It’s so funny, when you are pregnant (and have only had good pregnancies), the opportunity to have an ultrasound is so exciting. But one bad experience, and seeing a machine like this loses all its fun. Excitement is replaced with anxiety. The ultrasound machine is also a staple for breast imaging, but since there’s no hope of getting an early glimpse of a precious, tiny baby, it’s no fun. When your best hope is to see a cyst or a glob of fat, it’s easy to loathe the sight of this machine.
Last week, a very tiny nodule that I’d been trying to ignore for a week or so finally reached a critical level for me. They say you should wait for any symptom to continue for two weeks before reporting it, so I’d been trying to put it out of my mind to see if it would resolve. But after two weeks, the nodule (I refuse to call it a lump because it’s so tiny, and somehow it helps me emotionally not to have to say I have another lump in my breast) was still there, though still as tiny as a piece of orzo. In the mean time, I’d managed to find another nodule, maybe the size of a half grain of rice, just adjacent to it.
I hated to call my surgeon, knowing that it’s probably nothing. I hate to be an annoying patient. Yet, I know that being observant and quick to act worked to my advantage before, so I can’t quite accept my own half hearted assurance that it’s probably nothing. I called and they couldn’t see me until mid-July. This made me realize how my original cancer diagnosis really was an answer to an unprayed prayer. I called about that lump and was able to be seen the next morning. Now, as an established patient with a history of cancer, calling about a lump on the same side as the original cancer, I had to wait six weeks for an appointment. I took that appointment, but knew that I’d be seeing my plastic surgeon later that morning. He felt what I had, and assured me that it was likely an artifact of healing after surgery, but that I should have my surgical oncologist check it out. When I mentioned that I had an appointment in July, he said he’d send her an email. I was rescheduled that afternoon and had an appointment in two days. (Love my doctors!)
It wasn’t a great appointment time for me, I had to miss the first grade play and would be late to the bus stop. But I needed to take it, and I need to do all the mom duties, too. So I saw the dress rehearsal of the play and got a friend to cover for me at the bus stop. My surgeon applauded my self-examination skills (I think she was shocked that I’d found such tiny bumps, it took her a little bit of effort to find them!) and was able to find them quickly with the ultrasound. They looked like little fat globs on ultrasound, so my options were “watch and wait” or biopsy. At this point in my life, with my history and personality, I can tell you that “watch and wait” will almost never be an acceptable solution to me. So we headed over to the procedure room and prepped for a biopsy.
I thought of the last time I lay on that table. And then I forced myself not to think of the last time. She was able to aspirate the area, and thankfully that meant I wouldn’t need to have a core biopsy. She assured me that it was nothing. She would “eat her hat” if pathology revealed anything abnormal. I have this crazy response to physiological stress– my teeth chatter. It’s worse if I’m cold, but it doesn’t happen because I’m cold. I remember it happening after at least one of my kids was born, and it’s happened after most procedures I’ve had during the whole cancer thing. Once again, I put my shirt back on and fought to keep my teeth from chattering audibly as I left the office. And because I’m a mom, I hopped in the car and headed to the bus stop, hoping the chattering would stop before I arrived. I left the air conditioning off and the windows rolled up, and the warmth of a car in June helped calm my chattering teeth just in time. I parked (illegally), hugged the kids, and sat to chat with the crew. I could worry about that pathology later. But right then, I just needed to be a mom.
(Just got back from the bus stop, where I heard from the doctor’s office– the cyst she aspirated was benign. So I guess she won’t have to eat her hat after all.)