And so it begins . . .
Updated: May 3, 2020
It started with my yearly routine mammogram. I had always had clear mammograms so when I received a call that I needed a second mammogram, I was a little shocked. I feel a little black cloud hovering over me. On Saturday, April 9, 2011, I arrive at the Breast Cancer Center to have my second mammogram. I was telling myself that I was going to be calm and cool – after all they only wanted to take a second look, right? A lot of women have to go back for second mammograms and it turns out to be nothing. When they call my name I think to myself “I’ve got this”, I’ve been here before, I know where to go. I get up and not only go to the wrong side but I walk into the door. I actually walked into the door. Yep, so much for coming across as calm and cool. I immediately learn if you’re coming back for a second mammogram or have already had breast cancer you go into a different waiting room.
Once I’ve changed into the requisite hospital gown I am taken for my mammogram. This time, they take a new set of x rays in different poses than my previous mammogram. When I’m finished, I go back to the waiting room to wait for my results. Waiting seems to be the one thing that is constant when you have cancer. You wait for appointments, surgeries, treatment procedures and the worst wait of all – test results. It’s a helpless feeling, really, and for a person who likes to be in control, it’s maddening. You have no control. No power. You’re at the mercy of the lab techs, Doctors, Radiologists, nurses, and worse – your MIND.
While I’m waiting, I look around me. One thing becomes crystal clear: Cancer does not discriminate. The diversity in this waiting room astounds me. All shapes, sizes, ages and ethnic origins. All of us waiting. All of us, while very diverse from one another, are all having a similar experience. All having a mammogram for “another look”. We didn’t “pass” the first go round. It’s very quiet, no one is making conversation, all of us lost in thought. You can feel the tension. All of us hoping for a positive outcome. Even lost in my own thoughts, I feel a kinship with these women. l feel they understand me and my reality. There was something powerful in that.
My wait is up, the pathologist wants to speak with me. Great! This doesn’t look good! When I meet with the pathologist I’m told he has seen calcification deposits in my left breast. He recommends a breast biopsy. A breast biopsy? Calcifications? What? Wait a minute, a breast biopsy? Okay, I’ll be honest here – I didn’t see it coming. I truly thought I was going to be told it was nothing.
That little black cloud hovering over me is starting to get larger. This is going way too fast for me. My anxiety level just rose up a notch. This is when I lovingly refer to as the “What If Syndrome” tries to take over. Looking back on this journey I find this “syndrome” almost mentally did me in. I found myself going right to the scary scenario (God forbid I would have just said – Oh they just want another look – it’s nothing – NOooo, I had to torture myself even before I got the news). What if it’s cancer? Which then led me to: What if it’s a late stage? What if it’s spread? What if it’s in my lymph nodes? What if I have to have a mastectomy? What if I have to have chemo? What if the cancer has gone somewhere else in my body? AHHH!!!
I had to stop letting my mind run away from me. I mean, seriously Carey, they said they wanted to take a look. If I kept this up, I would have myself dead and buried. I was letting fear take over. When thinking about cancer, I never thought of the mental side of it. I find my mental body is challenged as much or more than my physical body during this journey. I really had to work at getting my mind under control. I needed to stop thinking ahead of myself. I mentally give myself a pep talk – “Get it together Carey, they just want another look – it’s probably what he said it was calcification.”
Since this was Saturday, I would need to follow up with my internist on Monday for a breast specialist recommendation. Sunday is a long day filled with nervous energy. Monday morning couldn't come soon enough! I call my internist and she recommends three breast specialists. I choose a female breast specialist, Dr. Ruark. I want someone who can relate to me, someone who truly understood the female body. It amazes me how quickly they get me an appointment. I will see her on Wednesday, April 13th. Later on, I will realize that the universe guided me to an angel.