Wednesday, January 19, 2022. I knew I would need extra imaging, but I was still annoyed nevertheless. A little part of me was hoping that maybe I would be wrong and I wouldn't need that second appointment. So on my husband Miah's birthday, when I took the phone call from the breast clinic staff and scheduled my diagnostic screening mammogram for the following day, I wasn't worried.
I had ordered a special carrot cake from Goldbelly to be delivered on Miah's birthday. This was my first time using Goldbelly's services and I spent most of my day checking the shipment tracking to make sure it arrived before Miah got home from work. It went off without a hitch! The cake surprised both of us. I told him I ordered it off the internet and he looked at me with suspicion.
"Lorie, what the heck? An internet cake? When was it baked and where did it come from?"
I explained that the site looked reputable, had good reviews from other customers, and I set it up so the cake would be baked and shipped two days earlier, on Monday. When it arrived, the cake was securely packaged with dry ice. I trusted this cake.
I also gave him a small car compass for his Mustang. I thought about buying him a fancy, custom engraved one, with some kind of cheesy, yet classic message like, "Every road led me to you." But in the end, I went with good old Farm & Fleet a couple miles from our house and bought the only one available in the store.
The cake was delicious. Dense, but not too dense. Sweet, but not too sweet. Perfect ratio of frosting to cake. Over the next 4 days, with every next bite, our opinion of that cake grew. It eventually went from, "one of the better carrot cakes" Miah had ever eaten, to "THE best ever carrot cake" he'd had the privilege to try. Here is the link for the cake. I might as well promote them, since we had such a good experience and all.
10:30 AM. Thursday, January 20, 2022. I headed for my second imaging appointment, at the breast clinic. I figured I'd get the diagnostic mammogram, and then an ultrasound, just like I'd had the previous years. The ultrasound would reveal a cyst or something benign. That's what I was expecting. However, I also knew that I hadn't done the research to really understand the risks of dense breast tissue verses non dense breast tissue. I know that something about how my Primary Care Provider had originally explained it to me had scared me, but I'm not a knowledge-seeker, that's not my soul type. So even though I feared getting breast cancer someday, I didn't do anything to understand my risks and take better preventive measures. In hindsight, this is a slight regret, but I also respect and embrace that I was doing what felt right for me - not focusing too much energy on something that may or may not happen someday. I am quite traumatized and damaged when it comes to managing my health, so staying away from learning the facts and statistics was better for me.
Technician K took me back to the mammogram room. I was familiar with this room. Something made me chatty that day, and Technician K was young and sweet. I decided to ask her if she knew how breast biopsies are performed. My gut told me that this year, I was going to need my first biopsy. I have a friend who is about 15 years older than me, who'd had a breast biopsy and it turned out to be nothing serious. I also knew from my employment in the medical device industry that most breast biopsies come back negative for cancer. So I still wasn't worried as I calmly listened to Technician K explain the procedure. I was very surprised to hear that they put you in the mammogram machine, all socked in there, and take the biopsy sample while you are in the machine. That didn't sound like a walk in the park to me. But it also didn't sound too awful either. She said that unlike a screening mammogram, where you are standing, for a mammogram-guided-biopsy they have you sitting in a chair that raises you up to the machine.
Technician K took my images, and sent them over to the radiologist to take a perusal. We sat and talked as we waited for the results. Normally I'm not constantly self-promoting my music, but I was feeling comfortable with Technician K, so I told her about The Music Tarot and gave her one of my fancy gold-foil business cards. She loved it! She said she was looking forward to finishing work that day so she could check out my only released single at the time, Just Breathe / Four of Swords.
15 minutes later, the radiologist asked for more mammogram pictures. I bellied back up to that monster of a machine and hugged it like a slow dance partner while Technician K did her thing.
"Hooo-o-ld your breath."
"Click, click, click, swoosh," the vice grip released.
She finished taking her second round of pictures and repeated the process of sending them to the doctor. We waited again. Finally, Technician K announced, "We're done! But now they want to do an ultrasound." I knew it! I am psychic!
The next hour of that visit is a little blurry in my memory. I don't remember walking to the ultrasound room, meeting the ultrasound tech, and getting situated. I do remember Doctor F coming into the dimly lit ultrasound room, taking a look, and frowning. She turned to me and said, "Unfortunately, we're going to need to biopsy this." But I still wasn't worried. I was frustrated that my troublesome and extremely dense breasts were resulting in me needing my first biopsy before I had even reached my mid-forties.
They told me to get dressed and wait for a nurse to schedule my biopsy. I texted Miah, "I need a &$*@ing biopsy!" He replied, "dang, sorry babe."
A different woman, Nurse L, took me into a new room with a big recliner-type chair. We sat down and she looked at me with kind eyes. She spoke clearly and carefully and asked me multiple times if I had any questions. She explained that the radiologist had given the findings a BI-RADS "4B" rating, which put me in a bracket of a 5-50% chance of having cancer. Doctors use the BI-RADS system to place abnormal findings into categories. Nurse L told me she hates category 4B because that is such a wide range of probability.
4B means moderate suspicion for cancer or malignant findings.
Nurse L scheduled my biopsy for the following week, on Friday January 28th at 1:00 PM. They would first attempt to obtain the sample via Stereotactic Breast Biopsy, guided by the mammogram machine. Ah ha! Another moment of psychic clarity. Technician K had already prepped me for this method. The finding was in the lower posterior part of my right breast, at the 6 o'clock position, close to my chest wall. It would be "technically challenging" to get the sample. They wanted me to be aware of a possible need to re-attempt the biopsy via Ultrasound Guided Breast Biopsy if the Stereotactic method failed.
I started feeling scared. I felt the first wrinkles of worry crease my forehead. I felt the first lump begin grow in my throat. I felt the first rush of tears threaten to fall from my eyes. My voice cracked as I said to Nurse L, "I have a huge project I'm working on - it's my life's work and I just now figured it out! I can't have cancer! I need to be alive for at least 5 more years!"
She exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, you will be alive in 5 years! This will probably be nothing!"
I then told her a little bit about my music project, and my years of past suffering. How I wouldn't be able to handle treatment if I have cancer. My anxiety rose from ground level to outer space in a matter of minutes.
The last thing Nurse L said to me that day was this, "If your biopsy turns out to be positive for cancer, I'm going to quit my job. Someone as nice and as special as you cannot get cancer."
Her words were so genuine and real. If she was willing to put her job on the line for me, someone she had just met, she must have known my biopsy would be negative. I held onto that thought for the next 2 weeks.
Here is the summary of my results later released from this day's imaging:
1:00 PM. I went home and tried to carry on with my work. I am still working from home and have been since mid-March 2020. I tried to focus on my projects, but my mind kept wandering. I sent a Teams message to one of my trusted colleagues, Calm-Witty-Experienced-Manager M. I met Calm-Witty-Experienced-Manager M about a year earlier, and she helped me overcome a pretty significant meltdown in April 2021, when one of my projects fell way off the train tracks. She helped me pick up those scattered rail cars and secure them back in place. Since then, we have become good friends, Throughout our talks. I learned that she is a cancer survivor who had gone through the treatments of chemo, radiation, and surgery and that those treatments weren't bad or scary for her. Aside from taking time off for her surgery, she was able to keep working the whole time.
So when I needed help calming down about potentially having cancer, my higher power sent me first to Calm-Witty-Experienced-Manager M. She typed a response to my message, and then called me right away. We talked and I felt better about the situation. I finished my work week and tried to enjoy my weekend. I continued recording the next song, #32, Father's Defense / The Emperor. In this song, the lyrics come from the perspective of a protective, masculine figure:
Don't worry, I got this
Settle down, it's fine
In the middle of the crazy crowd, I'll protect you
Monday, January 24, 2022. I had originally planned to drive myself to the biopsy and therefore wouldn't take anything to calm me down for the procedure. Over the weekend, I changed my mind. I was worried that the stress might set off a migraine flare up. I asked Miah if he would drive me. "Um yeah, of course I will! I already assumed I would be," he replied.
Looking back, that was the first day Miah started taking on his new role of primary support person and caregiver. Like a soldier reporting for duty, he was immediately present, instantly responsive, and unquestionably attentive. The song I had been working on recently, The Emperor, was for Miah.
I messaged my Primary Care Provider and asked for some anti-anxiety medicine.
Subject: Medicine for breast biopsy
Message: I have a breast biopsy coming up this Fri 1/28. Could I please get some clonazepam to take for the procedure? I've not had this procedure before and it sounds technically challenging based on where they need to get the sample from; I am nervous that they will hit my chest wall or puncture a lung.
A few hours later, a quantity of ten 1-mg clonazepam tablets were ready for me to pickup at my pharmacy. I thought, "I wonder why she gave me ten? I only have one biopsy procedure scheduled."
Was my PCP also psychic?
End of 3 – Diagnostic Mammogram & Breast Ultrasound