Preparing for Patchwork Boobs & Results

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It was odd being back at the hospital today.  I was being prepped for surgery on the 9th but still waiting for the results of my mammogram so unsure whether or not it would go ahead.  However, despite leaping whenever the post dropped through the door and pouncing on the phone as soon as it has rung, no results have arrived at our house.

So I went through the motions with an extremely nice nurse, ticking boxes, standing on scales, being measured etc. all the while thinking this may not be necessary.  Although now I come to think about it, whatever the outcome of my mammogram, some surgical intervention would happen so maybe it was all as well.

As the appointment drew to a close, she handed me reading matter on breast reductions and ward/admission information.  Then, as an afterthought, I mentioned my mammogram.  Immediately, she looked up the results and there they were.  On the screen.  In plain sight:

No abnormality detected.

And I breathed a little deeper and a little easier for the first time in over a week.  Until the hacking cough got me that is.  The Captain has been very ill.  With proper flu.  It appears he has been generous with his germs.  I am thinking of daubing a cross on the front door in red paint for we are a house of sickness.  Bugger.

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Mammogram time!

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What better way to kick off my second year of breast cancer survival than with a mammogram?  Perhaps a large gin?  But no.  For me, a trip to the All Singing All Dancing Breast Unit was in order.  And to be fair, for this I was very grateful.

As previously mentioned, I have a date with Surgical Spice in March that I am keen to keep.  But I can only do this providing there is no evidence of a new breast cancer lurking within my, hopefully soon to be considerably reduced, right boob.  I do feel it would be particularly mean for a new cancer to pop up but given that I have done this once already, I am sadly at greater risk.  Sigh.  So annual mammograms it is.

The delightful Brainy Spice rejigged appointments for me so that I would have all sorted in time for my date with Surgical Spice and today was the appointed hour.  It was odd.  I have never found it a distressing or painful experience.  Undignified, yes.  Uncomfortable, even.  But these things are acceptable.  However, it has taken on a new significance.  Since beginning the whole screening malarkey back with smears in my twenties, I have always been able to put them out of mind once done.  Somehow, I do not think I will be doing that this time.  I only had to have the one boob irradiated.  Does that equal half the discomfort and half the indignity?  Possibly not.  It certainly does not make for half the worry.

The radiographer assured me I would hear through the post in the usual way.  I also have a date with Brainy Spice in two weeks time.  But from past experience, I know I may receive a phone call.  So for the next fortnight I shall be leaping out of my skin whenever the post arrives or whenever the phone rings.

Maybe it is time for that gin, after all.

Recall Clinic

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I began the day with Julian of Norwich.  She has seen me through many a tough time and despite my attempts to laugh it away, I was anxious.  Julian was a fourteenth century Christian mystic whose words I have found comforting.  Her most famous are:

All shall be well,

And all shall be well,

And all manner of things shall be well.

And for Christians this is true.  Whatever the day brings, ultimately, all shall be well.

Unusually for me, I had the presence of mind to arrange to go to clinic with a friend.  For reasons that I am uncertain of, I fully expected to receive definitive answers today.  And yet logically, I know this would not have been possible.  However, logic seems to vanish on days like these.

My appointment was for 10am so like the hyper anxious control freak I can be, we arrived at 9:30.  Having someone to pass the time with was a godsend.  We laughed, chatted, caught up on news, and by the end of the day I realised there were many things I had forgotten to ask/say.  The staff at the clinic were delightful: professional, warm, kind, and knowledgeable.  At all times I felt that they really knew what they were about which is always a comfort.  Pretty quickly, I lost all sense of my breasts belonging to me, they became specimens.  Something to be examined, pulled, handled, manipulated, and even stabbed.

I did not expect the investigations to gallop along at the pace they did.  It was evident from the outset that list of possible procedures I’d been given was being worked through rapidly.  I began with high magnification imaging of the breast that was presenting the problems (My left breast to be precise.  I should write a movie.  My Left Breast.  Perhaps Daniel Day Lewis would like to be in it?).  From there we moved to ultrasound and biopsy where I was shown my films.  Three problem areas have been identified: a thumb nail sized one, a little finger nail sized one and a collection of calcified specks.  Taking chunks of each of them was the idea so I was set upon by quite possibly the most beautiful doctor I have ever seen.  She was breathtaking.  Pain and beauty, a perennial theme in the Arts, I feel!

Actually, this biopsy was fine.  I simply lay back, flashed my tits (and not for the first time …) and a fairly large needle was inserted four times for various samples.  Local anaesthetic had been liberally applied so the worst bit was the pressure afterwards.  Oddly, the large area could not be found on ultrasound so the area biopsied at this point was the little finger sized one.  Dr Beautiful explained that rather than a lump, my mammogram had shown changes in tissue that warranted further investigation.  The calcified specks would be biopsied using another technique as would the large area since it was currently hiding.

I was dressed in a gown – aren’t they just the last word in fashion? – and taken to another room where I was to have a Vacuum Assisted Core Biopsy under X-Ray.  You’d be forgiven for thinking I was going to be wired up to a Henry Hoover and to be frank, it did sound like that, but no, this was a machine worthy of a Bond movie.  Of course, my ‘dodgy areas’ were close to my sternum making them awkward to get to so the positioning was entertaining but we got there in the end.  Three radiographers were involved in the process and it took an awfully long time.  Again, it wasn’t particularly painful thanks to the local anaesthetic, but I can’t say it was pleasant.  Would it be on my top ten list of experiences to repeat?  Possibly not.  Being impaled by a machine while attached to Henry Hoover is never going to be my idea of a good time and at one point I came over all peculiar.  But it passed.

In all, twelve samples were taken from this contraption so I’m probably down to about 1 1/2 breasts now!  All that from just the small area and the calcified specks.  The larger of the dodgy areas seems to have vanished and this has been declared A Good Thing.  Hurrah!  Also, my lymph nodes were scanned and deemed beautiful!  So feeling rather smug about that.

After this, all that remained was a chat with the Breast Care Nurse who was funded by Macmillan.  Isn’t it funny?  As a relative looking after my terminally ill father just over a year ago I was always thrilled to meet a Macmillan funded nurse.  Now, as a patient, desperately hoping that all is well, I would really have liked the Macmillan bit on her badge to have been absent.

My ‘allow two hours’ clinic appointment had stretched to 4 1/2 and I was exhausted.  My dear friend drove me home where I have treated myself to mindless dvds for the rest of the day.

The Phone Call

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I am rarely called on the landline these days.  When it does happen, it is usually not for me.  Usually the person calling is looking for Francis.  Now, I do not know who Francis is, but it is not me.  I did not buy my house from Francis and the person who lived here before the vendor was not Francis either.  So I really do not know who Francis is.

However, today, the phone call was not for Francis.  It was for me.

“Would it be possible to rearrange your clinic appoint please?”

“Erm, clinic appointment?”

“Yes, the one following your mammogram recall.”

If my life were a tv drama there would be scary/suspense filled music playing at this point.  However, despite times when I wonder, it is not, so instead of the opening bars of Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D Minor there was silence.  Which in itself was pretty suspense filled now I come to think of it.

You may have gathered, this was news to me.  And possibly not the best news I have had this week.  This year actually.  But then it is only January.  It turned out the letter I should have received had inadvertently been sent second class and a week later than anticipated. It arrived later that day.  Cut backs.

Last week I had a lovely time enjoying my femininity to the full.  I started the day with a cervical smear and followed it up with the second mammogram of my life.  I began the whole mammogram adventure at the tender age of 47.  I am now 50.  The joys of womanhood.  Woo!

So now I have the delights of yet more prodding and poking at the Breast Clinic.  I know the statistics.  I know the odds are in my favour.  4 out of 100 women are recalled following mammograms.  Of that 4, 3 are found to have perfectly normal breasts.  So the chances are that I will be one of those.  That I will rock up to clinic, have a few more snaps taken of my boobs, a bit of prodding, a further probe with ultrasound and then that will be that for the next 3 years.  Well, bring it on!