Continued from Part 1; How much Harm Can a Few Teeny Tiny Little Dots Cause?
When I came to I was crying and having a full-blown panic attack. My fingers curled into claw shapes as the blood left my hands to protect my vital organs. I was hyperventilating and couldn’t catch my breath and I was also aware that the gown was no longer providing me with any real modesty. On the other side of the door Joe was waiting in a chair typically reserved for the next patient. He was helpless as he heard what was going on inside the room. The two technicians knelt down to comfort me and wipe my tears away, while the ill-bed-side mannered doctor suggested they bring in a tall stool for me to sit on and put on the air conditioner so he could try again. I took some deep breaths and gathered myself up and sat on the stool. The technicians were able to quickly position my breast this time but when the doctor inserted the needle for the second time I began to lose consciousness all over again.
“You will require a surgical biopsy” the doctor said and left the small room.
I apologized to the technicians and stumbled into the comforting arms of Joe.
A few days later I received a call from the office of a female surgeon in my area that specializes in breast health. They scheduled an appointment for me to come in and consult with her about a surgical biopsy. I immediately felt relief that the surgeon was a woman and that she specialized in breast “health” – code for cancer to make the patients feel better, but I liked the word health non the less. Her office was decorated in everything imaginable made with a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon. There were dolls, plaques, pictures, framed prayers, bumper stickers, magnets, vases, pens…a sea of pink, and a sea of ribbons. At least all this awareness doesn’t pertain to me I thought, I merely have a few precancerous cells that need extracting. The surgeon was just a few years older than me and told me about her daughter as I told her about my son. We compared parenting stories and she made me feel at ease. She explained to me in detail what, when, why and how the surgical biopsy would go and we agreed on a date before I left. “Easy breezy Chucky cheesy.” I thought.
My mom and Gene came down from Sacramento for the biopsy and of course Joe was there. On a Friday morning I was admitted to the same day surgical unit at Marian Hospital. The anesthesiologist assigned to my case was a friend of mine from my neighborhood who I had played on a softball team with. I settled into my hospital gown and sedative and even cracked a few jokes. This was a hundred times better than that attempted needle biopsy. The attendant wheeled me in to the operating room and as I drifted off to sleep I imagined that all of those tiny dots would be out my breast soon and life would be back to normal. Over the weekend my family kept me busy by playing scrabble and comfortable by draping blankets over me as I sat on the couch to watch TV with them. We would have to wait until Monday or Tuesday for the pathology report. Monday came and went without news and you could feel the tension in my house rise while we waited. It only took a couple of days to heal from the biopsy and I was at work on Tuesday driving between sales calls when the call came in from my surgeon.
“I’m sorry to tell you that the cells that I removed show evidence of cancer” she began.
“The good news is that we caught this very early in the disease process and it is highly curable. It is called DCIS – ductal carcinoma in situ. Ductal meaning the milk ducts, carcinoma meaning cancer, and in situ is latin for contained within the site. Treatment generally consists of a lumpectomy to remove any tissue necessary to gain a clear margin and then a course of radiation to prevent it from recurring. I would also like to do a genetic test on you to see if you carry the gene that predisposes you to breast and ovarian cancer since you are so young”. Breathe I kept telling myself, just breathe, slow deep breaths, in and out. I was driving so I had to pull over in fear that I would have another panic attack and crash. “Do you have any questions?” she wanted to know. Questions? Do I have any questions?