I write this on the start of breast cancer awareness month. October. For some it is about costumes and candy. For some it's about what parties are available and who can out beat the other person's costume.
But for some... it is a month of grieving. It is a month to remember lost ones. For others it is a reminder of our worries, struggles, and battles. You are not alone.
The mask below is representative of the uninvited guest that women (and sometimes men) have a visit from. It's not like the imaginary tooth fairy you remember as a kid. No. It's a scare. The scare that changes their lives forever. How they view their health. Their relationships. Their paths.
You are not alone. You really aren't. You feel it though and that is normal. You feel alone with the four walls around you. Maybe the walls are closing in. Maybe you want to go on a bra burning binge. You are drowning in worry. The moment of denial or of utter faith. Not sure.
You are not alone. I know. I know because I had that scare.
I started writing this in 2013, when I got my breast biopsy done. When the breast cancer scare really kicked into full swing. I know several people who have had this scare and some who are currently battling it. Kate, I give you my love! Stay strong! And now tonight, I found out a good friend of mine Jo found out that she may have precancerous cells in her breasts. It is one of the most frighting thing you can go through.
So what was it like?
I had gone in for my annual exam. The doctor was concerned and referred me for a bi-lateral ultrasound. Yes, they do ultrasounds on your breasts- they aren't just for babies and pregnancy. They found something round that was getting fed somehow in my breast. A cyst, a lump, a cancer. They were not sure. But I remember vividly seeing the colours on the ultrasound showing it on the black and white screen. Well, grand...
Now, I had to go in for more intensive screening and a mammogram and a biopsy itself. It is not something you ever mess with. I say that though contradictory because I avoided going in the first place. So I had to schedule another appointment to go in a different time to a different location. Yay, more appointments and more waiting... just what the doctor ordered.
So... comes the day before the biopsy.
The day before, I was nervous and moody.
I did not want to talk to no body. Not a soul.
Not that I associate that with getting a biopsy.
It could have been anything.
Maybe the biopsy.
I researched about side effects, probable outcomes- you know, to educate myself. Yes, the world wide web can be a world wide scare but it is also a world wide education. It is better to educate yourself than not. I would rather have a million questions to ask and get answered then to walk in not knowing anything.
I have to admit, I am geek about finding out new information, especially medical. Being a cranio-facial surgeon was on my childhood lists of what I wanted to be. Learning is awesome. Anyways...
So, morning of, I wake up with little time to get out the door.
Then I am running out the door and trying to catch the S9 in DC to get to my appointment.
I missed it. I missed it- gah!
By, like a second- no joke.
So I wait for the next one.
And there must have still been stars in the sky because I had not been late. Anyone that rides the Metro in DC knows that is amazing! A lot of times, buses are late, don't come at all, but are getting better. Anyways.
I get to the appointment and there were SO many people in the waiting room.
Thankfully Washington Radiology Associates were good.
I had an awesome nurse named Camille.
She brought me back, filled out paper work.
Went to the "dressing area".
It was like trying on clothes but you are taking them off, looking at yourself in the mirror, thinking, "in a few minutes, I will have a stranger, (but a doctor), cut into my breast and will find out-- what is this lump? Goodbye to the way you are and hello to the new-about-to-be-you."
Put on the gown, with shirt, bra, scarf and coat in a basket that you carry around. Walk out and sit in a waiting room right across from the dressing room itself. Each labeled with letters- D,E,F,G,H and I.
I plugged in my phone, needing to be charged, while I wait to hear my name be called. I even brought yarn. Yes, I did. I started crocheting a new project- in breast cancer pink. I wanted to remember the moments, sitting not knowing. And this, what I was making (which I am still not done) would be a symbol of that. It was a awesome pull through pink and white scarf.
I hear my name. I walk to room #6. I start talking with the nurse about the clip they will put and any questions I had. The clip is something that they use to mark where they take a sample in case for future knowing if you have to go back in. The doctor walks in and then props me on my side. They give me a great numbing against that barely pinches. They make an incision, a small one, and use the ultrasound to be sure they get samples. The doctor was nice- he said he had been doing this for six years. He takes several samples, different times. The only part that I feel is a tiny bit of pressure and I mainly hear the machine click the needle in and out of the 'tumor' to get the sample. It did not hurt at all. The noise made me want to cringe though. And then they took another needle and put a marker in the 'tumor' to mark where it is for future reference and to show it has been biopsied. I did bleed quite a little bit and I did it feel it run down my side a bit, but it really was just a little bit. Then they put steri-strips on to close the wound, put a bandage on, and gave me an ice pack and tylenol.
If you are going to get this procedure done, I will warn you, you will need a bra. Sure, you may wear one. Maybe a sports bra. But, just no. You need a good bra and one you don't care about. If you have had babies before, an old maternity one is good. A bra that you will have to have someone wash or one you care less about. I oozed for the entire day, getting it in the bra, and thankfully was able to wash it out with woolite in the bathroom sink.
I changed my ice packages often and took tylenol every 6 hours for several days.
Right after leaving the office, I walked to Whole Foods, rewarded myself with buying some of their cheap wine, which is really good actually, and then helped my friend Monica grocery shop. I walked about 3 miles to get to my friend's place. A few miles, not much for me. Groceries all in tow. I carried them and then kept stopping because I was getting low on energy and breathe. I kept readjusting until I got to Monica's place. I definitely felt weak at that point. So a huge thank you to her, she let me stay and visit. She reassured me that feeling abnormally weak and one moment happy and the next, for a second, weepy was normal. It made me feel so much better.
I went home, still tired the next day. Today. I did not want to do anything. So tired. Both physically and mentally. Something I was not expecting at all. I was expecting to come back full force. Nope.
A sign- I need to take it easy. Even with a waiting game of knowing, resting is the best I can do.
I ended up oozing more because I was being me and trying to power through my day as if nothing happened. Taking it easy? Oh no. Why should I?
The feeling of having the test done was great but the waiting was agony. You are never sure what the answer will be. Will you have cancer? Will your life be altered?
Mine showed that I did not have cancer at the moment just fibrocystic disease which caused fibroids in my breasts and that I would need to keep a watch on. But that also did not mean that I was going to get cancer. The two are not related.
However, this gave me a bigger heart towards those who do struggle with breast cancer. The daily battles of living life, holding close to what you have, and pretending you are okay but you are tied up to a machine or getting chemo praying it works so you can see your kid graduate. That is not an easy thing in life to have to do. My heart is to you. My good vibes are to you.
Writing this and finishing this post up several years later is a writing to myself, my friends, and to you my reader. You are not alone in this scare. It is real. You will be strong, because you are an awesome woman!
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