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Medical Week, Part 2: More Mammograms and Biopsies

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Tuesday, March 19

Today I get another breast ultrasound. If the doctor who performs the ultrasound deems it necessary, I may get a biopsy. I’m prepared for this. I’m glad that the good Boob Doc is double checking. We have to be absolutely sure that there are no cancerous cells. Granulomatous Mastitis mimics inflammatory breast cancer, and there have been a few cases where cancer has been overlooked. My biggest fear is having breast cancer go undiagnosed. If I have it, I want to catch it as early as possible and treat it. My doctor is pretty sure that I don’t have breast cancer, but we want to be completely sure.

When I arrive for my ultrasound, the radiologist tells me that I’ll need a mammogram first. What? I am NOT prepared for this. The first breast clinic failed to send my initial mammogram images. Great. I get to experience the joys of having my boobs squished in a radioactive waffle press again! If I don’t have cancer now, the radiation from diagnostic tests may just increase my likelihood of developing cancer later. I know the odds of this are minuscule, but wouldn’t it be ironic?

A mammogram is not just a mammogram. You go in thinking you get one squishing and one picture, but you get so much more. The radiologist pulls and twists my boobs in different directions so she can get all the images she needs. She has to get the chest wall muscles and the armpit as well as the breasts. I have very small breasts, and I am amazed by how elastic they become in her professional hands. I feel like Elastigirl as I hold on to the mammogram machine. The machine has pink details and looks very girlie style. Believe it or not, this cracks me up and cheers me up. The radiologist lets me see the images, four from the left breast and three from the right. I wonder if I can get digital copies and post them here…

After the mammogram, I am called in for the ultrasound. My sister is allowed to be with me for this, thank goodness. You don’t expect an ultrasound to be painful, but this one is. Not even my preemptive painkilling cocktail of Ibuprofen, Tylenol and Gabapentin help. I use the same techniques I used in childbirth to deal with the pain. Visualize it stopping. Think of it as temporary. The doctor doing the ultrasound says that I have all sorts of weird-looking spots in there, so she has to do a biopsy. Once again, I hear a doctor say she’s never seen something like this before. She injects a local anesthetic, shows me the core biopsy needle punch tool and lets me hear the sudden punching sound it makes. She makes a tiny incision and uses the ultrasound to guide the needle. She takes four tissue samples to cover all the bases. If there’s cancer, she can’t miss it.

When she finishes, a nurse cleans me up and patches me up. I sit up, look down at the disposable waterproof sheet and am amazed by how much blood came out. I get a bit dizzy. I try as hard as I can not to cry. I am amazed that my sister has not thrown up or passed out from this gruesome sight. She keeps telling me that I should just let it out and cry, that I should stop trying to be strong. I’m ready to deck her. I go home with a very sore boob and instructions not to get water on the area for 24 hours. My sister gives me a reality check every time I start talking about how scared I am to have cancer that goes undetected. She’s like a bouncer at the door of the chamber of imagined horrors.

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About A.K.

I am: dreamer, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, writer, reader, musician, artist, teacher, translator. I am a citizen of the world. These nations are my home: Denmark, Ecuador, USA, Canada, France and Germany. I believe the purpose of life is to love, laugh and learn. I am over being upset for getting this very rare disease: Idiopathic Granulomatous Mastitis. Forgetting all the pain and havoc is tempting, but I will honor the lessons it brought and release my resentment. This blog is my way of coping and reaching out to others who may be going through similarly unfair and bewildering experiences.

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