So, about a month ago, I had a breast reduction. There will be a post about it in the future, much like my “I am a grown ass woman and I got my tonsil out” post, but this, this is not that post.
This post is about the Mammograms I had to have done before hand.
So around 40, a woman is supposed to and get her baseline Mammogram done. It’s the one they will compare all other mammograms to for future changes and signs of abnormality(cancer).
I am 42. I had not yet had my baseline done. Mostly because I just didn’t want to be bothered. So even while I knew it was important and it was time, I hadn’t yet gone. Approval for my breast reduction took forever. (4 months, with no reason given for why it had to be submitted 3 times, nor why there was a delay in verdict, thanks Carefirst BCBS, you’re a champ, like always!) So once that approval came through, it became imperative that I get off my ass and get my baseline done. Luckily, I already had the script, and I knew where I was going, so it was just a matter of calling, scheduling, and arranging it with work.
My first mammogram showed some abnormalities, likly cysts. The radiologist said it was likely fine but I should get another mammogram and an ultrasound in about 6 months. When I said “I’m getting a breast reduction in 4 weeks” he said “well, you’d better get it done before then, but give the results a week to get to your doctor” (the gyno the order had to come from not the plastic surgeon who just needed the results). So I waited a week (it was Christmas after all) and then called the gyno’s office and left a message. They called me back, and while they hadn’t gotten the results yet, they understood my urgency and faxed the new script over to the diagnostic place for me, and I immediately called them and made a new appointment for that week.
The second mammogram and ultrasound was not conclusive. While they determined that the right side was almost definately cysts (less than 2% chance otherwise) there was some asymetry in the tissue on the left side, and I’d need further mammogramming in 6 months. I reminded them, that nope, I would not, because my boobs wouldn’t be there the same way, and was told that the surgeon would have to make the call if I needed to go further along the investigative path or not.
So about a week later I see the surgeon for pre-op two weeks prior to the scheduled reduction, and while he thinks a lot of the radiologist I went to see, he said “if you were my wife, I’d want you to go see a surgeon and have them make a call on it” and gave me some names of docs he worked with previously and offered to let my chosen doc come in during the reduction, if I got the green light to proceed with the reduction, for a biopsy if it was desired. So I called that day and scheduled an appointment for two days later which was also pre-op day with my PCP. I also called to schedule a pick up of my films and ultrasound results because it turns out, NONE of my doctors had been sent them yet, not even from the first mammogram. So irritating.
PCP pre-op went fine, going to blood tests went fine, then the trek to get my films sucked, because despite calling days ahead and asking if they could have them ready Wednesday morning, they weren’t. I had to wait for them to print them all.
Then was the visit to the specialist to find out if I needed a biopsy on my left boob before all the tissue was removed or moved around in such a drastic fashion that the baseline mammogram wouldn’t really map very well to the new structure. Shmoo went with me for this one, and it was a bit of a surreal visit. There were things about this office visit that I don’t think I can blog about without sounding crazypants, so I’m going to skip them, but know that it was an adventure, and yet another man, and his two medical students got to see me half naked and poke at my boobs. Yay. Really. So thrilled at this…
But! What I was actually thrilled about was the verdict that no, it was fine, he didn’t see a need to biopsy. He agreed with the radiologist that yes there was some asymtetry and it was odd, but there was a minimal chance it was bad, and it was just oddly shaped tissue, so, carry on with the reduction.
I’m not going to lie here. I felt super relieved. Despite the crazypants office visit, I came out of that office with the verdict I wanted. I wanted the all clear for the reduction and no need to do a biopsy and that’s exactly what I got. And that he didn’t think anything on my mammogram results was an issue also lifted the worry I didn’t even acknowledge I was carrying. From the moment you hear “irregularity” and “needs more tests” when you get a mammogram, there is the worry that it could be malignant. Even when you are reassured it’s probably not, and even when you know statistically it’s probably fine, and cysts are very common, especially in large breasts, and blah blah blah. I know shmoo was also relieved at this verdict as well. We didn’t really talk about it much, because I’m not much of a talker about the things that really concern me, but I know he worries about me and my health, and this cloud of doubt wasn’t a happy event for either of us.
The week that this all happened, I was a bit numb emotionally. I was trying to get my shit together and check off all the pre-op boxes, deal with this extra “oh your results aren’t good and it might affect your reduction” mammogram stuff, as well as get ready for shmoocon, and prep at work for being out for shmoocon, then coming back into the office for 4 days before going out again for two weeks for the surgery. I felt like I was juggling everything in my life that week, and it was stressful. By the time we got the verdict of no biopsy on Wednesday, I was pretty much at my stress limit, but walking out of that office, it was a burden lifted. It was the last thing I needed to deal with and put behind me for surgery prep and I was happy to have it done.
In all of this, I realized I was very lucky about my concerns (in addition to the results!). Even if they had wanted a biopsy, and the verdict was bad, and I was going to have to get a masectomy, the need for a masectomy was not a concern for me, like it can be for many women. I wanted less boobs, and if I was unlucky enough to need to have them completely removed because of cancer, I was just going to roll with that and move on, because either way I was going to end up with less boobs. I know other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to whom the masectomy was a BIG DEAL, but for me, it was just a question of if I needed to be on additional drugs after that, and how much it would change my life to treat the diagnosis.
So there you have it, the roller coaster that was my life from Christmas to the middle of January. Now go get your mammogram if you need one and have been putting it off. It’s important.