Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Bobopsy (the diagnosis- part 2)

I love that scene! Back to the diagnosis story...

I got dressed and made an appointment for the several weeks later. But, I had the paper they gave me staring at me on the living room table. Results inconclusive. Needed: Ultrasound Guided Core Needle Biopsy- L Breast. Solid Mass.

In the meantime my mystery lump had grown to the point that I could feel it. Thus began the obsession. I was feeling it all the time. It became a habit in which I absent-mindedly would be poking and probing my left breast. This is not normal and can be problematic when you manage a restaurant or go shopping or ever leave the privacy of your own home. Its weird but people don't take well to public fondling.

My parents and I took a trip to Ireland (which is a magical place, by the way) and I continued my vigilance over the lump. There was a point when I got nervous because it was becoming painful. Then I realized it was from my extensive prodding. I left it alone for half a day and when I couldn't help it anymore I felt it again. This time it felt different. I was trying to ignore the babble on the bus as we were traveling to the next hotel and I was copping a feel under my jacket.

I think it feels different. I think its going away. Nope, it feels like its getting flatter. This must be a good thing. Maybe it will just go away on its on.

At this point I tell my mom that the lump is changing. Her response was "Thats not a good thing, they aren't supposed to change." Her facial expression remained calm but I wonder now if she was already losing sleep.

Oh. Maybe my prodding is making it angry. I will not touch it until tomorrow. Don't do it. Don't touch the lump. You can do this. Leave it alone. Baby steps. Baby steps to the hotel. Baby steps onto the elevator... babysteps into the elevator...

Shortly after the trip it was time for the Core NEEDLE Biopsy. My mom drove me in just in case I was severely traumatized by the whole ordeal. The doctor had explained the process and it seemed fairly simple. The excrutiating part was the time in between changing into the gown and seeing the doctor.

It started with 10 minutes next to a woman who was a bundle of nerves. I was relatively calm going in and she couldn't stop talking about how terrified she was to be called back for an ultrasound. I sat there repeating the information I just just read in the binder on the table. It was statistics. Out of the x women who have a mammogram only x need an ultrasound. Out of x women who need an ultrasound only x need a biopsy and so forth. I didn't have the heart to tell her I was on to the bobopsy phase. When she asked I told her I was there for a mammogram. As the nurse called her name she looked at me with panic in her eyes. I squeezed her hand. I wonder how she is. Are you out there? Are you OK?

As the nurse came in the nerves started. I couldn't believe how nervous I was when she left the room for the doctor.

I can't do this. Where did she go? How long do I have to wait here? They are going to stick a needle in my boob. MY BOOB! A NEEDLE! What if I just leave? What if it hurts? My heart is going to burst out of my chest. Thats it, I'm outta here.

She popped in as my head was lifting off the table. Did I really think I was going to just run out of the office? She gave me a soft smile. That was when Dr. Colonel Sanders came in. OK, maybe it wasn't Colonel Sanders.. because this man looked older and more...rickety is what popped to mind. Not too steady. But he did remind me of Colonel Sanders. Why Mr. Colonel Sanders, I didn't know you were a doctor!

Oh my God. What is this all about? Why is he so shaky? Someone is going to give him a needle to aim at me?

I looked at the nurse. She gave me a reassuring pat. He said hello and started explaining what he was doing. This is a good time to explain one of the problems with nerves and breast cancer. You see, when I get nervous my breath quickens. The problem is that they are working on your chest. They can't very well do their job if you are heaving away like you just ran a marathon. So, they tell you to control your breathing and be as still as you can. Of course, the moment someone says, please keep your breathing steady, you simply forget how easy it is to breathe. I'll go into this more someday when I tell you about radiation.

There I am topless, lying on a table with my left arm up on my forehead, trying to remember how I managed to breathe regularly before this moment. To my left is Dr. Sanders and to my right the Ultrasound screen. This is both fascinating and terrifying. I can see the tumor on the screen. Unfortunately, since the lump was on the left and my arm needed to be up I was facing the screen. They use the screen to guide the needle in and at that point in my life I just couldn't watch the needle probing the unidentified object in my boob. I squeezed my eyes shut. I gripped the blanket with my right hand that was suddenly sweating. It is 22 degrees and I am sweating.

Dr. Sanders starts his one-sided conversation in which I lay, exposed, eyes clenched and he talks me through the procedure.

First I'm going to give you a local anesthetic. You'll feel a little sting.

Yeah, I know what that- holy crap that stuff burns. I can actually feel it spreading. Ouch, Huh, its not that bad.... and its going away.

Now I'm going to make a tiny incision next to this little mole over here.

Oh my God! Its happening! Here it goes!

And now I'm going to get the biopsy needle to insert.

Wait... did he do the incision already? I'm such a dork. Thats what anesthetics are for.

I'm going to insert the needle.

Can he not say that word? Lets ban the word needle.

I can guide it into the mass because I can see it on the screen. You can look if you like.

I'm going to ignore that comment. But I'll smile like I'm not screaming inside. Just another day. I'm totally comfortable. Yep, calm and relaxed. See, look, I'm breathing. Ugh, what is that aching feeling?

This is when the nurse says, "Dawn are you OK? Do you feel something?"

And I say "Um, I'm fine, its just an aching feeling."

Her response? "Well, maybe we should just give the anesthetic some time to sink in."

Yes, that sounds like a fine idea. Not that it really hurts but I would pretty much rather just be knocked out completely.

And Dr. Sanders starts again.

I'm into the mass and I'm going to take a tiny sample of the mass through the core of the needle.

And then it was silent. I may have stopped breathing.


Cheese and Rice! What the heck was that!

That was the sound of the sample being taken.

Now that was something he could've given me a heads up about. Scared the sh*t out of me. it was so quiet the clicking sound may as well have been someone setting off an alarm.

After this they simply stuck a butterfly bandage on it and sent me out. I put on a happy face for the scared women in the changing room. By the time I saw my mom in the waiting room I was shaking. Was I cold? Was I tired? Was it the anesthetic? I didn't feel nervous.

On my way out the front desk told me we would find out the results at the clinic in a week or so.

Really, in the next week I didn't dwell on it much. I was managing a restaurant that took up 60 or so hours a week. I didn't have time to mope. There was a lot going on. I had some bruising on my breast and it was tender. I was told no heavy lifting on that side.. which just meant no extensive bussing of tables.. which was fine by me.

That Monday I called to find out the lab results and the office was closed for Memorial Day. Now that it was back in my mind I needed to know the answer. I called the next morning and the woman on the phone told me they absolutely cannot give results over the phone. They will mail me a copy of the results form saying everything was fine. I should receive the form by the end of the week.

At this point I call my mom and complain. I walk over to my friend Chrissy and complain. She agrees that its a load a crap to wait this long for results. I call B and complain.

An hour later the phone rings.

Me: Hello?
Voice of doom: Hello is this Dawn?
Me: Yes it is, may I ask who's calling?
Voice of doom: This is ____ from the Huntington Beach Community Health Clinic.
Me: Oh, OK.
Voice of doom: The doctor would like you to come in for your results.
Voice of doom: Are you available to come in today?
Me: Today?! Um, no I'm not. I'm at work and I live over an hour away so I can't just run by.
Voice of doom: Can you come by first thing tomorrow?
Me: Sure. Can someone talk to me over the phone?
Voice of doom: No, we would like to speak to you in person.
Me: Oh, OK.
Voice of doom: We'll see you tomorrow morning.
Me: bye

(to be continued)

Part Three: 2 Letters & a Muffin Top


  1. Wow, that was one long post! Sorry, if any of you made it through that I'll try and shorten them in the future.

    I'm too tired to break it up now :)

  2. Not too long at all Dawn... this sort of thing can't be told in shorter bursts, I think.

    Tell it as you need to.

  3. not too long at all!! oh man, I'm on the edge of my seat... even though from your blog title description I know the ending. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Totally glued to the computer screen! Oh my goodness, what an ordeal!

  5. Wow girl...waiting for lab results always sucks...I can't imagine if it were for a breast lump. And it really speaks to your character that you unselfishly refrained from telling that woman you were already is the bobopsy (ha ha!) phase...and putting on a brave face for the women in the changing room. I love your sense of humor about it.

  6. Gah! That's awful! Even knowing how it all turned out, I'm still on pins and needles. Write more soon.

  7. Hi, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment on my blog. It's nice to "meet" you!

    That is a funny video clip!

    But man, what a stressful time for you!

  8. I would have totally come through the phone and absolutely choked the person on the other end.
    You are so much better than me.
    I am totally enthralled, even knowing the ending ahead of time.
    It's kinda like giving birth, you telling this story. You take each little contraction one at a time. You rest in between. Little bit by little bit your story comes into the world.
    Thank you for being brave enough to share this with us.

  9. I have to agree with Chrystal - I would have wanted to choke the person too......I mean, why not just send you into a complete panic!!!! I think I would have been sick on the spot.

  10. I could say it was patience... but it might've just been shock :P

  11. Seriously, I can only take this because everyone seems to agree that the ending is a happy one, but otherwise, the "to be continued" is totally killing me! Thanks for sharing your story.

  12. Yeah I hated the sound of the biopsy needle too. They did 4 on me and then prompty did another mammo! Ouch!

  13. found your blog after you stopped by mine yesterday! Great writing. I had a needle biopsy 1.5 years ago, 2 days after my first mammogram and one day after my dad told me he had been diagnosed with non-curable cancer.
    After the mammogram, ultrasound, MRI, needle biopsy and ultimately surgery to remove 5 unknown masses, I didn't have cancer. I can't imagine what you must have felt.
    also, get on the list for Karen Russell's Photographers' Workshop ('s a wonderful photography class.

  14. Oh my gosh Juli, what a horribly stressful time that must have been for you and your family. Glad to hear you are well. Thank you so much for the link to Karen Russell... I really think I'll take one of her classes next year- those things fill up fast!

  15. How can you still be funny in the midst of this? Well, sort of in the midst of it. You are one amazing woman, Dawn. I'm so glad we found each other.

  16. Short?? NOooooo keep going


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