Thursday, March 13, 2008

They Didn't Tell Me

I thought I was just having an ultrasound.

I was told I was having a 40 minute procedure.

At 8:10 a.m.

Be there at 7:55 a.m.

Knowing the efficiency of the military hospital I canceled my 9 a.m. appointment anyway, just in case.

I just got home--10:50 a.m.

They gave me a mammogram!

I am only 33 years-old and already I have had two mammograms, which women are not supposed to start having until they are over 40 years-old. When women are younger than 40 their breasts are full of fibrous tissue and fat cells that make the mammogram and ultra-sound virtually pointless because it is hard to see a bad-mass through the normal stuff. It's also hard to feel anything that might be abnormal because there's all this ever changing tissue to roll over with your fingers and so a woman has to learn what she can usually feel v. what she feels that seems different than, oh, say, a month ago.

Thus the MANDATORY Breast Self Exam to be performed every month, the week after the period of menstruation. Then, if the same new lump is felt for two cycles in a row it is time to call the doctor and make an appointment for professionals to start messing around with your breasts.

Despite even the receptionist saying I was there only for an ultrasound, the technician whipped me into a room that had no bed.


I was directed to sit in a waiting room style chair while she set some stuff up.

OK. I kept reading about Britney Spears and her total breakdown (God, I hope she's finally hit rock bottom) as documented by People Magazine.

Then the lady started quizzing me about my previous breast health. Turns out I had the technical terms all wrong; I have never had a lumpectomy because what they took out was not cancerous, even though it was the size of about 3 jumbo shrimp, or prawns. I have had a surgical biopsy. I have had an unguided needle core biopsy. I have had an ultrasound. I have had a mammogram. The first time at least all of those experiences happened on different days.

Today, mammogram followed by ultra-sound.

I have learned that women's breasts become less fibrous as women age, which I suppose accounts for some of the sagging.

But I swear, I SWEAR, that some of the sagging must be related to mammograms. In the two experiences I have had thus far, sweet little Asian women have asked me to stand with my chest against a cold metal machine, place my breast on a platform, maneuvered all of my tissue until they were satisfied with that the armpit to cleavage-area was placed carefully between the top platform, which they then push down so until it can't go any further.

It's like trying to pinch an inch on your belly, except they are also trying to pull your face off starting at your chest.

Mammograms must also account for waddles.

My boob was squashed to about the space that two keys on a regular-sized computer keyboard occupy.

Four times.

Once parallel with the ground, once perpendicular, both sides.

Even though I have only ever mentioned pain in my left breast.

Then I got to wait in my special Breast Health Center smock--it's something between what the Puritan women used to wear to cover their necks, chest, back, and shoulders from view. Except instead of sturdy black cloth mine was typical hospital gown material and opened in the front.

There seemed to be a backlog of patients even though my appointment was at 8:10, but I had time to wait so I told them not to worry. These procedures should not be rushed for anyone.

They could not find the pea-like thing I had noticed at 6-o'clock as they said. They could find some stuff at 1030, 1100--the argued--I said, 1045 let's call it even.

I am thankful that they did find new stuff because I felt like I was taking up another woman's slot in the boob-check lottery.

I knew that the scar tissue in the old not-a-lumpectomy surgery site was there and not to be worried about. But these new things are two cysts. They look like Hot Tamale candies that are fat in the middle. Maybe I'll come up with a better analogy. Of course, they're clear on the black and bluish-white ultra-sound screen because they're filled with some kind of liquid something or another, but they are safe.

So I felt like less of a paranoid hypochondriac waste of every one's time. There was something new!

But I hope I don't find any more new stuff. I don't want to have another mammogram for at least seven years. (Holy shit! I'll be 40 in seven years!!! Dang.)

They asked if I wanted to be referred to the surgeons.

I politely declined.

1 comment:

Karla said...

Wow! that does not sound like fun. I am so glad that it was good news though.