Didn’t mean to leave anyone hanging, but I’ve spent a ton of time with the kids and B during the holiday break. From Christmas (and so much playing!) to a New Years (kid-free!) getaway with B, it was a great week. In between the fun, I was researching and reading and plotting all the potential scenarios, but as much as possible, I tried to focus on the kids and B. But now I’ve reached the point at which I need to write this out, to get these thoughts and feelings out of my head. As I’ve said before, this blog helps me process, and I’m going to need to process a LOT during this process…
So the update, starting with the Christmas Eve biopsy.
I don’t think I ever want to spend Christmas Eve morning at the breast imaging center again.
The results of my mammogram and ultrasound were suspicious, so the biopsy was the next course of action. Again, not feeling like I had much to fear, I was in good spirits – looking forward to the next day with the family and the start of a week with B.
I changed into a surgical gown and was escorted back to the ultrasound room. The radiologist who would perform the procedure came in. He was really nice, to the point, and very socially awkward (which I appreciate and kind of adore in people). He explained the procedure and looked at the images from my last visit. In a few minutes, I was warned that the local anesthesia would sting a bit. It did, but it wasn’t bad.
A few minutes later, the first incision was made. I watched on the ultrasound as the first mass was found. I could see the radiologist’s needle approaching the mass.
“One. Two. Three,” he counted. Click! I watched as the needle pierced the mass and retracted back. This went on for six or seven times. Count to three. Click sound. Needle in and out. No pain, but I could feel blood dripping down my side.
Then he made a second incision for the next mass. Same procedure, except he forgot to count. “I’m so sorry,” he said with a little under-the-breath laugh. “I forgot to count. Are you okay?”
I assured him I was fine. Since I was watching the whole thing on the monitor, I could see the needle approach and anticipated the click and needle in-out thing. Besides, I couldn’t feel anything with the local anesthesia.
The nurses laughed as I explained that I figured it out and didn’t need the countdown. “Everyone is different,” Nurse Gina said. “Some people ask a ton of questions. Some want to bury their face in a pillow and not look at all.”
The whole thing lasted about an hour. During that time, the nurses, radiologist and I talked about our Christmas plans, recipes for cooking a tenderloin (two of us were making one for dinner the next day), and recipes for our themed holiday drinks. (We would have Cranberry Margarita Martinis, while Nurse Gina was preparing Frozen Grasshoppers.)
When it was over, Nurse Gina applied pressure to the two incisions for about 10 minutes. That was probably the most painful part. It was SERIOUS pressure. Then steri-strips and a gauze/adhesive dressing. The incisions were so small, Nurse Gina had a hard time finding them.
I had to change the dressing a few times that night because I kept bleeding through. It turned a beautiful purple color. (I joked that it matched the dress I was going to wear on New Years.) And there was a lump where the biopsies originated. But there was very little pain.
The worse thing was the flu that I was coming down with and would battle for the next week and a half.
Then waiting… Having B and my mom around, and the kids of course, kept my mind occupied (somewhat), but there was still the WAITING…
Positive Doesn’t Mean “Good”
Friday at 9 a.m., B and my mom were getting ready to leave, after they both spent two nights with the kids and me. My cell phone rang.
“I just got off the phone with the pathologist,” said the socially-awkward radiologist. “It’s positive for breast cancer. Both areas. Wait, sorry. I should have started with asking how you’re feeling since the biopsy…”
I laughed. I’m good, I assured him. Surprised at the results, but the biopsy area was fine.
“I really suspected it was cancer when I saw it,” he said, “but I had to wait for the results to be sure.”
He told me a nurse would call soon to schedule a meeting with a surgeon.
Tears. I walked out of my office and into the kitchen. I looked at my mom and said, “It’s positive.”
She put her arms around me and buried her head in my neck.
“Positive is good, right?” said Ethan, who I didn’t even realize was in the room. Until this point, I hadn’t said anything to the kids.
“Usually, yes,” I said. “But not usually when it comes to medical stuff.”
I explained that I had a test that showed a lump in my breast and had another test to determine what it was. It was the second test that was positive for something and that meant I’d have to see more doctors to find the best way to fix it. That satisfied him and so far, I haven’t said anything else to him.
(I’ve thought a lot about this. Until I have a plan and more information on my particular kind of cancer, talking about it to a kid who’s been through so much would do more harm than good. I really want to be able to say “here’s what’s up, here’s how we fix it, and everything will be okay.” I just don’t have enough information yet to do that.)
About that time, the surgical nurse called. I had already reviewed the surgeon profiles at the cancer center so I knew which surgeon I wanted to see. I had three options: two general surgeons and one breast-only surgeon. I’m going with the breast-only doc. Of course, she’s out of the country until January 12, so things are kind of on hold until then. She’ll be the one to refer me to the oncologist and radiation doc, and order additional testing necessary before surgery.
In the waiting time, I had an “education session” with Nurse Gina. I brought my mom for two reasons: 1) the cancer people kept asking if I had a support system (since I’d been alone during the mammogram and biopsy) and I wasn’t sure they believed that I did have support, and 2) I thought it would help my mom. (It did make her feel more comfortable.)
Most of what Nurse Gina covered, I knew from my hours of research, but there were two points that caused me to cry.
She explained that since I was pre-menopausal and under 50, I would most likely have to endure chemotherapy. As she went over the specifics and side effects of chemo, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. Losing my hair, eyelashes, eyebrows – “fuckity fuck fuck,” was the only thing I could think as tears streamed down my face. As she continued with the services offered in the cancer center – head shaving, wig fitting, scarf tying, eyebrow makeup classes – more tears. Tears because, quite frankly, I can hide all of this from people, but not if I lose hair. Then I’ll get sympathy looks, which I hate. I also teared because it’s so ridiculously vain – and that pissed me off that I could be so damned vain about HAIR… And it cycled back through again.
The second thing that caused me to cry was when she asked if I told the kids yet. I said no, and explained why and what they did know. She gave me information on how to tell kids, which is somewhat helpful, but given our situation, it’s so much more complicated. I just tear whenever someone talks about or I think about how my kids have been affected (and in some cases, messed up) by so many things out of their control. And at such young ages. This is just one more thing for them to worry about.
Nurse Gina was fantastic during the education session. She made my mom feel completely at ease. She sent me home with an inch-thick book and a two-inch binder, plus a ton of pamphlets and brochures on information and resources locally and nationally. I like having as much info as possible, so I’ve already devoured everything except the book (which seems to be a lot of info I’ve found in my research). And last night, I started researching wigs and scarf tying and the god-awful bras and inserts made for women who’ve gone through breast surgeries.
That’s where things stand right now. Stay tuned… there are still a half-dozen topics I want to write about, and will write about, in the coming days/weeks.
Wow. Sending you good thoughts. Very well written, so hard.
God bless the socially-awkward tech (I wish I could give him a hug!) and Nurse Gina. They sound phenomenal and the perfect people to guide you through this. I think talking more to the kids once you have more info will be better for them and help them process it. Hugs and love to you, your mom, and B! xoxo
Hang in there and stay strong. Thank you for sharing your story.