Saturday, October 05, 2013

Finding out

This is the story of how I found out that I had breast cancer.

Since my mother had breast cancer at 47, my primary care doctor considered me at higher risk, and she had me come in for a breast exam every six months, with mammograms once a year. This time -- it was December 2008 -- I went in for my six month check, and she felt something different. It was a firm lump in my right breast. She didn't act too concerned at first, and when I felt it, it really felt like just normal lumps and bumps that I'd experienced over the years. We decided that I'd come back a few days later to see if it was any different. I kept feeling the lump, and it was still there by the next week, but I'd convinced myself it was nothing.

My doctor was not convinced. She tried inserting a needle into the lump to see if she could get some fluid out of it: nothing. The lump was just there, lump-like.

"Well," she said brightly, "looks like you are going to have some extra imaging!" The office staff set me up for a mammogram and ultrasound in a few weeks. I kept feeling the lump, and kept denying to myself that it was anything.  Weeks passed.

Finally the day for the imaging came. It was early January 2009, and A and J were both home. I drove myself to the hospital for the tests. I don't remember a lot about the mammogram, but I vividly remember the ultrasound. The imaging technologist kept running the wand over my breast, over and over, and it was starting to feel uncomfortable. Then two doctors came in, an older woman and a younger man. The male doctor spoke to me, and said that they were recommending a biopsy.  "What do you think it is?" I asked. "Oh, it could be many things," he replied cryptically. Neither he or the female doctor said anything about breast cancer.

After they left, I was left in the room with the technologist. She looked at me. "I've been doing this for 20 years," she said, "and I'm pretty sure that it's breast cancer."  I started to cry.

She gave me one of those sad boxes of tissues that they have in hospitals: tissues made out of the thinnest possible paper.

I don't remember much of what happened next -- I must have changed into my clothes -- and when I got downstairs into the main lobby of the hospital, I called A, crying. "They think it's breast cancer."

And that's how it all began.

I still wonder to this day why that male doctor didn't tell me the truth, and why the older female doctor didn't correct him. What were they thinking? Did they think that not telling me was the right thing to do? I'm glad that the technologist was honest with me, but why was it left up to her to tell me the truth? I'll never understand exactly what happened in that room, but it was all confirmed about a week later. It was indeed breast cancer.

No comments: