The Scariest Moment of Truth
For some irrational reason, as a mom it’s always easiest to put your own needs on the back burner while you attend to everyone else. Kids get the new wardrobes, the best piece of pie and are always up-to-date on their dental visits, vaccinations and so on. I’m the one with the 5 year old underwear, the grilled cheese that got overdone on one side, and when was the last time I went to the doctor for a check-up other than when I was pregnant? Ummm. Well… Yeah. It was time to get a mammogram.
Last week I finally mommed up and went in for the big squish. After having birthed three babies, it wasn’t the worst form of having people all up in my personal space, but it was probably right up there. But as with childbirth, you pretty much get to the point where modesty with medical professionals is long gone. Just because this is my blog and I write about “inappropriate” things, I’ll share with you my experience. Some of you will appreciate it, some may be educated by it and others mortified. Whichever it is, you’re welcome.
When I arrived at the hospital they checked me in, had me gown-up and showed me to the special waiting room with other women who were also anticipating the fun to begin. You don’t really make eye contact when you walk in — it’s not like a spa lounge where you’re looking forward to a relaxing massage, a facial and some essential oils. No, these women weren’t thrilled about being there either, and I stopped to think that some of them may be there because they’ve already been through some dark times. I pushed that thought far out of my mind. Puppies and kittens…
They finally called my name and I was ushered back to a dimly lit room with The Machine humming away menacingly on the other side of the room. (Puppies and kittens…) The tech asked me some medical history questions, noticed my age and said, “I’ve been doing this the same amount of time as you’ve been alive.” Oh good. This wasn’t her first rodeo.
Then she lead me over to The Machine, and I had to stand in front of it like my dance partner in gym class when we were going to learn the waltz. “Now come closer and put your hand here.” Then she unceremoniously heaved my boob up on this cold platform like a slab of meat at the butcher shop. (I was officially not feeling pretty at that moment.) Then the fun really began as she hit the gas pedal at her foot and a clear plastic plate came down and smooshed the top of my meat sack until my chuck roast looked like flank steak. “Uhh. You can stop now!” It actually wasn’t so much painful as uncomfortable and really, really weird.
The tech repositioned me in other various contortions, took the images she needed and was done. In my case, since I was having a diagnostic mammogram done (just to be safe) it was followed up by an ultrasound. It was just like getting an ultrasound when I was pregnant, but sadly I didn’t get to look in excited anticipation at my sweet cherub dancing around in my uterus. Then things got a bit scary when she highlighted an area she saw and took a measurement of a blob — and it wasn’t to see if my baby’s head was growing at the proper rate. I thought, “Okay. Don’t panic yet.”
After she was done, the radiologist looked at the images and came into the room. He told me there was a spot that could just be a cyst or a benign fibroadenoma, but he wanted to be sure and have a biopsy done just to be safe. “Usually two times out of three it’s nothing.” (Did he realize that’s only 66.6%? Not exactly awesome odds if I were a betting type of person.)
I was led into another room and a nurse asked me some more medical questions, explained the procedure to me and looked at her schedule. Conveniently there was an opening the next day at 9:15 AM, otherwise it would be the following Thursday. I decided to get it over with scheduled it for the next day. She agreed that was a good choice. What did that mean? Did she know something they weren’t telling me? It was probably nothing…
I asked her if I could drive myself after the procedure or if I needed my husband to drive me. She said it was up to me, but as long as I didn’t have a history of fainting it would be okay. “But I’d bring my husband if I were you. He needs to support you.” Uhhh…I just thought this was a simple biopsy. Then I thought about my husband’s absolute loathing of hospitals and decided to just go on my own instead of having to worry about him stoically simmering in the waiting room. I’m a tough mother after all, you know.
The next morning I got up, poured myself a well-deserved cup of coffee and savored the last moments of calm in my house before I had to roust the inmates. Then my friend called my cell from my driveway, “Is First Born not going to early band this morning?” I looked down at the time. ARGH!! I totally forgot! How could I forget about band, even after we’d arranged carpool the evening before??! I guess I was a bit more preoccupied with the procedure than I even let on to myself. I apologized and woke up the inmates and got their day started.
I shoved them on their respective busses after the usual excessive morning drama and headed over to the hospital. I figured I may as well be early for once in my life. Of course they were not on time, and they took me back for my procedure a half hour late. Figures. I went through the whole gowning process again and was led into the room. As I was lying there being prepped, the nurse brought over the consent form on a clip board for me to sign in my prone position. “I’m sorry this is sort of awkward to write like this,” she says.
I gesture to my boob hanging out with a spotlight shining on it. “Uhh, like this whole deal isn’t awkward?? Signing something while lying down is nothing.” Polite laughter.
They explained the procedure once again. The doctor numbed the area, the ultrasound tech confirmed the location and he jabbed a needle in, fired it like a staple gun a few times to take the samples and he was done. It didn’t hurt at all. He informed me that the pathology will be back early next week, and I’d get a call from them.
The nurse held pressure on the site and asked me how I was doing. “I’m fine. That was no big deal at all.” She seemed slightly surprised and continued to hold pressure on the site. It got awkward. Finally she put an ice pack on it and took me over to another office to wait for the follow-up mammogram to be sure the marker they placed showed up. (Yes. You read that right. Another mammogram.)
The nurse was the most adorable pregnant woman you ever saw. She was the type that looked like she had a basketball shoved under her scrubs. I found out she was due any day, and I was astounded how she was still vertical and on her feet all day long. She was going to be a first time mom, and it was nice to talk with someone at the most exciting time in her life — so full of hope and anticipation, with a tinge of nervousness. For her, motherhood was still a perfectly blissful thing, and her happiness was contagious. As I write this, I’m wondering if she’s had her baby yet and if she’s spending hours and hours just staring at the miracle that has just come into her life. I hope it’s perfect.
It was a long wait over the weekend, and I sort of felt like Schrödinger’s cat. Is it malignant? Benign? It felt like both. Meow. Luckily to keep my mind off of it, I got to travel to a family wedding with my mom and Warrior Princess (with no stinky boys!) It felt like a girls’ weekend, and it was rejuvenating to be able to finally spend some time away with my mom. Times like these are when a girl really needs her mom, because she’s the only one who can make you feel better. Being at a wedding filled with love and happiness helped too.
Finally the call came: it was a benign fibroadenoma. It’s an odd feeling, when you’ve been preparing yourself for bad news and then it comes out just fine. I stopped to think about all the other women who didn’t receive such great news from their doctor, and it was extremely sobering. Yet another thing in my life I need to be more grateful for.
So long story not so short, I’m fine. It’s been a good wake-up call to be more on top of my wellbeing. Maybe this has helped someone else get up the courage to do something that’s not so pleasant but very needed. You can do it. Mom up.