“I feel a lump. I want you to get an ultrasound along with your mammogram.”
This was Spring of 2002. I was 45 years old. It wasn't the "norm" to have a breast ultrasound ordered along with my mammogram. I felt fine. I was physically fit--went to the gym three or four mornings per week and stayed away from junk food. This wasn't supposed to happen to me, but when the lump was felt, something inside me knew what it was. Colon cancer was what I was supposed to get since my mother and sister both passed away with colon cancer. Breast cancer??? No. It couldn't be, and I wouldn't let it. I went to the Radiology office to make my appointments. I wanted both tests done on the same day, and because of that, I had to wait two weeks. I was glad to have those two weeks because I wanted life to be "normal" for that time. I didn't even tell my husband. I somehow knew that those two weeks would be the end of life as I knew it.
At this time of my life, I was busy working as an RN with another RN running our own case management company. I loved my work. I loved making my own hours and working out of my home. I told absolutely no one. I think that I was able to start working through the stages of grief, and I felt that I needed to do that so I could think more clearly in a few weeks when the shit hit the fan. I stayed busy---taking more classes than usual at the gym, meeting friends for lunch, making sure our couples' group kept to our usual pattern of going out for Friday night dinner and game night on Saturday night. It was Spring, which mean both daughters were beginning to wrap up the school year. Prom, finals, plus whatever else came our way.
Those two weeks flew by and before I knew it, mammogram day had arrived. I was relatively calm, even though I understood what the doctor would find. My mammogram showed a lump (big surprise) and I was hustled over to sonography. As I laid on the table while the tech slid that camera over my chest, there was no conversation between us at all. She kept sliding back over to the right side of my breast and pressing harder until it hurt. The tech finally stopped and told me that she had to bring the Radiologist in. In the few minutes she was gone, my heart started thumping and my brain was running through all kinds of possibilities. The physician came in, introduced himself, and then he and the tech turned their attention to the sono screen. He took the camera and honed into the spot that by now was very sore. The two of them kept low voices and talked like I wasn't even in the room. I finally had enough and pushed the doctors hand off me to sit up. I looked at the screen and saw a "monster" on it inside my right breast. I asked what is going on. The doctor told me that I had a lump and that I should come back in 6 months. OH NO!!!! DON'T TALK TO ME THAT WAY!!!!
I said to him, "if I was your wife, mother, sister, or daughter, what would you tell me to do?" His reply to me was, "Go see a breast surgeon as soon as you can." When I asked him why was he not saying that to me, he shrugged and left the room. I got dressed and asked for my X-rays. I could pick them up in a few days. This was long before there were digital images and I just needed a disc!
I went home and told my husband (who is a former Radiologic Technologist) that my films showed a lump and that I was advised to see a breast surgeon. I also told him that for now, we would tell our daughters that a lump had been found in my breast, but I wouldn't really know much more than that until after I saw the breast surgeon. I said, "let's not get worried until we know what we are worried about. I think that satisfied the conversation at that time. Heck, our younger daughter had prom that weekend, and our older daughter was coming home to help with make-up. I'm pretty sure my husband and I talked about it late at night, but we sort of had that same last piece of armor in front of the probable diagnosis. I had a good friend, also a nurse, who had gone through breast cancer and she gave me the information about who she saw. My husband did some research and gave me a powerful YES, that's the best place. So, that afternoon, I picked up the phone and made my appointment for a date two weeks later. Sigh... more waiting, but this time I had my husband and we both understood.
Stay tuned for more of Peggy's story in her next post!