Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Memory

My heart and all my thoughts are with Becky  and her family today as she prepares for her mastectomy this afternoon.

I do have a small story to share.

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Several weeks ago, I received an unexpected letter.  The first line read:

"According to our records, you are overdue for your breast imaging procedure."

The letter was sent in error.  A mistake.  It serve as a reminder, though.

When I was 23, I discovered an irregular lump in my breast, about half the size of a pearl onion.  I'm going to spare you the long drawn out version, but it was a difficult and scary time.  I had my own health insurance, and HMO, for the first time in my life. Not only was I dealing with the lump, but I was also learning how to navigate the health insurance industry.  It was a difficult time, though I had a wonderful midwife (outside of the system) that helped me immensely.  I was scared, but I felt reasonable confident that I was absolutely fine.  I was 23 and invincible!

I had a mammogram.  It was inconclusive. I remember reading the pathology report over and over.  I was stunned.  I expected a report of "Benign" or something similar.  Not "Inconclusive." I decided that the tech must have done a crappy job, took a poor picture or something.  Either way, I had to reschedule.

I went in for my second mammogram.  It was awful.  Incredible painful, and very, very scary.  When the tech slapped my boob into the machine and clamped down the vice, I just burst into tears.  "Oh, dear.   It's okay, honey.  I hate it when it's a young one," she said to me.  She gave me a tissue.

When it was over, instead of being sent home, I was sent to wait.  The radiologist was going to read my report, right then and there.  This is when I became worried.  Really worried.  This was the moment for me that Becky describes so eloquently, where I first realized that something might be wrong with me.  Why wouldn't they just send me home like the first time?  They NEVER read the report and tell you the results right away.

A technician came back for me a bit later and told me I need to go have an ultrasound.  After that was done, they sent me home.

A couple of days later, I got a call from my doctor.  He was sending me to a breast surgeon.  I was completely shocked.

I went to see the breast surgeon the following week.

"What is it?"

I will never, never forget what he said to me.

"Well, I'm not sure what it is.  But I am sure it needs to come out."

I had surgery the following week.  I remember having to write on my non-surgery breast, "Not this one," and put and "X" on the one they'd be cutting and that made me a bit nervous because shouldn't they know?  Which breast they were hacking into?  Don't they write that stuff down?  I was put in twilight and I recall at the end of the surgery, as I was coming out, the surgeon saying, "I'm 99% sure this is not cancer."

And, it wasn't.  It was a tough several days waiting for the pathology report, but I was fine.

I'm still fine.  I have a scar and the memory and two healthy breasts.

I'm closing comments.  Please send all your love and support Becky's way today.