Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Awkward, Embarrassing, and Scary...but Worth It!

I've been avoiding my blog for a few days because I wasn't sure I should tackle a topic this personal in such an "open" forum.  In the hope that baring my soul may encourage someone else, I'm going to just put it out there.  (Inside, I'm laughing right now because I'm thinking of my unintentional puns).

Two weeks ago, I found a lump.  Yep.  A lump.  There.  I can still feel the blood drain from my face and my pulse rate increase even as I think back on it.  Maybe I had imagined it, so I checked again.  Yes, it was still there.  Definitely still there.

I was immediately filled with fear and regret.  Eight years ago, when Sam was born, my doctor told me it was time to get a mammogram.  At 36 years old, I needed to "baseline" and he gave me the name of a reputable center along with his referral.  But I didn't go.  I didn't even make the appointment.

At my yearly "big girl" check-up that I only went to for the purpose of getting my birth control pill prescription refilled, he told me the same thing.  For THREE years he stressed to me that I simply MUST get that baseline mammogram, but I did not think it was important.  Until I felt "the Lump."  At that point, it became critically important...and it was too late.  What's that he'd told me?  A mammogram can detect breast cancer up to three years before a lump could be felt?! 

How stupid, foolish, and arrogant am I?  What makes me think I'm immune to health challenges?  What makes me think "it could never happen to me?" 

After processing the reality of the possibility of breast cancer, I resolved to call a doctor first thing Monday morning.  My doctor had closed his practice and his office phone number was no longer in service.  I called a doctor I knew from having taught his children.  Fortunately, I was able to schedule an appointment at 11:15 that every day.  Relief, desperation, and panic mixed together and I told the office that I needed to leave school immediately to go to the doctor.  I admit it.  Tears came. 

I called my mom and she went with me.  Bless her heart.  I hope I can be there for each of my children like my mom has been there for me. 

My doctor was unbelievably wonderful!  He was patient, understanding, caring, and comforting.  After "checking me out" he told me that he did not suspect my lump to be cancerous, but...yeah, he said it too...I needed to get a baseline mammogram to be sure.  Trust me, I made my appointment that very day!

One week later, I made my way to Knoxville Breast Center.  As I walked through the frosted glass doors, I was struck by the "feminine feel" of the office.  At check-in, I was given a vibrating pager and told to have a seat.  I barely had time to sit down before the pager started shaking.  I was told to keep my pager, but go to "room 5" - a computer check-in area behind a sliding glass door.  I answered the typical questions and passed over my insurance card.  Try as I might, I couldn't help noticing the "boutique" stocked with wigs, padded bras, etc.  Just the sight of the room full of fake heads with various wigs was enough to sent chills down my spine.

Within seconds, my pager alerted me that "they" were ready for me again.  This time I was ushered to a dressing room and told to use baby wipes to remove my deodorant, undress from the waist up and put on a lovely blue-green gown.  Once I was "ready" I could wait in the "screening waiting room."  Here we go...I thought to myself.  In the back of my mind, I knew that this day could very well change my life forever.  The "funny" emails I'd received about mammograms played through my mind.  Yeah, I'm getting ready to smash my breast under a car's tire...or maybe just slam the garage door down on it as hard I could...not so funny now to be sure!

Again, I had barely sat down when I was called into another room.  Judging from the equipment in this room, I was in the right place to be tortured.  And I was.  No kidding.  It hurt.  A lot.  A whole lot.  BUT it did not last long.  The technician took several pictures of both sides.  Modesty went out the window.  Personal space?  None here.  The entire process took about 10 minutes.  I was told the results would be mailed to me in a week to ten days.  Okay.  I done. 

Sore, tired, and somewhat relieved, I dressed quickly and headed out the door.  Admittedly, I thought to myself that "that wasn't so bad!"  I never, ever should have waited to get that done, simply for the peace of mind that a good result promised.  I was amazed as I drove out of the parking lot that the entire process took less than 30 minutes!

Then last Friday, I got the results in the mail.  They wanted me back.  Something on my pictures seemed out of the ordinary, but they did not suspect cancer, but wanted to get more information.  Seriously?  I called and made the earliest appointment available. 

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