December 15, 2013
Well my mammography this past week was quite the adventure. I've had 2 in the past. The first, right around the time I turned 40, as a baseline. My grandmother had breast cancer at the age of 30, had a double mastectomy right away and never had another cancer event in her life. She died 10 days before she turned 90, just a few short years ago, healthy and cancer free. My first mammogram was short and sweet. I expected it to be at least a bit uncomfortable as so many friends and family members talked about how much it hurts. I was fine, in and out in about 20 minutes from check in to goodbye. A few days later, my caregiver received a report that said everything was perfect. I did receive a verbal that everything looked good at the end of the exam.
The second mammogram I had was just last year. I was about to turn 50 and had a bit of "pain" in my one breast that my caregiver wanted to check out. Again, in and out, verbal consult that all was well and then a letter in the mail a few days later showing all was well. We agreed at that time that hormones in my body were starting to change a bit and that was the source of the discomfort, which came and went, here and then but never really bothered me much. We decided then that I would get a mammogram about every 2 years and that was the end of it.
However, this year, I've had pneumonia now 4 times and half way through this last bout, I noticed that my right breast, in particular my nipple, was really sore. Enough to wake me up. Enough to need warmth to sleep well. I told my caregiver and he immediately booked a scan for me, even though I didn't have any discharge. I had felt some "lumpiness" that was different and was worried. My naturopath was contacted and she agreed a scan would be best, just to be sure. I'm so thankful for caregivers that listen and while it may seem like a waste of money within our socialist health care system, as my health care team has said many times, a scan or a test is worth it if the results are negative and even more worth it if something shows up that needs attention.
I work in a hospice and one of the regrets we often hear is our clients "wishing" they had bugged their doctor for a test or spoke up when they weren't well and knew or felt something was off. I don't want to have that regret in my life, at the end of my life. So I do speak up and again am happy I did.
My mammogram was a different experience this time. Instead of a quick check, I was booked in for a diagnostic scan. The entire process took almost 2 hours from the time I checked in until it was time to say goodbye. And most of the time, I was terrified. Not just of what they might find, but that I wouldn't have time to finish all the things I've set out in life to do. I wouldn't have a chance to finish exploring this vast world. I wouldn't get to be a great grandma. Or see my kids take over our Charity for us. We're just half way there, with so much work still to be done. The experiences we've had have been amazing. I'm thankful for all our days.
But it's not enough! I'm not done! Not yet, I kept raging in my head. Not yet!!
There was a group of us waiting in the beautifully appointed lounge, decked out in our pink fabric gowns, sitting gazing at breast cancer symbolism throughout the room. I found that a bit odd. Cozy white blankets displayed on a shelf with a big pink ribbon. Interesting, to say the least! The pink ribbon everywhere. It felt almost like those symbols were meant to be comforting ~ "no worries, we're all in this together!" I didn't feel comforted but instead found it slightly amusing.
I had my scan with Deanna, a great tech who explained a lot about what I might be feeling. She did detect what she thought was a suspicious lump and put a lovely little sticker on the spot for the scan. This time, it was uncomfortable but I'm still not feeling well, was trying so hard to keep my cough under control and with all the manipulation, my breast became extra sore. But she was efficient and soon I was back in the lounge, waiting for the all clear that all my waiting room buddies were getting. All were greeted with a smile and a nod and the comforting words that all looked well and they would receive a letter in the mail in the next week. My tech came out at one point, when the room was empty, just me and the ticking clock, to let me know they were going to do an ultrasound and then a biopsy.
What? No, no, no, I didn't sign up for this part!!
Soon the room was full again. Then it began to empty again. I was anxious and cold, wishing I had told my dh he was welcome to come along. I know they wouldn't have allowed him to be back with me but even having him on site would have been comforting.
Finally, it was time for the ultrasound. For about 20 minutes, they scanned and scanned and scanned. "Hmmmm." "Let's measure that." "Ooops!" "Here's another one to look at." All sorts of things I heard while I laid there, trying so hard not to cry. Along with many moments of silence.
And then, what I wasn't expecting, the greatest words ever ~ "Your scan is good, no tumors, no cysts, nothing to detect." They do want to watch a lymph node that might be why I'm so sore. And suggested my caregivers make sure the pneumonia is gone as I'm still congested. The lymph nodes in the chest can get very irritated with pneumonia and the whooping cough didn't help either. They are quite certain the lumpiness I'm feeling is this irritation and the swelling of the tissues. I'll confirm with my caregivers but it does make sense to me. I couldn't wait to get out of there. I was ready to leap off the table and do a dance! But I was so exhausted, I just kept thanking them!
Got dressed, had a nice chat with my original tech, who told me all about how hormones in our aging bodies can create breast pain but reaffirmed that it was the best thing to get it all checked. I left feeling light, lucky and liberated.
This was the longest 2 hours of my life in so many ways. I'm still trying to process this feeling of being beautifully blessed and so very grateful. I can't imagine what would have been our journey if the results were different but for now, I'm not going there. For now, , as always, I'm going to continue to cherish every moment. For now, as always, nothing is for granted.
I'll still have bad days and not so great moments. But at least, for now, I get a chance to continue to have a tomorrow.