I felt as though I was in a parallel universe. Living two years ago, sitting in the small sitting room at the Breast Center awaiting news from my radiology nurse. Do I dress and get on my way or does the doctor need more detailed images? Do I go into back into the mammography imaging room or go over to the ultrasound room for more examination?
It’s not something you want to hear: that the doctor working that day wants to more closely examine something. It doesn’t matter what it is. Isn’t more examination bad?
My recent history points to that.
So the nurse opens the door, gives me the news of further imaging. And I go into the ultrasound imaging room and position myself on the table next to the equipment.
OMG. You had me at ultrasound. My head is reeling. This is paralleling my mammogram experience from 2015. Yes – THE mammogram. The one that lead to THE diagnosis.
I must have looked like a deer in the headlights because the nurse reassured me that the doctor only wanted to make sure of what she was looking at since this breast had been through a reduction since my last mammogram.
“Yeah, right,” my mind tells me. “They’re just trying to make you feel better.”
Maybe I should have changed the date. After all, me and 13th dates have history.
- May 13, 2015 – date of the needle biopsy that determined my diagnosis.
- January 13, 2016 – date I completed chemo
- June 13, 2016 – first ever bone density test
- May 13, 2016 – final radiation treatment
- February 13, 2017 – first mammogram since all surgery completed
It’s quite a trail, don’t you think? And I didn’t choose any of these dates. The appointments were scheduled for me and provided to me.
Anyway, this trail of dates didn’t do my imagination any good as the nurse moved the ultrasound tool around on my right breast (the OTHER breast) and under my arm – making images of whatever the doctor “suspected” was going on.
There is more waiting at this point because nurses cannot share details. Only doctors.
And the doctor – of course – wanted to do imaging for herself.
I’m definitely channeling 2015 at this point.
Why couldn’t this be as simple as the mammogram that I had February 11, 2016?
Pictures – doctor says “Beautiful – go home!”
No – I have to relive the suspense as I begin (seemingly) down a similar path as diagnosis year.
As the doctor (one I had not seen at Charlotte Radiology) came in to do her examination, I said a prayer and tried to appear calm.
She assured me that she was just looking at some of the areas left a little traumatized by surgery. No worries.
I still don’t believe her.
She turned the screen to me and ran the magic wand over the areas she had “concerns” about and began to share her thoughts.
“See this area,” she notes. There is a pocket of fluid. But you can see here (pointing at the dark cylindrical shape on the screen) that there are no solids in here. It’s all liquid. And that’s good.
“See this small area here.” Pointing to a small bead-shaped area, she explained, “This is an oil cyst. It’s very common when the breast has experienced trauma. And your breast most certainly has.” But she also showed me that the cyst didn’t have any suspicious solids. It simply needed to be watched. It could calcify. But that would also be harmless besides feeling a little like a BB. And would only be concerning if the tissue in it changes. The presence of fat is a clue that there isn’t cancer there.
She’s not concerned at all, she says, about these areas but since my breast looks totally different than any previous images, a baseline needs to be established. We need to learn your new shape – the lay of the land in your newly reduced breast. After all, it’s quite different.
I know how different. A reduction is quite the surgery.
To do it, they make an incision under the breast from one side to the other – making it look like a closed eye. Then they make an incision from the middle of that line up to the edge of the areola. Another incision goes all the way around your areola, cutting the skin of your breast away from it, but it is still attached to your breast tissue. They then remove breast tissue. Cutting evenly around the outside removing the amount necessary to make it similar in shape and weight to the other reconstructed breast. Then they “lift” the breast by cutting a new hole (positioned up higher on your chest than the original hole) and pull the nipple and areola through it. They sew (well actually it’s more glue) you up like you’re in a nicely fitted bodice, with your nipple securely fitted into its new place.
So there is no doubt that my mammogram would be vastly different than any that were previously done. And no doubt that there was plenty of trauma to create the fluid (inflammation) and cyst that the new mammogram revealed.
Next steps are simple. Another mammogram in 6 months to see how my tissue is going to progress. Will the fluid continue to absorb as it has since my November 2 surgery? This is the area affected when the scar tissue from my port area. And will the oil cyst change at all?
No worries. Just watching.
As my nurse escorted me back to the dressing room. She assured me and said that they are very detailed oriented and watch “things” closely. But I shouldn’t worry that they do. Be glad.
And I am glad. It was just unnerving as I paralleled back to 2015.