I Didn’t Know I Needed Somebody

So when I visited my usual OBGYN and he referred me to another office for a diagnostic mammogram, I was a little surprised, but made the appointment right away. His words? “I’m sure it’s nothing, but with your family history, we’ll need to make sure.”

On the day That It All Began, I left work and let them know I’d be back in two hours.

The office was well-appointed and they gave me a flowery little cape thing to wear. The mamogram lady was really nice, and she was very good at explaining what she was doing. After the suishy stuff was over, she sat me down in the waiting room and said that I should only have to wait a few minutes for the next part of my appointment–the ultrasound. Ultrsound? Why was I having an ultrasound?

The ultrasound lady was nice too. Her room was dark, warm, and had relaxing music playing. She was very soft-spoken and gentle. I was watching her and the ultrasound screen when her forhead got that little “Something Might Be Wrong” wrinkle. She got up and said she would be back in a minute with the doctor. Dr. O’Connell swept in, looked at the images on the screen and also developed the forehead wrinkle. She turned to me and started to rub my leg with what I guess was supposed to be a reassuring touch. The image she was looking at was kind of roundish, ovalish, with spiky things sticking out. She asked my a bunch of questions and then said that they would work me in that afternoon for a biopsy.

BIOPSY? What the heck? I knew that the word “biopsy” had something to do with CANCER, but I had never really paid attention to such terminiology. Cancer, I had always figured, was something for older people.

I left the building and headed over to Starbuck’s for tea and web surfing. I found message boards and looked up this biopsy business. Most people said that it didnt hurt and that they just went home with an ice pack…no big deal. The problem, of course, was that all of these websites had something to do with breast cancer. I was stuck somewhere between terror and disbelief.

I drove back to the doctor’s office in a daze and made my way back inside. This time the flowery cape was not an option. I was handed a cape that was surgury green. Not good. They took me back in the room and Dr. O’Connell was again trying to reassure me. She began by telling me that she would send the sample off right away and that I would know more on Monday (it was Friday). She turned to the ultrasaound lady and said, “I’d like to look more closely at the non-palpable.” This didn’t seem like something I knew about, and I guess there were question marks flying out of my eyes, because that’s when she let me know that there were actually two tumors. Really? Two? Great.

They numbed me up and started taking samples–there was this really long needle thing, and she stuck it in my left breast. I couldnt bear to watch any of it. When she had the right area, the clicked something and a loud POP! sounded. I jumped a little each time. I could feel something warm trickling down my side, and I was still scared, but I just kept staring at the ceiling, waiting for this ridiculousness to end. Suddenly, a pain grenade hit. The needle thing went POP! and I felt pain, pain that blossomed into something more painful than pain. I gasped and the doctor started saying how sorry she was about the pain.

And then the tears began to FLOW. I mean I scrunched up my face and these big, confused tears began cascading down my face. Both ladies stopped what they were doing–one patting me on the head, the other rubbing my arm. “Poor thing,” the doctor said, “do you have anybody with you today?” I managed to answer with a strangled “no” as I attempted to suck the tears and snot back in. I didn’t know I was going to do this. I didn’t know that I needed somebody here. I thought that I would come here and that you would tell me that it was nothing and then I would go home and exercise and eat well for a month because I was scared of cancer.

I didn’t know it at the time of the biopsy, but I left that day with something called a birads score. The scale goes from zero to six, zero being “hah! No way this is cancer” to six being “We are certain that it is cancer”. My score was a five.