Well, I didn’t intend to drag my heels on this one, but a combination of a few crafty things I was consumed with, coupled with this being my least favorite part of the story, added up together for a delay.
The physical aspects of the ultrasound were not so bad – uncomfortable and hurty because they were pressing on a cyst, trying to see through/past it – but the emotional aspects of it wrecked my head for a few days. On one hand I had the logical knowledge of women getting call-backs all the time, my friends having had call-backs and having it be nothing, my friends reassuring me that it was probably nothing, and knowing before that because it was my first mammogram I was probably going to get a call-back since they didn’t have anything to base my images on. This was also the point at which I learned some of the most calming information (I’ll put those things in italics, so they stand out a bit), things I wish I’d known before I went in, things that started to inspire me to write this all up. On the other hand, I had the completely illogical paranoid fear of “there is something inside of me and they can’t tell me what it is just by looking at it” and at the end they told me, well, I’ll get to that in a second. Needless to say I had my brain telling me everything was fine and my heart telling me to start looking up knit chemo hat patterns. Oh, brains and hearts. Always warring against each other with the logics and the feels.
So, the actual ultrasound. Same building, same no deodorant, same two-piece outfit. This was a little later in the day but still in the morning. This time they let me keep all my stuff instead of putting it in a locker, because I could get dressed in the ultrasound room after they put goo all over me and mash me around.
I honestly don’t remember now if the goo was warm or cold – it seems to me that she told me it was going to be warm, having been in a heater, but that it would get cold after that as it cooled to the temperature in the room. All I really remember is it being very… gooey. Like someone putting strawberry preserves on me, and then spreading it around with a brick (I don’t even want to know if there’s porn for that).
She looked at the cysts on the side and wasn’t concerned with them at all – in fact, so unconcerned she hardly mentioned them, which turns out is good news. Anything they don’t mention is good news, because they are only concerned with things they don’t see all the time. Things they see all the time are boring, routine, and normal, and it doesn’t occur to them to bring them up to people like us who don’t see those things dozens of times a day. Then she started focusing on a cyst more towards my breastbone (we shall call him Lenny, for reasons I’ll get to in a minute). This was the hurty part, because even though Lenny was/is only the size of, perhaps, a mustard seed, pressing him against my ribs … well, have you ever had a cat stand on your chest as you’re reclining? Not sit, but stand? With a paw in the middle of your chest, pressing on bone? It’s like that, except the cat has the entire weight of a human behind it, pushing it into your chest.
Of course we were talking about why I was there, and she reassured me that call-backs, especially on first-time mammograms, were completely normal. Also completely normal? Breast pain. Breast pain, she said, is completely normal. Most woman have breast pain. Cysts are normal. Painful cysts are normal. They’re more concerned with things they either see or feel that don’t have pain associated with them. Pain is good. Pain is OK. Lack of pain is a warning sign. Well. OK, then! I was probably fine, because I had pain galore.
Except for this thing hiding behind Lenny. It didn’t hurt at all. So it either not hurt because it wasn’t a THING, or it hurt because it WAS a thing. Oh, that’s just awesome then.
She wanted to bring the doctor in to review what she had scanned and to talk to me. This is where my brain sort of shut off for a minute. Oh, I heard everything that was said, but all that was really going on in my head was “SLOW DOWN TIME SO I CAN PROCESS THIS” because what the doctor said was that they couldn’t really get a good look at what it was, so did I want to get a biopsy right now so that they could tell? Or did I want to wait about a month and get an MRI? Well, all I really knew about biopsies was what The StepMonster (TM) had said years ago, which is that biopsies are like autopsies, but you’re still alive. So I wanted to do a little research before saying “yes” to that. So when she said that I could schedule the MRI but later on change it to a biopsy if I wanted, I jumped on that. Anything that pushes the decision back a little so that I have time to breathe and process and research and think. YES PLEASE.
The doctor could see I was upset (not a news flash; they see upset people every day — the woman doing my ultrasound said she sees people cry at least five times a day). So she told me to go ahead and get dressed and then to come to her office and she would show me my mammogram and ultrasound pictures and go over them. She said that she understood that I was worried, but wanted me to know that with this new 3D technology they are seeing smaller and smaller things. This is great when they find things that REALLY ARE THINGS, but the downside side effect is that they see a lot of things that AREN’T THINGS. That out of 1000 women who get mammograms, about 600 of them get called back for ultrasounds. Out of those 600, 597 of them have nothing wrong. Statistically speaking, I had a good chance of being one of those 597.
So I scraped off the goo, got dressed, and went to find her office. It reminded me of the CAD lab from when I worked at the Enginerding firm because it was dark as fuck in there – the only lights were from the computer monitors, all of which were showing different x-ray’d boobs. I just lost all my guy readers to imagination, but trust me, it’s not as pretty as you think — unless you like pictures of galaxies, because that’s really kind of what it looks like.
In there she went over my mammogram from the week before, pointing out Lenny and what they were trying to see better, behind Lenny. She told me that if I got a biopsy, it was more invasive but they had a 99.9% chance of knowing what it was; if I got an MRI there was a 97% chance of knowing what it was, and it was not invasive – but a problem if I was claustrophobic – but if they couldn’t see what it was with the MRI I would still want to get the biopsy. And that – going back to the seeing smaller and smaller things – if it did turn out to be a cancer, it appeared small enough that surgery could get 100% of it. Yay?
So. They would have the MRI place call me. Once again, I would have to wait until a particular spot in my menstrual cycle, so that everything would look pretty much what it looks like now, and once again they would call me to set up the appointment. And so I went home to wait for the MRI place to call, and to do research on how best to choose between an MRI that would be claustrophobic and a biopsy that would be invasive and take me out of work for a few days. GOOD TIMES.
OH! Why the name “Lenny.” When they couldn’t tell me what it was immediately, I had to make a joke of it – otherwise I could go mad. I learned when my father was sick that I had to laugh in the face of death and fear; laughing takes away its power over you. So there’s this episode of the X-Files, one of my top five favorite episodes, Humbug. In that episode (SPOILERS!) the killer is a detachable twin, Leonard, who had mostly been eaten in the womb (hey, it’s the X-files, roll with it). So I was making a joke that perhaps the tissue they were trying to get a better look at was a twin I ate in the womb, thus the name Lenny.