|Annabel, August 2012, at the "Pi-wit Ship Pway-gwound"|
|Same beautiful girl, same place, August 2013|
We didn’t plan it this way, but it turns out that last year’s alumni cookout was the first Friday of August, too. Last year, that was August 3rd, and it was the night I first felt my tumor. For the record, I'm not feeling for any lumps this Friday; I'm just going to eat a lot of my husband's great cooking, enjoy some good company, and go to sleep.
I’ve already written about finding the lump, and I don’t mean to bore you with the details again. But I do need to rehash some things for myself about last August. It’s kind of like a game of dodge ball -- I know these memories and emotions from one year ago are going to be fired at my head; I can either try to catch them and stay safe in the game or avoid them and eventually be knocked out.
When I first felt my tumor, I was worried. My hypochondriacal history, however, helped to ease my mind a bit because nothing else I had ever built up to be cancer had actually been that. Sure, it'd be a neat story if I had a unique feeling that this lump was different but I didn’t have any such thing. I just had a feeling that I should get it checked out to be sure; just like I had had swollen glands and calcium buildups examined before.
If left alone, I would have made an appointment a few weeks or a month down the road. But Brian (secretly) worries more than I do, and he insisted that I schedule an appointment as soon as I could.
On Monday morning, I called my doctor's office. My PCP was on vacation for the week, but another physician in her group could see me that Friday at two. I put it in my calendar, which usually made me feel better. Oddly enough, however, this time, it didn't.
I called my doctor's office back again on Tuesday morning. I told the secretary that I was worried about the lump in my breast and that I’d really like to come in sooner than Friday. She said they had a cancellation and I could come in that afternoon, at 2pm. It just happened that there was a train home that would get me to the appointment perfectly on time.
Brian must have arranged for someone to watch the kids because he was with me at that 2pm appointment but the kids weren't. I remember lying on the exam table topless as the covering physician massaged my pathetic excuse for a boob. Does this hurt when I press on it? she asked bearing down on the lump.
Kind of, I answered.
Good, I’m pretty sure it’s just a cyst, she explained, It wouldn’t hurt if it were a tumor. Either I’m a total wimp or her textbook needs a footnote.
As soon as the doctor said cyst, I was fine. No cancer. No worries. This was just something to add to the list of worries-turned-fine; just like when I went in for a persistent headache and my doctor told me it was due to excessive teeth-grinding; just like when the suspected pulmonary embolism was a broken rib. I was going to be fine and I celebrated that for a minute or two amidst the embarrassment I felt for my overreaction. Then I just got inpatient and wanted to go home.
The PCP decided that she would send me for a mammogram and an ultrasound to confirm her assessment. What a waste of time and money, I thought. The doctor punched something into the computer and handed me a little card to take down to the radiology department. Reluctantly, I did.
The guy at the radiology scheduling desk was new. He managed to schedule my mammogram with ease (for the very next day), but the ultrasound gave him some trouble. I was getting really antsy and I told him to not bother with the ultrasound. If they see anything in the mammogram, I'll book an ultrasound, I told him trying to push my rudeness back down to its hiding place. I was sure that the mammogram would confirm that the lump was a pesky little cyst but the scheduling guy was loyal to the rules like any good rookie and he told me that he had to schedule the two appointments together.
I didn’t think about that lump for another minute after Brian and I walked out of the building holding hands.
The next morning, Brian took the kids to a little zoo just north of the Rhode Island border. He had asked me if I wanted him to come with me to the follow up appointments but I insisted that he not waste his time.
Being only 32 with no family history of cancer and no other risk factors, my August 8th mammogram was my first one. I remember undressing and putting my clothes in a little locker by the small internal waiting area. I remember being cold. But not scared.
Until last year, I thought mammograms were like ultrasounds -- performed with a wand on a patient lying down. I had no idea that a mammogram (or at least, my mammogram) was done standing up, or that it would involve propping my pancake of a boob up on a cold metal plate and pressing another plate down on it from the top. It was kind of like my boob was squished in the middle of a cold panini maker. Did it hurt? No, although I'm not saying it tickled. But it was quick and life-saving and I would strongly discourage anyone from scaring a woman into avoiding a mammogram.