How It All Started – Part 2: The Waiting Game

After first finding the lumps in my breast and under my arm, things seemed to happen very quickly, yet very slowly, all at the same time.  I had to wait for my mammogram appointment, then I had to wait for the radiologist to read the films, then I had to wait for them to compare the films with the ultrasound….and on and on.  It seemed like every time I had a test or was waiting for a result, it fell over a weekend or a holiday, so the waiting was prolonged.  I finally was told that I needed a biopsy.  I didn’t even know who to call for such a thing.  I called my primary doctor, who recommended someone.  Their office said they could give me an appointment in 3 weeks – 3 weeks!  What if I was dying of cancer, was what my mind was screaming.  I called back my primary and got another referral. This doctor could see me in a week to see if I actually needed a biopsy (which I thought had already been established).  When I went for the visit, they couldn’t read the discs I had brought from the imaging center because of some computer non-compatibility issue but did their own ultrasound.  It was determined that, yes, I did need a biopsy.  It was scheduled for the following week when, bad timing, my partner had to go out of town for a conference.  I asked my sister-in-law to go with me.  I was quietly terrified.

I remember laying on the table waiting for my biopsy. Every cell in my body was screaming for me to get up off the table and run out of the building. My cells knew something I didn’t.  The procedure did not go smoothly and the doctor needed to give me 3 additional shots to numb me after he had started and to take care of the pain.  I remember feeling him actually ripping through my skin and tissue.  I was told at a later biopsy that I never should have felt any of that.  I made it through the procedure and tried not to think too much about the possible results for the next few days.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long.  My follow up appointment was 3 days later.  My partner was still out of town, so I once again brought my sister-in-law with me.  We waited and waited until there was no one left in the waiting room.  We were the last to be called in.  When the doctor finally came in, he said the words I had been dreading – “unfortunately your biopsy showed cancer cells” and then launched into a very confusing discussion about radiation, ports, chemotherapy and surgery.  He recommended I have a lumpectomy and then arrange for further tests like an MRI, PET scan, etc.  I thought the tests should be first, but I was too shocked to argue.  I agreed to the lumpectomy and was told it was too late to schedule anything since it was after 5pm and that the doctor’s office would call me the next day with arrangements.  This time, the waiting worked in my favor.  The doctor never called me the next day and, honestly, I was too scared to call them.  I finally worked up the nerve to call them the following day, but the scheduler was not available and I had to leave a message.  They then closed early later that day because it was Good Friday, and no one ever called me back.  That gave me time to think over the weekend and talk to some friends to get some advice.  I didn’t feel comfortable with how things were progressing and thought the lumpectomy was happening too fast.  That Monday, I took the initiative and called a Cancer Center at a local hospital and asked them what the normal procedure was after having a biopsy that showed cancer cells.  They told me to fax over my pathology report and they reviewed it for me. They recommended I come in and speak with an Oncologist first before I did anything else. I called back my surgeon and told them I would not be having the lumpectomy after all.  As it turned out, that was one of the best decisions I made, because I had multiple tumors and a lumpectomy would not have been the appropriate treatment option for me.  This was just the beginning of a very long and scary journey, which I still couldn’t believe was happening to me.

Next, Part 3 – Second Opinions and Sea Cucumbers






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