Saturday, February 25, 2006

Armchair Radiologist

Some people are backseat drivers. Sometimes there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Some are armchair quarterbacks. I am an armchair internet radiologist. Got a mass in your breast? Got an ultrasound or mammogram? I could probably diagnose ya. (Give or take)

See, I have to admit, there was a part of me that knew this was coming, the minute I went in for those tests... let me backtrack. I went in for an ultrasound and diagnostic mammogram on Valentine's Day. Needless to say, there was not much in the way of romance that night. I had my ultrasound first. The tech sat down, squirted some gel stuff on me and away we went. I have to admit, I thought my first experience with ultrasound would be when I got preggers. No such luck. However, I was versed in the procedure, having written a very dramatic scene for Kendall on "All My Children." I digress...

The tech checked me out, said she didn't see anything other than the lump. (Good thing) The mass looked solid. (Not so good) See, as the day went on, I watched my chances for "good lumps" go bye-bye. Being solid meant it wasn't just your run of the mill cyst. You know, one of the many "normal" lumps we women get. I saw the screen and saw the mass. It was oddly shaped, had wierd edges, and was very shadowy on the screen. Later, as I would compare my pictures at home to the numerous images available to me through Google, I would realize these are not good things.The tech went to confer with the radiologist. I was left alone for about 10 minutes. I cried. I felt so alone. My husband wanted to come in to the room with me, but they told him to wait outside. So he was in the waiting room, not with me. I was scared. I knew enough (from checking things out prior to this appointment) that a fibroadenoma, a "standard" solid lump in women my age, had a solid, very defined outline. My fears weren't eased when the radiologist came in and gave me a whole other ultrasound. And it HURT. He pressed really hard into me. First of all, this lump never hurt, but thanks to this day, it has hurt me every day since. I began to worry when he started looking in my armpits (well, ladies and gentlemen, this is checking for lymph nodes, something even i knew he wouldn't be doing unless he thought the lump looked sketchy). As if that wasn't bad enough, he insisted on me having a biopsy that day. Hmm... I wasn't ready fot this. It was moving way too fast. It felt like 0-cancer in .3 seconds. And shit, my chest hurt.

He sent me for a mammogram. For those of you lucky enough to never experience this, count your lucky stars. Then again, you have to bend over and cough.

I stood in front of the Mammomat- yes, that's what it's called, and allowed a very nice woman to touch me up and cram my boobs into horribly painful positions and then press even harder. For the women who've said it's "mildly" uncomfortable, they're lying. It fucking hurts. The only upside is that it only takes a couple a seconds for each film. Unfortunately I had like a dozen, so I had a fair amount of pain. The problem with me was that my left side with Maria was already a bit sore from the ultrasound. This was not fun. They usually don't see a lot with younger women on mammograms, but mine were clear as day. So clear, in fact, that my radiologist wanted even more angles. So essentially, after 2 ultrasounds, they wanted a second mammogram. My mammograms showed this obvious lump with a "star" sort of pattern. Yep, that's the cancer working it's way through. The radiologist brought Alan in to talk some more about the biopsy, "so we'd know what we're dealing with." He never mentioned the high chance of malignancy, which he must have known.

The biopsy also sucked. In fact, the whole day sucked. Much of what sucked was the amount of time I was left alone with my own fears (and pain) while they "got paperwork, checked films, consulted with my surgeon" (oh yeah, by now I have a surgeon.) I had what is called a needle core biopsy. Essentially, they numb the area (did I mention they had to stick me not once, but TWICE "just to make sure it was numb enough") Then they stick this horrible hollow needle into you. Not before making an incision. I swear, when he said the word, "scapel" I thought I was going to pass out. I watched on the ultrasound as the needle went into Maria. I did not look at the needle. Then, with a "Snap" a spring device pushes another needle in that essentially cuts and takes a "Core" of the mass. It reminded me of the gun they use to pierce your ears. That hurts too. Normally, they take 3 samples, but of course, that was not enough. Sure, what's more manhandling and pain? Hit me baby, one more time. Except it was two.

I was sent home with instructions to take it easy. Wasn't hard as my chest hurt so bad, I had to walk around with an ice pack to my left breast for 2 days. It still hurts. Then again, I guess I better get used to it.The next two days I spent online comparing films, reading up on ultrasounds, staying up late to find new sites to compare to my pictures. I'm smarter than the average bear. I could read the writing on the x-ray. There was a part of me that knew I had cancer. The shit was just too obvious. Even if I had gotten my med degree in the West Indies, I could see it. Oh, wait, I didn't have one at all and I could tell. It all fell into place. Wanting the extra films, wanting to do the biopsy right away, checking the lymph nodes... I had even found a website that was used internally for a course in reading mammograms. Mine looked a lot like case 27- malignant carcinoma. There was still a part of me that hoped I wasn't so smart. No such luck. I'm fucking brilliant. And I have cancer.

1 comment:

JenL said...


It's been a long time but I wanted to drop you a line to let you know how impressed I was with your strength and courage. Dana kept me up to speed on what was happening and i'm happy she sent on your blog for me to see the whole story. You are going to beat the crap out of Maria. I hope everything goes well as you move through this process.

Best. (and LITB of course)
Jen Liss