Only If He Says So

I had my screening mammogram this month. My oncology team of doctors say that despite my PET scans every 100 days or so that it does not release me from the obligation to check my girl parts yearly. This is really no big deal. No skin off my teeth at all. So I went on the first Monday of the month to have my boobs squeezed and x-rayed. I recognized the tech as the one I have had for the last few years when she called my name. I followed her down the hall to the small room where they do the test. I placed my purse on the counter as she reached in a cupboard for a paper poncho with plastic snaps down the front. I immediately disrobed from the waist down as she asked me two questions. Was I wearing any deodorant? No. Did I still have my Power Port on the right? Yes. I stepped up to the machine and she quickly got to work. We started on the right side and she was careful to avoid the port. We chatted about how I was doing as she methodically took the pictures of each breast. It was over in a matter of a few minutes. She informed me rather mechanically that a letter of results would be sent within the week. I smiled at her, said okay, put on the deodorant I had stashed in my purse and re-donned my scrub top. I headed off to work without another thought about this routine test.

The week flew by and after a quick weekend trip from Saturday to Monday to the Twin Cities to see my son’s Master Recital my husband and I returned to a stack of mail on our kitchen island left piled high by our daughter who had watched our dogs and house while we were away. We sorted the mail and started opening bills and throwing out junk mail. The Visa bill was not too bad. No, I did not want a AAA membership. I noticed the letter from the Women”s Center and said, “Oh, I know what this is. My “your mammogram was normal, please come back next year for screening” letter.” I slid my finger casually under the envelope flap to release the glue that held the letter firmly shut. I opened the letter and immediately knew it was not what I had expected. I had seen “your mammogram was not normal” letters before. “Well shit.” I said. My husband looked at me inquisitively. “What a pain in the ass.” I said. “It must be my right boob again. The port is always a problem, it’s probably just the port. I will call in the morning.” I did call in the morning. I patiently waited while my call was transferred a couple of time. I finally was connected with the scheduler in the correct department. She was kind and asked me to hang on while she pulled up my chart to see what the doctor had ordered. I asked her if it was my right breast and she said it was. I felt a little relief thinking I knew the drill here. “Hmm.” she said. “Can you come in this afternoon?” “What?” I asked. “No.” I answered. “What’s the rush?” She seemed to ignore my question and then asked if I could come first thing the next morning. “Sure.” I said. I hung up the phone and then text my husband about the big rush to check my right boob. He asked if I was worried. I told him I wasn’t, which was true. He answered that he was glad they were checking it so quickly and that he didn’t like this at all. I told him it was probably fine. I text my bestie and my sister. We all decided it was my port creating the problem so no reason to raise the dread alarm.

I slept well that night, with no concern, my husband and I snuggling to ward off the early spring chill that the nights hold. I felt safe and secure and certain. I rose the next morning, showered and withheld the deodorant once more slipping it into my purse for later application. I headed to the Women’s Center and sat in the familiar waiting room. There was a young couple already waiting. She was pregnant and they were holding hands, so precious. They made me feel happy. They were called back and I was left to wait with an elderly woman who told me she had a mass in pancreas. She was alone and I my heart went out to her. She clearly needed to talk, so I just listened until my name was called. I wished her luck as I went back to the same little X-ray room. Same tech. Same paper poncho with the plastic snaps. She confirmed it was the right boob as she put a smaller squeeze paddle on the machine. She took four more pictures. One of the angles hurt a little, but she was quick. I went to redress and she stopped me. She said the doctor would read them immediately and I was to wait to change until he released me. She opened a door behind her and instructed me to gather my things and wait in here. She gestured toward a chair in the narrow room behind the door. I didn’t try to snap my paper poncho, instead overlapping it over my chest. “Wait here.” she said as she closed the door behind her. The room was dimly lit and cramped feeling. There was a whooshing sound like a vacuum that pulsated. I noticed an area with a little curtain pulled back that had a bench in it. I thought I would probably redress in there when she came back and gave me the all clear. I text my hubby, my bestie and my sister that I was waiting for the pics to be read. It felt like an eternity in there with that vacuum sound seeming to grow louder as I waited. Finally she came back and informed me the doctor wanted a sonogram done. “What?” I asked, “Now?”. She nodded in confirmation and said the sono tech would come for me here. I retext everyone quickly that I was in need of a sonogram. I then fumbled with my paper gown attempting to snap it closed. My palms had started to sweat and I was really missing my deodorant right about then. The snaps did not work...are you kidding me? I suddenly felt very alone and I hear my own heart beating in my ears. My mind flashes back to the conversation I had with my oncologist’s nurse practitioner a few weeks before in Houston when we discussed these screenings. We were yucking it up saying how “ironic” it would be for me to end up with the cancer most common for women of my age. Her warning me that I couldn’t be too careful and me saying that I had anal cancer and that I didn’t develop this weird cancer to end up dying of something other than that. How we laughed. It didn’t feel so funny right now. 

I was roused from my musings by a side door opening. It was practically on top of me and I felt startled and exposed as light from the hall flooded in. The sono tech introduced herself and bid me come with her. I stepped into the hall, looking both ways. She assured me I was not in danger of being seen by anybody other than staff. She led me to another room where she closed the door behind us. All I could think was how much I needed deodorant. I expressed as much to her and she chuckled assuring me not to concern myself with that. She positioned me on the table and she pulled back the paper poncho the right side of my chest fully exposed she commented on my scars from my thoracotomy from 2012. Three for the cameras and then the thoracotomy incision itself. She asked me what I had the surgery for. I explained about the anal cancer, the mets, the poorly differentiated squamous cell ugliness of it all. She proceeded to apply warm gel to my right breast and with gentle pressure guided her transducer to take all the appropriate pictures. She tried to assure me that she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but it was a little bit late for those words meant to comfort. After she wiped off the gel, she instructed me not to dress yet, she would return with instructions from the radiologist. About 10 minutes later she returned. I could go, but the radiologist wanted to speak with my doctor and maybe, because of my history, an MRI was warranted here. I left feeling unsure. I walked out of the center next to the young couple. It was a boy! They were talking excitedly about who was telling who the news. I was planning on sitting in my car and texting all interested parties that I had no idea what was going on. They came in unsure of what they were having and left knowing the sex of their child. I came in positive I knew what was going on and left unsure about anything. 

After I thought about it for a while I decided everybody, the doctors included, needed to just calm down here. I want to be cautious too, but lets not just order test after test because I am “cancer girl”. I talked with my husband, sister and my bestie later deciding I would wait until I saw the oncologist. I have an appointment with my local guy later this week. I think if it was my anal cancer, it would have shown on the PET. I am the first one to be careful and even over cautious with my health. I believe I need a more compelling reason to have one more test or upset interested parties. If my oncologist thinks I require a breast MRI I will have one....but only if he says so.

Shara likes this post.
Annabelle, Shara threw a punch at your cancer.
9 people sent you a prayer.
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I'm sorry you are having to go through this and I am praying it is all for nothing! I agree with you that you need to have a more definitive reason for any more testing and I think it's wise to wait until you have seen the oncologist about it. Damn if it doesn't seem like it's always something to make us worry when we have tests, huh? I'm glad they are on top of it, though. Not panic mode yet.
Michele likes this comment
Praying for good stuff!
Michele likes this comment
Yes. Cant jump into testing...i would ask my dr what they see and if its necessary he will order test. I dont think he will let you go for an mri unless truly necessary...you have a great attitude 😀😘😘😘😘
Michele likes this comment
I'm sorry for all the anxiety you are having to go thru, Michele. Some doctors do seem to go overboard being cautious while others tell you "It's just hemorrhoids" while the tumor grows out of control. Being the insidious disease cancer is, I can understand the added caution.

Anyway, hope it's just a false alarm.
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It is amazing what we go through. You are such a good writer that your awful experience reads like a good book. I cannot wait to read the new chapter when your doctor assures you that the MRI is overkill and that you are fine...but I get it, you won't be able to coletely let this go until he says so.
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Nothing like scaring the crap out of you for what may be nothing, but I guess they just want to make sure that it's not a 'something'. So here's to an MRI that will hopefully make things more clearly (that it's just a deodorant smudge!). MGBY, John
Michele likes this comment
Years ago I lived in Argentina. When they did a mammogram, within MINUTES the technician sat down with you and went over what they saw. None of this "we'll send you a letter next week stuff." Just before the anal cancer diagnosis I had a mammogram in mid-December. Here comes the letter - on Christmas Eve!!! - You must see your doctor about your mammogram. Doctor was away on holiday until well after New Year's Day! Almost died of fear. Turned out to be nothing after they did a sonogram...have very dense breasts. I wrote a letter to the center that did the mammogram and then waited over a week to send a letter just before Christmas holidays. Never returned there...researched other imaging centers, talked to friends, found one that, while not quite like the Argentine ones, will advise you in just one or two days. Horrendous that patients are treated this way!!!

I absolutely agree with your plan, and I hope the oncologist will discuss this with you in detail, whichever way he decides.

Michele, Marian like this comment
I'm just curious to see what they're actually seeing and did they tell you? I'd wait and have your oncologist weigh in. Perhaps they could send the oncologist the results too. Praying it is nothing.
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Michele I am so sorry you have to go through this.. These scans never end and I think there is always something... Like the new theme in my head is " if you keep looking your going to find something somewhere" but what is it really?? Of course its good we do look because early detection of anything is better than not knowing. It's a new way of life and you have to make your own decisions and do what you think is logically best. I am praying for you my friend hugs and love and always prayers Sabina
Michele likes this comment
Ok, Michele, I need the next chapter: Now! Stat! Post haste! But, you know what, I'm glad they're looking out for you so very closely. You're a medical professional so you know what excess is in testing, and I don't, but I'm a lay person and I'm glad you're on their radar.
Michele likes this comment
Well this truly sucks, Michele. I am sorry you are sweating (no pun intended) over this unsettled news. Let's hope that your oncologist can give you some good direction on this, as like you, I am SO over medical tests! Let us know what your oncologist says and if we need to circle the wagons in prayer and positive thoughts, we will! But lets hope that won't be necessary! Hugs for you, my sweet friend!

Martha
Ugh, as if you need any more anxiety. Did she say what they saw? The few months before my AC diagnosis I was put in a tailspin by the Breast Health Center here because they some suspicious specs on my mammogram that had not been on the previous scan (from a different mammogram center), so they put me on high urgency alert, sort of like the same thing you went through with the more detailed mammogram. However they then wanted to do a needle biopsy (more anxiety), so had to schedule that. So I went in for that and turned out that the area was too close to the surface and the needle biopsy wouldn't work. So next up was a surgical biopsy. Had that done in November on the day that my colonoscopy was originally scheduled. A week later met with the breast surgeon and she told me the spots were benign - whew! But it completely threw me into a spin and so when it came around to finally getting my colonoscopy, I was not the least bit prepared for a cancer diagnosis. Go figure! Anyway, I'm hoping they went over the scans with you to explain what they saw. If they are small specs sort of bundled together, then perhaps it's just calcifications, which apparently we get as we age. The fear here (especially in breast-cancer capital Marin County) is that it looks suspiciously like ductal carcinoma. I feel for you and hopefully it will all be cleared up soon.
D
Michele, Marian like this comment
Michele.You are so smart! Staying calm in the middle of what is a sand storm.Just a little dusting of sand,you will and always do get through these things.You are the tower of strength.Please keep us all posted on the outcome!
Michele likes this comment
Ugh! You poor thing. Here's hoping everything is cool and your oncologist feels it's ok not to have yet another scan. :)
Michele likes this comment
"They came in unsure of what they were having and left knowing the sex of their child. I came in positive I knew what was going on and left unsure about anything." That's my fave line and doesn't it just suck when that happens?? This is how most of us got dx'ed with cancer originally. I just KNEW I had bronchitis, dang, nope! I hope you get the opposite result and this is something very normal like dense breast or fibrocystic whatever.

I think you showed great patience and strength by gathering yourself and realizing these people need to just settle down, lol! Where were you with this advice when I was flaking out over my fibroids! I needed this calm, practical perspective. I will try to access my rational side a little better in the future because you are correct, just because we had cancer does not mean everything IS cancer! I am praying for good results for you and am sorry you had such a stressful experience.
Michele likes this comment
I hope you get a normal result after all of this. Cancer affects us in so many ways. Even when we have a recent NED, there is always a possibility of some test making us question our "no cancer" status! I need to go in for my mammogram. I don't want added worry, but my mom and two of her sisters have had breast cancer so it is a worry. We just have to keep on living and pray that we still have work to do here on this Earth!
BTW, we were in Wichita this weekend for my step-daughter's performance in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown at WSU. I wish I would have remembered to contact you prior so we could have met up. Next time we're in Wichita, I will let you know. I'm only 1 year post treatment with stage IV Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (treated at MDA). I'm sure you could give me some words of wisdom. I think I'll do my mammogram before my next MDA follow-up (April 13th & 14th).
Michele likes this comment
Please let me know when you are coming back!
I would love to meet up!
Michele
Shara likes this comment
I have gone through this ritual several times prior to anal cancer. I have fibroid cysts throughout my breasts that often "show off". I feel your pain on the unknown. I am sorry for all the testing you have gone through.
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Vital Info

Posts

October 3, 2011

Click Here

January 31, 1963

Cancer Info

Anal Cancer

Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the anus

February 5, 2010

Stage 4

2.1 - 3.0 cm

Grade 3

No

As much as possible

Proceeds from my published blog donated monthly

It is a thief

You have to live every day of your life and stay positive :)

Donate $$ to the anal cancer foundation. Raising awareness saves lives!

Is there anything good about poison?

Bone, lung recurrence 9/20/2012

Cancer Center of Kansas, MD Anderson

Bland diet, sitz baths, take your drugs...nobody gets extra credit for suffering.

Talk, talk, talk to somebody. I chose to write.

April 20, 2010

September 20, 2010

Rectal bleeding, itching, sciatic pain. (thought my hemorhoid was acting up)

My blog has been published and proceeds go to The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation. http://tinyurl.com/72bjjfp

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