I burst into tears as the radiologist positioned me atop the foam before squishing me beneath the plexiglass.
“It’s okay, it happens all the time,” she soothingly said while comforting me. “Most of the times it’s just routine…I went through this myself recently…it’s okay.”
This was my second mammogram in less than three weeks and the initial one was my first one ever. A dark spot showed up on the initial one and on a Saturday morning, the imaging center called to inform me my doctor’s office wrote a prescription for “more tests.”
Unexpected and Unwanted Call
Receiving the call on a Saturday was awful, especially since I missed the call and returned it within 7 minutes, only to be placed into voice mail. I was in the Wal-mart parking lot and somehow held it together until I got home and broke down sobbing. I was terrified of being diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast cancer, felt alone and needed a hug so I did the next best thing, called home.
I thought I had composed myself before calling my parents but I was bawling so much I doubt my dad understood what I was saying, similar to September 11 and when my former husband passed away.
My mom did her best to comfort and tell me not to worry. Breast cancer is not in my family (we tend to die from heart conditions – sorry, have to interject some humor here) and it’s probably just a routine call back. Other people who I shared the information told me not to worry, too, saying a second call back is normal.
The imaging center returned my call Monday and the follow up appointment was set 2.5 weeks from then. All they told me it was my left breast and I needed another mammogram and possible ultrasound. I assumed it was the fibrocystic lumps – diagnosed by my doctor about two years ago during my last physical. She told me not to worry about them and to stay away from caffeine (which I haven’t). What if they were something to worry about?
Pink, Pink and More Frickin’ Pink Everywhere
For 2.5 weeks my mind raced with “what if” situations. What if I had an advanced stage of breast cancer? What if I needed a mastectomy? Will my family come down to take care of me? Who will take care of my cats if something happens to me? What will happen to my blog? Ya know, I worried about the important stuff…
I had good days and bad days. Bad days I enjoyed a glass of wine after work to keep my mind off the “what ifs.” I stress ate, more than usual, with fast food being my grocery store. There were some days I visited the same fast food eatery for all three meals and I didn’t order salads. I also stopped going to the gym. Mentally, I shut down.
Good days? Well, those are the days I didn’t break down.
Meanwhile, life went on. My office relocated to a new building, I had two presentations to prepare and present and a media familiarization trip to plan – then re-plan thanks to red tide.
To say I was stressed is an understatement.
Oddly, although I was alone (and by alone, I mean lack of any kind of companionship – I know people are busy and have their own lives), I didn’t feel too lonely. Family and friends called, emailed and texted to check up on me. I contemplated my life, wondering how I got to where I was, questioning my decisions and wondering what was next. Oh, there were days and nights feeling sorry for myself but I did my best to hold it together.
Did I tell you this was happening during the month of October which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? This means, turning on Lifetime and seeing movie after movie about breast cancer warriors and survivors (I eventually avoided Lifetime for the rest of the month). Every other television commercial on all 57 channels (I pay for basic cable) was either specifically about breast cancer awareness or was tagged with a pink ribbon. Newspapers and magazines had special breast cancer awareness and survivor stories.
And pink. Pink was frickin everywhere serving as a reminder of what might be growing in me. Okay, if you saw the photo above, I did give in and purchase a breast cancer awareness item, a green rope bracelet with pink Swarovski crystals from Chan Luu to support BreastCancer.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing the most reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer.
Surprisingly during this time I did very little Googling and research on WebMd about the topic. If I ignored it, whatever it is would go away, right?
Doing it Again
After breaking down in tears, I pulled it together for the second mammogram. If you haven’t had one, it’s not as bad as people say. It didn’t hurt and is more awkward than anything. In some way, I felt as though I was posing for a school portrait, “turn slightly to the left”…”put your arm up here”…”don’t move.” All that was missing was the tiny black comb.
The second image indicated the spot was still there which meant time for an ultrasound. (And it wasn’t the fibrocystic lumps.)
Long story short, the spot didn’t show up.
Next in this Medical Journey
The good news is, the ultrasound didn’t show the dark spot. The doctor was happy about this and said it means one of two things:
- It’s just who I am. As the doctor explained to me, breasts are unique like fingerprints, no two people have the same. However, she’d like to see a mirror image in the other (right) one meaning, a dark spot in the same area, which there isn’t.
- Or, I have the very early stages of breast cancer.
Writing and saying this isn’t as hard to write as I thought. Since I was prepared for the worst, being told it could be the early stage means I have a chance to fight and live. Of course, being told it’s nothing is wonderful, too, but I’m being cautiously optimistic.
Next step is an MRI which is scheduled for the end of the month.
I’m grateful for everyone’s support, kind words and understanding (I realize I have a boat load of emails and posts to tend to), and pretty excited my friend Barb (check out her blog!) has reached out to the Virgin of Guadalupe for support, too.
I posted this because I imagine there are other women out there scared like I was/am. Scared either of having their first mammogram or they’re hanging in that pink limbo of being told something was found but not sure what. If you’re in this situation, stay strong. And if you’re avoiding a mammogram, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Really.
Sometimes the superficial things of life get in the way of my quality of physical and mental health. Maybe this is another wake up call.