That time I had my first mammogram and it totally fucked up my Christmas vacation

First off, I’m fine. I have benign heterogeneously dense breasts, which are also asymmetrical, which basically means that instead of  mostly fat in my breasts I have dense tissue, which is hard to see through, and they’re not matchy-matchy with each other. Go figure, I am not a Supermodel with factory upgrades.

I didn’t tell a whole lot of people about this as it was happening, so if this is the first you’re hearing about it please don’t get all dramatic on me; it’s not that I’ve been trying to hide things from you, I just didn’t want people to worry if there was nothing to worry about (turns out, there was nothing to worry about).

Here’s the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version: the day before Christmas I got my first mammogram. The day after Christmas, they called me back and said they didn’t like what they saw and wanted to get a better look at something (because it was my first one so they didn’t have anything to compare it to), so New Year’s Eve Day I went back in for an ultrasound. They couldn’t see what they wanted to see in that, ugh, so then they gave me the choice between an MRI and a biopsy. I really had to spend a couple of weeks weighing that; a biopsy would tell them definitively what it was, but an MRI is less invasive. A biopsy is cheaper. But a biopsy would put be out of commission for two or three days, and I had yarn to dye. But I’m also really claustrophobic. But I had yarn club, and custom orders, and I wouldn’t be able to wedge clay, or get ANY work done, (or even do laundry or clean cat boxes) for a few days if I got a biopsy, and.. and… and…. yeah, my head was in a space. So at first I opted for the MRI but through a comedy of errors that actually fell through (my inner claustrophobe was secretly relieved).

So on February 11th I got a breast biopsy. And wasn’t THAT an experience. Not as bad as I was afraid, but still uncomfortable, but really not as hurtful, while getting it, as getting a tattoo. They called me back two days later to tell me that the tissue they pulled out was completely benign but that because I had the biopsy I will need to come back in six months for another mammogram. In other words, as Tim says, they stressed me out for two months just to tell me that I have a growth on my chest, and that the growth is a boob. Yay?

Why am I telling you this? Because going through it was incredibly stressful, even though at the end everything was fine. And I turned to a few girlfriends to talk to and it turned out that most of them had been through the same thing, but it’s not something that comes up in casual conversation (“hey, let me tell you about my breast biopsy clip!”). And the more I talked to women who had been through the same thing, and the more I talked to the women at the mammogram clinic, the more I thought “huh… if I had known a lot of this BEFORE going in for my mammogram, the ENTIRE EXPERIENCE would have been a lot less stressful.”

So I decided to write a series of blog posts about going through it; I thought about just one long one but it would top out at 5000+ words so I thought I’d break it down instead. But that meant I had to at least write a quick intro post so that everyone could get the overall view of the whole thing that happened – and more importantly the news that I AM TOTALLY FINE – before I started worrying people.

Hey, I’m totally fine! Did I mention that?

7 comments

  1. Dense breasts always sound like a good thing to me, but having them is a bitch. I can only hope that better detection methods are on the horizon. I participated in a study a couple of years ago that was testing the efficacy of a certain kind of ultrasound (it’s like a roller that flattens the breast as it takes the images), but have zero idea whether or not it was effective.

    The hospital that I use gives you the option of waiting on your results. In my last mammo, something didn’t look right, so I was able to get another set of films right away and the radiologist looked at them right after they were done. I even had the option of speaking with him, which I did. Having him show me what he saw and comparing it to previous scans was very enlightening and helpful.

    I’m sorry you had to go through this – on your first time no less!

  2. I have the dense breasts, too. So now, when I get a mammogram, Kaiser has to send me a letter that says I have dense breasts, but nothing to worry about. It’s a tiny bit weird. It’s an actual requirement that they tell me, in a letter, that I have dense breasts. Whatever, people. I get a mammo every year, just because I can.

  3. I had a similar experience several years ago. Turned out to be nothing but involved several unpleasant procedures and a surgery. And then there is all the worrying time between procedures. Not fun at all.

  4. I don’t know if mine are dense or not. I just turned thirty-ten. Since I just experienced this with you, I was expecting my doc to send me right away. I actually had to ask at my check up if it was time. I thought 40 was the magic number. I wanted a early screening one so that if they are dense or whatevs, I’ll have a baseline. If they every call me to make the appointment that is.

    I’m so glad Lenny is not a murder.

  5. ARE YOU OKAY? 😉 I’m sorry you had to go through this experience, but I look forward to reading more. I, too, had my first mammogram recently (day before Thanksgiving), and I also had to go back for the extra super wampadine mammo plus ultrasound. Even though everyone says it’s normal, it’ll be fine – lying there with jelly on your boobs while the technician calls in the doctor and they both take extra looks at things without any reaction except silence – that was a moment of terrifying clarity for me.

    So glad you’re okay, my friend.

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