and the two friends i told about it, offered to drive me to the appointment, but i declined. Hopped in the jeep after lunch and drove myself to the hospital. No big deal. Local anesthetic is used for a stereotactic biopsy, and there is no concern about driving post-procedure.
The stereotactic biopsy is the first approach attempted in such a case. When the little nuggets are that small, sometimes a wire-localization surgical biopsy is required. More extensive, still local anaesthetic, and good to avoid if possible.
Joking with the medical staff, i reminded them that these are the Model Year 2007 Bionic Twins we’re dealing with… The objective was to get something for pathology without mashing it into a thumbless mitten… Given the size and location of the clump, the doc wasn’t sure he’d be able to get it. The staff prepared me for several attempts, and said it might take an hour to just find it. It took a full 90 minutes of x-ray imaging before the doc could do the core biopsy.
That’d be 90 minutes with me lying face down on a hard table, tit through a hole, and strategically crushed between two plates. While not painful, it wasn’t particularly comfortable. “Don’t move!” Right. i stayed as still as i could. The doctor, knowing that i was getting stiff, reached up to reassure me, placing his hand squarely on my left ass cheek. Not sure he realized it… but i still didn’t move**. Given that the doc was pretty sure we’d have to go back for a wire-localization, i was relieved that he was able to get a sample for pathology.
The doctor and staff said that i had been an ideal patient. Relaxed, flexible and tolerant – with a fairly high threshold for discomfort. Otherwise, they said, they’d have referred me for the wire-localized surgical biopsy.
When it was over, i wandered back out the the parking lot*** on a gorgeous autumn day, sucking in the fresh humidity-free air and drinking in the high-pressure blue sky. Hopped back in my jeep.
“i am one badass motherfucker” was the random thought that popped into my head…
When i went through the process almost three years ago, i went to all of my appointments and procedures alone. With the random thought that flashed in my head, i finally realized why i do it this way. It provides the illusion of power and control. It makes me feel strong.
The reality? i was just as scared on that table as any other human being. Even though my rational mind knew it wouldn’t be bad, it’s fucking scary. So i rationalize it into a nice corner, tell myself i’m strong and in control of things and that i’m a badass motherfucker.
Always comes back to that amazing quote, uttered by Jeff Goldblum in “The Big Chill”:
Sam Weber: Nothing’s more important than sex!
Michael: Oh yeah, have you ever gone a week without a rationalization?
Got the call from my oncologist last night with good news: negative. So no further need for cutting or cooking my perky and healthy right tit.
Once again, i want to remind all of you ladies to get your mammograms. The microcalcifications are the size of a grain of salt, and they are distinctly visible on a digital mammogram. Isn’t that amazing? Sometimes they can see the fucking cancer BEFORE it’s cancer. Yeah, it hurts to put your tit in a vise once a year. So what?
Excuses are like assholes – everyone’s got one. Just go do it.
* Pardon the medical jargon… i’m a self-taught professional.
** Had he been anywhere near as hot as the orthopaedic surgeon who did my knee surgery, i might have jumped him…
*** i got dressed first…