Monthly Archives: December 2013
On Wednesday I (finally) went for my ultrasound. Let me just say that the 10 days between the phone call telling me they ‘saw something’ on the right side of my mammogram films and the actual ultrasound were the most nerve-wracking EVER. I just couldn’t get it off my mind. The first day was the worst, because I was just so shocked to get the phone call. After a couple days I’d have a few hours where I’d kind of forget about it, and then I’d remember and start my imaginary scenarios all over again. It was a little like being diagnosed with breast cancer every day for 10 days, because I had convinced myself that would be the outcome. (I figured I’d go with the worst case scenario so that if it did happen, I wouldn’t be even more stunned than I already was.) It was NOT FUN, and it was a panicky, shitty way to spend a week. I’ve already decided that next year’s mammogram will be in January, not December, because I was so freaked out that I pretty much put any kind of holiday thing on hold. I’d rather freak out in January after the holidays are over, you know?
I was doing what I always do, thinking, ‘At this time next week, I’ll know for sure’ and ‘At this time tomorrow, I’ll probably be getting the ultrasound’ or some variation thereof for ten days straight. Finally it was the morning of, and I was almost sick with fear. I kept vacillating between ‘I’m so glad it’s almost over and I’ll have some kind of answer’ and ‘Oh no, I don’t want to know.’
My appointment was at 11:00 and we got to the hospital at 10:45. The parking lot was completely full; after we drove all the way through twice, Dave let me out at the entrance and headed off to find a spot. By the time he got to the waiting room, I was already back in the changing area.
When I checked in, they told me it could take two hours for the whole appointment. After I changed into my gown, I stopped off at the bathroom just to be safe. When I got out to the waiting area, I looked around for a place to sit. There was only one other woman there, and she looked utterly miserable – all hunched over with her gown clutched between her hands. She looked exactly how I felt, and I just wanted to give her a hug. Before I could even sit, the technician appeared and said, “Kast?” I was so startled that I went up and asked her to repeat it, and then spelled my last name for her. I’ve never been called back that quickly!
She had an accent and kept apologizing for it, saying she knew some people had a hard time understanding her. I explained that I can hear with my cochlear implants, plus I read lips, and I wasn’t having trouble with her accent but I would let her know if I did, so we cleared up the communication issues pretty quickly. She told me they were going to take three images with the mammogram machine, then she would show the films to the radiologist; if they wanted an ultrasound, I’d be called back for one.
These three views were much more ‘smashy’ than before (ouch!) but it went fairly quickly. She walked me back out to the waiting room and told me it would be about 15 minutes.
I think it was even less than 15 minutes before another technician, again with a slight accent, called me back for the ultrasound. Of course, now I’m freaking out. They want the ultrasound so there must be something there!
The ultrasound took FOREVER, it seemed — the exam just kept going on and on. The room was dark, and I was lying there staring at the ceiling wondering how long it would be before I heard the bad news. The technician was completely silent; I could hear her clicking on the keyboard and the machine beeping, over and over. She’d swipe the ultrasound thingy to an area, stop and type and beep. It seemed like she did that over the entire area at least twice. I also noticed she was staying in one particular spot quite a lot, and that made me nervous. She finally finished, told me to wait there in the room, and left. (It happened so quickly that I had to confirm with her what I was supposed to do – put the gown on and wait in the waiting area, or stay here in the room?)
I waited there for about the same amount of time I waited after the mammogram, less than 15 minutes. It was by far the scariest thing I’ve ever gone through, waiting there to find out what was happening. I wondered how long it would take to schedule a biopsy, if I needed one, and how long the results would take. I wondered if a doctor would be assigned to me, if I had cancer, or if it would be my job to find one. My hands were shaking and my heart was racing.
After a while she came back, smiled and said, “Okay, everything’s fine, it was just a little dot that we saw. You just need to come back in a year for your usual screening mammogram.”
Again, it took me a minute to process what I was hearing and to realized that I was okay. Once she said I just needed to come back in a year for my regular mammogram it really hit me. But I still had no idea what they actually had seen. A dot?! As I was signing the discharge papers, I asked, “Um, what was the dot – what kind of dot was it?” Then she laughed and said, “Oh, no — DUCT! There was some fluid in one of the ducts, but it’s okay — everything’s fine.” Finally I was able to laugh; apparently dot and duct look the same on the lips, so lip reading didn’t help me much.
I was walking out of there at 11:45, by the way – the whole thing took 45 terrifying minutes.
One of the things that kept me sane (as much as that was possible) was hearing from other people who got called back for extra views, ultrasounds and biopsies. It’s one thing to read on the discharge papers that 10-15% of people get called back; it’s a completely different thing to hear so many people say it happened to them and ‘it was nothing.’
Now I get to add my story to the chorus. It was nothing. It was nothing!
Earlier this week, the hospital called to confirm an appointment. We missed the call, so Dave listened to the voicemail while I watched the captioning scroll by on the phone. They were confirming my Friday morning screening mammogram (the one I get every year at this time), and at one point in the captioning I read, “Please be here at 8 am for chicken.”
The captioning on our phones is usually good for a laugh, and this was an especially good one. I even joked about it on Facebook, envisioning a mouthwatering meal of chicken awaiting me when I arrived for check-in (what I assume they really meant).
Alas, there was no chicken … just your standard boob-smashing. This is my ninth mammogram, and before I got my first one I was a bit anxious. As a woman, you lose a certain amount of modesty once you reach the childbearing years; if you aren’t getting an annual breast exam and pap smear, then you’re submitting to frequent pelvic exams (and then some) when you have a baby. There’s just no way to go through these things and be shy about exposing your body a bit.
As a kid, I was horribly modest. I wouldn’t wear halter tops and felt self-conscious in a bikini. If a dressing room had no doors, I refused to use it. This last one drove my mom crazy because we used to frequent a few stores that had this setup. There was just no way I was taking my clothes off in a room full of strangers, with no privacy. Sometimes she could get me to change clothes if she hung up all my stuff in such a way that it gave me a de facto curtain, but more often than not I dug in my heels and refused.
If you’d told me then that someday I’d let someone manhandle me for about 15 minutes during a mammogram and I wouldn’t even blush, I would never have believed you. (I also would have sworn, at that tender age, to never have a mammogram, the same way I swore to never have babies because it meant I had to have blood drawn.)
Mammograms don’t bother me at all, really. They don’t hurt; the technicians are always really nice and laid-back, and have a way of putting you at ease in what could be an uncomfortable situation. The hospital I go to has a really cushy center for mammograms that I kind of enjoy visiting, so it’s all good.
The waiting room is fairly huge (with a kitchen and snacks and all kinds of goodies) and I never know what direction the technician might be coming from to call me back. Usually when I’m in a waiting room, I’m on high alert. I might hold a magazine and glance down every now and then, but I always make sure to position myself where I can see as they come in to call people. I look up at any sign of movement and read lips to see if they’re calling my name. This time, though, I sat back with a magazine and became engrossed in an article. I did get a little nervous because technicians were coming from both directions, usually where I couldn’t see them at all, and oftentimes I couldn’t really understand what name they were saying. Someone else always jumped up, though, so I knew they weren’t calling me. Just when I was in the middle of a really interesting article, I heard my name. The tech was around the corner where I couldn’t even see her, and I still caught my name with no problem at all. That was a first for me!
Afterwards, we went home and Dave started coffee. I had just turned on my computer when I heard him talking. Turns out our bald squirrel friend was on the deck, eating sunflower seeds, and Dave was having a one-sided conversation with him. This broke my heart because it was so cold that morning, right around seven degrees F. I was glad he’d made it through the night, but I knew we had a bitterly cold weekend coming up.
Dave set a cat carrier outside, put some peanuts and pecans way at the back of the interior, and left the carrier door open. He left our patio door open a crack, and waited for the squirrel to take the bait. He was holding a long wooden stick that he planned to use to slam the door shut once the squirrel was fully inside. The whole time, he talked to the squirrel and encouraged him.
I couldn’t watch, but I hovered in the periphery. After about ten minutes, just as the water for our vacuum pot coffee maker was beginning to boil, I heard the cage door slam. Dave held it shut with the stick, stepped out onto the deck and latched the carrier all the way. The squirrel was strangely calm, which surprised us both; no chattering or foot stamping, just hanging out on the piece of berber carpet in the carrier.
It was about ten minutes after 9 am and Willowbrook Wildlife Center had opened at 9:00. After we high-fived, we carried him out to the car, buckled the carrier in, and drove him over. About 20 minutes later, he was in triage and we were giving our information to the admittance clerk. She came back to let us know they were thinking he had mange, which is treatable. After we talked for a while, we gave them a donation (not required, but we wanted to) and headed home, a little stunned that it had all happened so quickly.
It was a pretty great way to end the week.