October 17, 2013

My Mammogram Experience

breast cancer awarenessI have been meaning to write about this for a while, but it was difficult when I was in the moment and once it was over, I moved on. However, in honor of breast cancer awareness month, I thought I’d discuss my most recent–as well as past–trials and tribulations with the ta ta’s.

For those that don’t know, I’m over 40. 42 to be exact. So, at the behest of my gyn, every year I get a mammogram. I’d had 1 or 2 prior to turning 40 so this wasn’t anything new.

2 years ago, my mammogram showed something ‘suspicious.’ So, I was sent to get a biopsy. The biopsy’s I have had in the past–because I’ve had a few of those too–consisted of taking a needle, drawing some fluid ‘stuff’ and then I would go on my way. 2 years ago, the biopsy I had was more of a procedure. They took something that did not resemble any needle I had ever seen, though that’s what they called it, and inserted it into the suspicious lump. After extracting some of the ‘stuff,’ they went on to put in a titanium clip and send me on my way. (At this, my one friend freaked out and wanted it removed. I have to say, walking around with a titanium clip in your body isn’t something I had signed up for, but I figured my doctors knew better than I on this one. Not to mention, I already have a mouth full of metal (in my opinion) due to fillings, so what’s a little titanium to join the party? (Yes, I get the new tooth colored fillings now like everyone else. But I digress…))

pink-bg_01Fast forward to a few months ago. Once again, my mammogram showed something suspicious and I needed to go back for further tests. Receiving that letter is unnerving enough, but in my mind I said, fine. So off to get an ultrasound I went. Now, here’s where it gets ‘amusing.’ I have the ultrasound done and the technician tells me it’s a fibroid; we (meaning women) get these, it’s no big deal; and the doctor will be in shortly to discuss things with me. Ok, that makes me feel better.

Enter the doctor: “The lump is the size of an olive and has doubled in size in year. It’s growing too fast and I’m going  to recommend either surgery or a biopsy.” Ummm…1: This is why the technicians aren’t allowed to discuss results. And 2: Surgery OR a biopsy? Doesn’t the biopsy usually come before surgery; how is this one or the other? She assures me she will send my results to my gyn and we can discuss options.

The gyn call: (I love my gyn, but it did take a full 24 hours for her to call me back. And while she deals with this sort of thing regularly, the diagnosis of surgery, biopsy, and discussing options is not something I hear every day.) My gyn tells me that when something grows at this rate the doctors become concerned that they missed something. Well, now isn’t that something everyone wants to hear? “Concerned they missed something.” And why is it with every medical professional I talk to my situation becomes more and more grave? Didn’t we start out with the tech saying it was nothing? So, my gyn says she doesn’t want it to grow and start to become bothersome to me and her initial thought is to have it removed, but she wants me to see a breast surgeon–who specializes in nothing but breasts. Oookkk… (Mind you, at this point, my cousin is preparing to take off work to come take care of me post surgery and I’m essentially making out my mental will since my family and cancer in general, do not have a good track record.)

The breast surgeon: Dr. Schnaper at GBMC is AWESOME! She is the head of the breast center at GBMC and just a generally awesome doctor. Yes, it was very unnerving entering the breast center wing of the hospital but once she entered the room–all anxiety seemed to dissipate. As it turns out, my lump was benign and does not need to be removed. But the entire experience was daunting and eye-opening. At 42, I am still young and there are so many things I want to do, places I want to see.

I sometimes have to remind myself that this happened to me. Once I found out I was ok, I just moved on with life. But while in the midst of it, I was really taking stock of things. (So off to Texas I went for my niece’s sweet 16 party; I shopped more than usual in Hawaii, and I’ll be in Tampa in a few weeks with 2 of my closest childhood friends.) I want to remember, not the anxiousness and fear, but the fact that no one is promised tomorrow, life really is short, and you have to take care of yourself. But above all, while you’re here on earth and have the chance–LIVE!

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  1. Roni said:

    Very glad you’re ok.


  2. Erin Williams said:

    Hi Tara- Glad you are ok. Enjoying your website!


    1. T.L. Finney said:

      Hi, Erin! Thank you! It was a scary experience, but apparently very common. Thank you for reading my blog!


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