RECEPTIONIST: Hi this is Nancy at Willow Hospital, I’m calling about your recent mammogram.
Insert stomach in throat.
RECEPTIONIST: We need you to come back in for a repeat mammogram. Let’s see, we don’t have any openings today. Let me look at Monday.
Trying not to freak out.
ME: Can you tell me why?
RECEPTIONIST: The doctor saw some asymmetrical breast tissue on your left breast that looks different than last year.
RECEPTIONIST: We can see you Monday at 12:45.
ME: Wait, tell me again. Why am I coming in?
Because my brain has basically lost all function at this point and I didn’t hear anything you just said.
RECEPTIONIST: The doctor saw some asymmetrical breast tissue on your left breast that she wants to look at more closely.
ME: Are there any openings today?
Because 12:45 on Monday is like 72 hours away and I’m going to be shitting bricks and scared out of my mind until then.
RECEPTIONIST: Nope, sorry, all filled up today. Does Monday at 12:45 work?
Nooooo, no it doesn’t. Couldn’t you have just called me at 12:40 on Monday and told me to drive right over because I am NOT good at waiting. Especially when I feel like I’m waiting to find out whether I’m going to live or die.
RECEPTIONIST: And I’ll also go ahead and schedule an ultrasound at 1:00 in case they need to do that too.
Wait, do you do that for everyone? Or are you just doing this for me because you think it’s going to be bad news?
RECEPTIONIST: Okay, call this number to pre-register and blah blah blah blah blah.
(we hang up)
What just happened? I need to process this. Oh my God, I might have breast cancer. My grandmother died of breast cancer at 49. One of my best friends had it in her early thirties. And now I might have it. This cannot be happening. I have to talk to my husband right away. But I can’t right now because Holden is getting his haircut and I’m in the middle of a kids’ hair salon and everyone will hear me.
HOLDEN: Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.
ME: What honey? Oh, look at your haircut, you look so handsome.
This can’t be happening.
HOLDEN: Can I have a lollipop?
(twenty minutes later)
HUBBY: Hi, what’s up?
ME: I just got a call and I have to go in to get a repeat mammogram Monday.
Shit, maybe I should have told him in person tonight. Maybe I shouldn’t have just blurted it out. I don’t know why but I needed to tell him right away so he could tell me it’s probably just a false alarm.
GREG: That’s not good. Why?
ME: The doctor saw something on the first one. Asymmetrical breast tissue on my left breast.
GREG: What’s that?
ME: I don’t know. But she said it looks different than last year. Hopefully they’re just checking.
GREG: I’m sure that’s it. They’re extra careful these days.
That’s what I needed to hear. Deep breath out. Don’t freak out yet.
(three hours later staring at my boobs in the mirror)
Wait, is my left one bigger? I can’t tell. I don’t think so. But isn’t my left one usually a little smaller than my right, and now it looks the same. Oh shit.
(five hours later)
HOLDEN: I want Daddy to put me to sleep.
ZOEY: Nooo, I want Daddy.
HOLDEN: No, I doooo!
Seriously guys? Can’t you just pick me tonight? Please. I really really need to hug and kiss you guys a lot because I might have breast cancer and then I’ll have to get all sorts of stuff done to my chest and I won’t be able to hug you for a while and I might even die and then Daddy will be putting you to bed every night, so I’d really like to tonight.
But A. They don’t know I might have breast cancer. And B. Even if they did know they might still pick Daddy tonight.
(the next day)
Wow, this is so weird. I can’t believe I’m walking around and acting all normal but I might have breast cancer.
Dear God, please, pleeeeeeease, I know I like never pray to you and I forget all the time, but please let it be nothing tomorrow. Please let it be that the technician made a mistake.
ME: I’m really scared.
HUBBY: It’s going to be okay. I love you.
(Monday at 12:45)
RECEPTIONIST: Put this gown on with the opening in the front and when you’re ready wait in the chairs.
ME: Thank you.
It’s going to be nothing. It’s going to be nothing. It’s going to be nothing. It’s going to be nothing. It’s going to be nothing. It’s going to be nothing.
But what if it’s not?
ME: That’s me.
TECHNICIAN: Come with me in here.
She takes me into an exam room, sets some stuff up and examines something on a screen while I wait. And wait and think and wait and think. And then I can’t help but ask.
ME: Can you see what the doctor saw?
TECHNICIAN: Yes. Do you want to see?
I don’t know, do I? I walk over.
TECHNICIAN: See this spot here?
TECHNICIAN: And this one.
There’s more than one?
TECHNICIAN: And right here. And here.
Wait, four spots? FOUR?!!! That looks bad. I mean I had a mammogram last year so how are there four new spots since then? Does that mean it’s growing and spreading really quickly. Oh my God, I can’t breathe.
TECHNICIAN: Okay, step over here. This is going to be uncomfortable.
ME: Do whatever you need to do.
I have two kids so let’s not mess around. You do WHATEVER you have to do.
TECHNICIAN: Okay, this is going to be tight. Now hold your breath.
Shoot, I wish I took a deeper breath before she told me to hold it.
TECHNICIAN: Okay, you can breathe again.
Lady, I won’t be able to breathe again until you tell me everything looks clear and I don’t have to get an ultrasound after this.
ME: Can you tell anything?
TECHNICIAN: I can’t tell.
Wait, does that mean she’s not ABLE to tell because she doesn’t know how to read the images or does that mean she CAN’T tell me because she’s legally not allowed to say anything bad? Shit, why did I ask?
TECHNICIAN: Okay, all done. Come wait in the waiting area again and someone will come get you if you need an ultrasound.
(Two minutes later)
Aggghhhh, all these people are sitting in here chit-chatting and I want to punch them in the face!!! I might have cancer and you guys are talking about The Bachelorette. Are you kidding me? Shuuuuttttt upppppp!!!
NURSE: Okay, come into this room and lie on the table.
Wait, what? I have to get an ultrasound? You’re supposed to say it’s nothing. That the technician made a mistake on the first mammogram. This is bad. Oh God, here come the tears.
ME: When do I get to talk to the doctor?
NURSE: She’ll be in in a minute to do the ultrasound.
Wait, does the doctor always do it or does this mean she’s really concerned? Someone tell me something!!!
DOCTOR: Hello, Karen. I’m Dr. You’re Screwed.
ME: Is it bad?
DOCTOR: Let’s just take a look.
(9,000 seconds later, not really but that’s what it feels like)
ME: Can you tell anything?
DOCTOR: Have you ever had cysts before?
ME: No. Never.
DOCTOR: See, look at this black area. It’s just a cyst.
ME: That’s good, right?
DOCTOR: Yup, all good.
ME: All of them?
DOCTOR: Nothing to worry about blah blah blah blah blah, medical gobbledy goop. It was nice meeting you.
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, I’m okay, I’m okay!!!!!! Oh thank God it’s good news!
(Ten minutes later)
TEXT TO HUBBY: All is good!!!!
REPLY FROM HUBBY: That is awesome. I love you.
(Eight hours later as I’m getting ready for bed)
ME: This day could have been so much worse. Think about all the people who found out today they have cancer.
HUBBY: I know.
ME: That could have been me.
HUBBY: But it wasn’t.
ME: But it could have been.
HUBBY: But it wasn’t.
ME: You’re right.
HUBBY: I usually am.
ME: (eye roll)
This happened to me last week and I debated whether to share it with you or not. I mean it’s super personal, plus I know lots of people (over 500 a day) get the bad news that they have breast cancer and I’m not trying to rub it in that my results were good. But I learned a lot from this:
1. Getting a mammogram every year is super important because whether they’re cysts or something else, a lot can change a lot in 365 days.
2. If you are called back for a repeat mammogram, there’s a good chance it’s not a big deal so don’t freak out (like I did), or at least try not to.
3. And God forbid it is cancer, early detection is HUGE. Do not wait because you’re scared of what the results might be.
4. Don’t take anything for granted. Love and hug your kids every day. I mean maybe not when they’re being annoying douchenuggets, but you know, when they’re not.
(2015 update: I got called back again this year, but this time they saw something that was 1.5 centimeters in my left breast. I was scared shitless. Luckily this year I had my mammogram on a Monday so I didn’t have to wait a lonnnng excruciating weekend. I will ALWAYS schedule it for a Monday from now on. The doctor checked it and after the longest thirty seconds of my life, he told me it was a cyst again. Thank God. And then I reached up and grabbed his chest because I was so relieved. And then I apologized for grabbing his chest and explained that it was my way of hugging him since I couldn’t actually hug him since I was lying topless on the table with warm goop all over my boob. Needless to say, it was awkward. But I’ll take awkward any day over getting bad news. And next year if they call me back again, I’ll be a little less scared. But not really.)
(2016 update: I’m not gonna even say because I’ll sound like a broken record.)
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