10/19/2011 11:51AM ● Published by Style
Another mammogram – just the right breast. The last time this happened it was nothing.
A follow-up six months later; nothing more. This time I sit, waiting. Waiting for them to tell me I can dress and leave. But, no! The radiologist wants to see me. "Get my sister, please!" She's out there waiting. I need an extra pair of ears, since I think I stopped hearing seconds ago. There we are, back in a room where large sheets of film and my right breast line the light screen.
A nice young man, I forget his name, says something about abnormal clusters of calcification that were not on previous scans. "You'll need to talk to your doctor and schedule a biopsy. This kind of thing, 85 percent of the time it's nothing," he says. Two other friends were recently diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. So I'm thinking, "Hey, the stats have to be in my favor." We leave and I embrace the number – 85 percent. I tell almost no one. No need to raise undue concern or worry.
We arrive early on January 18. They call my name and for the third time in less than a month I am disrobing in a closet-sized room. I am grateful the radiologist and biopsy surgeon are both women. After all, it's my breast. They take me into the room: X-ray machines. Screens. A table. Fortunately, the table is well padded and warm. I lay face down. Left arm stretched out above my head; face turned to the left; right arm straight to my side. The technician reminds me repeatedly not to move. Locating the calcification is tricky. If I move, it could be missed when they biopsy.
My right breast drops through an opening in the table. The technician takes X-rays, and locates the "area of concern." The surgeon is at my side. The usual verbiage about local anesthesia – there will be a little pinch, but she'll go slowly. I wince slightly. Then some pressure. Not much more. Once numb, there's a whining noise. I envision something like a screwdriver spinning into my breast. I don't ask to see the device, but do see a clear tube running under the table and bits of red. It's over quickly. "You'll probably have some bruising." The technician says. The bruising lasted for weeks!
The answer? Just a few days. I have breast cancer. Actually ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS. Words I never knew. Never thought I would know. And now they are part of my very being. You know that new car you bought and suddenly everyone seems to be driving that car? So it goes with breast cancer. Everyone seems to be driving this car. And almost every day I meet someone either new behind the wheel or an experienced driver. And now, the car key is in hand.