I’ve always been a rule-follower…for the most part. But definitely when it comes to health care and prevention, I follow those guidelines to the proverbial “T”. So, a few weeks before my fortieth birthday I set up my mammogram for 3/24/15. I’ve had two mammograms before, my mother had breast cancer in her early 50’s, so I knew what to expect (it really isn’t THAT bad ladies, I promise). I was recalled for additional imaging on 3/27/15, which wasn’t surprising, as “microcalcifications” were seen on my old mammos. And then I waited so the radiologist could look at the images. And waited. I knew something was up. The tech took me to talk to the radiologist personally, and I knew before she said it that she was recommending biopsies. On both sides. Ok, so the “both sides” part I wasn’t expecting.
On April 8th, I had the bilateral breast biopsies, stereotacic style. A two-and-a-half hour process which left me with one boob twice the size of the other thanks to a huge hematoma (bruise). The radiologist told me I could go running as soon as I felt comfortable – let’s just say I haven’t been on a run since then. The surgeon had told me to call two days later, friday, to see if results were ready.
So here’s where I became the “bad patient”. My office uses the same system as Emerson Hospital, and we have access to all visits and results done there. I dutifully called the surgeon on friday afternoon and left a message that I was looking for my results. I thought, “What the hell, I’ll check for them myself”, and asked one of my nurses to print up my path report. On hindsight, I would have had a much better weekend if I hadn’t done this. But, it gave me two days to process the words I read on the paper: Bilateral DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), invasive ductal carcinoma in two areas of the right breast. WHAM. There were other ugly words like “necrosis” on there. Ick. Did anyone get the license plate of the Mack truck that just hit me?
I should probably also mention that friday was our younger son, Chace’s, 5th birthday. I can’t believe I will forever link his wonderful birthday to my breast cancer diagnosis. That sucks. But we took him out to dinner and lo and behold, I missed the call from the surgeon. Whose message said to call her on monday. No return number. What. The. Fuck. (Pardon my French). However, she didn’t know that I had pulled up my own results, so I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt that she didn’t want to leave news like that on a voicemail message. And I was, after all, the bad patient here.
I will skip over the misery of the weekend, which involved lots and lots and LOTS of tears. So many hugs, both real and virtual, words of support and encouragement. An outpouring of support which has left me feeling very lucky and grateful. And I WILL be calling on all of you that offered to help.
I finally spoke with the surgeon on monday morning (yesterday) and we met at 4pm. Austin, my fabulous partner-in-crime, went with me and listened to the explanation of what was going on and what steps we need to take next. She isn’t that thrilled that I want to be managed in Boston, but that’s where we’re going – likely MGH who is now affiliated with our local hospital, so that if I need treatments like chemo, I can get them at Emerson and not have to drive into the city. I was given a packet of information on surgery, a book called “Breast Cancer Treatment Guide” (which I plan on burning when this is over and done with), and a list of appointments. But first we needed to get labs drawn and to get a chest x-ray.
At 5:30pm on a monday, the hospital was pretty quiet. We were able to get the labs and x-ray done within 30 minutes. Austin and I were absolutely starving, so we stopped for subs on our way to pick up the boys from “Nana Pam”‘s house. After wrangling the boys from Nana Pam, with promises of getting them McDonald’s for dinner (gross, barf, not our usual modus operandi), my cell phone rings. It’s the surgeon, she has my chest x-ray report already. There are two nodules in my right lung.
For real? I mean….REALLY?
Just when I had started to feel like I was gaining some control of the situation, that feeling evaporated instantly. And it was replaced with fear. Incredible fear. Gripping, overwhelming fear. Fear that keeps you up all night crying uncontrollably. You see, after being in healthcare for 12 years now, I know too much. I’ve just heard too many stories. I know that pulmonary nodules are likely an “incidental finding”, but I also know that they can mean much more. Having one cancer is bad enough, but the thought of having two cancers? That’s about as close to a death sentence as I can think of. Let’s just say I didn’t sleep much last night.
First thing this morning I put in my calls to MGH and the surgeon to get a chest CAT scan scheduled, check on my labs, and of course, to ask for some Ativan (an anxiety medication). The good bit of news is that all my labs were normal (checking liver enzymes and cancer markers). Ok, so at least I can rule out having three cancers. CAT scan is scheduled for thursday morning 10:30am.
And then I’ll get to wait some more…this time though, I promise I won’t go looking for my own results.