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Thursday, September 3, 2009

D-Day: Diagnosis Day

August 5, 2009: My husband and I arrived for my appointment at 8am. There was some confusion on my part because I thought I was going to see a doctor. I was instead scheduled for a mammogram/ultrasound. Because I am a health care provider I have certain expectations of how things should go when I am seeing a doctor. One of those expectations is that I don't ever take my clothes off for someone I haven't met. I thought I would be sitting down with a doctor to decide what tests would be done, and then have them done. The staff had other ideas. They informed me I would be having the mammogram/ultrasound and that I wouldn't be meeting the doctor ahead of time and that my husband would not be welcome to come back for the tests with me. That's where I put my foot down. I informed them that I WOULD be talking to the doctor ahead of testing, that I WOULD decide for myself what tests would be done after talking to him, AND that my husband WOULD be accompanying me while the tests were being done. Except of course where radiation was used. I got my way.
The doctor was very cordial, but it was obvious he thought I was a fruitcake. 'Who is this woman coming in here with a report of a 'friend' doing an ultrasound for her and finding "something wrong" that requires further testing? Why is she questioning me on having a mammogram. She doesn't know what she's talking about.' I could see the wheels turning in his head. He was bothered by the change in routine. It threw him off schedule. He explained why I had to have a mammogram. I was not sold on his reasons, but I did want to get this over with so I didn't argue with him. Why is it that I always feel that I need to apologise for standing up for my rights, even when I am being nice about it?
The mammogram was less than plesant, but the woman doing it was great. I didn't like that she put tape with a metal marker on my nipple without warning me, and I refused to allow it for the breast that had the tumors. That was not a problem for her. She used a sticker in another location not as uncomfortable for me. The mammogram did squeeze my already sore breast awefully hard, but was not near as bad as the ultrasound.
My husband was present with me when the doctor's assistant did the preliminary ultrasound. He was positioned with a clear view of the screen. The tumor cluster was large and located right under my nipple, a tender place on the best of days. Of course, she wanted to run the probe over my nipple to get a good view. Ouch!
I again could not see the screen, but could see my husband's face. When she brought the probe up under my collarbone I saw something register in his countenance. He saw something he didn't want to see. There was lymph involvement under my collarbone along with what my friend had found in my armpit. He look crest-fallen.
The doctor came in after his assistant reported her findings. He re-examined both breasts and lymph areas. Even more ouch! Everytime he found something he took a picture. He was taking pictures of my other breast, too. I was sore by now, but I wasn't reacting to anything. Just lying there feeling like a piece of meat.
Finally I was allowed to cover up and sit up, which I did, trying to gather the little dignity I felt I had left.
"I am 99.9% sure it's cancer," the doctor said bluntly. "There are three suspicious areas on your other breast, also." I thanked him for being so straight forward. He had aquired a new found respect for me. "We need to schedule four core biopsies for tomorrow. One on your lymph node, two on the primary tumor and another on your other breast."
The appointment was set.
I went home and called my sister, Denean. She had recently had a core biopsy for a non-malignant tumor. I asked her what to expect. She let me know that her breast was completely numb during the proceedure so the discomfort to my nipples would not be an issue. That was the only thing I was concerned about. I couldn't handle the probe on my nipples. It was the kind of pain that made me want to crawl out of my skin. Like running your fingernails down a chalkboard. I just couldn't take it.
I did as much research as I could with what little information I had. What I did find out was that my cancer, before it had actually been identified, was at least a stage 3c. My primary tumor was over 5cm (6.2cm), it had metastisized to my lymph under my arm, AND was found under my collarbone. Stage 3c, at least. I knew I was in big trouble already.
I didn't sleep that night. My breast was so sore I couldn't stand it. It was the only time that I wanted to just cut it off myself! I prayed and did alittle reading, but nothing seemed to comfort me. I got in bed and asked my husband to hold me. I felt safe.

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