Breast Cancer Scare
The words "breast cancer" strike fear into everyone who comes in contact with them. One out of eight women will get breast cancer, and it won't be a pleasant experience. But breast cancer is not the death sentence it once was, and the best way to survive is to catch it very early.
My experience with breast cancer began between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had my first mammogram, and the imaging center wanted me to have more pictures taken. I was surprised, as I felt great, had no family history, and had an active, healthy lifestyle, but I figured it was just benign cysts, which do run in my family.
Right after the more sensitive pictures, the doctor told me something didn't look right, and she wanted to do a biopsy. It was scheduled the day after Christmas, and I was told to wear an exercise bra and comfortable clothing that was easy to remove. There would be about an hour of a little pinching, poking, slight discomfort, and a possibility of bruising, but I should be able to resume my normal activities the following day.
Did they ever play down the reality! My biopsy was three hours of excruciating pain while the technicians tried to find a way to get to the tissue that didn't look normal. Apparently my tissue was very dense and the abnormal tissue was in a place that was hard to get to. My breast was black, blue, purple, and green for a month and the incisions bled for a week. I was told my family doctor would have me make an appointment when the results were in and sent on my way.
I cried as I drove home. I had tried to keep a positive attitude, but I was in so much pain and feeling so down. I looked out the window at people going about normal activities, and thought that yesterday I had been one of them. Then, my tears turned to laughter as I spotted a man with a serious case of butt crack wrestling with his garbage cans.
My parents, husband and daughters were furious with me fo driving alone to the biopsy. I didn't think it was going to be a big deal, so when each of them mentioned taking me, I told them the other had offered. Note to self: don't ever do that again.
I made an appointment with my family doctor. After a long wait, the medical assistant informed me that the insurance the company I worked for (which changed in January) was not accepted and the doctor refused to see me. When I asked for my results, she hesitated, then led me to an office to speak to another doctor in the clinic.
The strange doctor was very kind as she explained that the breast biopsy showed cells dividing rapidly. This is an indication of cancer, but without more tissue samples, they couldn't tell for sure. She wanted to set an appointment with a surgeon, and she chose the one in my area that was supposed to be the best.
But seeing the best involved a wait. As a matter of fact, during my first appointment with the surgeon, I never met him. He left for an emergency and one of his associate's made arrangements in his behalf. During my second appointment with him, he shook my hand and rattled off a two minute spiel about surgery to remove the whole area of the breast with the questionable cells, then disappeared before I could ask any questions. The third contact with the surgeon was during surgery, and I was already unconscious when he arrived. My health and future were in the hands of a stranger, but he was highly recommended.
The surgery, my family told me, went well. I never did see the surgeon again. When I went to his office for results, the associate I spoke to during my first visit brought a pile of papers into the room, shoved them into my hands, and said "Here." As I began to read, he flipped the papers to the last page and told me, "This is what you want to know." I began to read the words "atypical lobular hyperplasia with microcalcification" and thought, those are the terms from my first biopsy. I looked at the associate, who impatiently informed me, "There's no more cancer. It's gone. It's good news."
I've since heard of good experiences patients have had being a part of a cancer team. That would have been nice, but I'm happy that it's not going to be necessary for me. I'll go in every 6 months for my mammograms even though my insurance won't pay for it. I'll eat the food recommended to prevent breast cancer. And I'll thank God every day that I was one of the few whose abnormal cells were found early enough to avoid the necessary but uncomfortable procedures to kill cancer cells and keep them from coming back. That blessing makes the impersonal ordeal well worth it.
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