Yak Attack

A place to unwind and spend some time yakking.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My friend D.

I saw my friend D. yesterday. We've been trying to arrange going on a hike together, but our schedules have been conflicting so it hasn't materialized. While we chatted about our schedules, she casually mentioned she went to the doctor for a physical and a mammogram-- and that she had to go back for a second mammogram. She didn't know why; the radiologist didn't tell her the reason for the return visit.

D. smoothed right over the subject. It entered our conversation, and then she tried to let it slip quietly away. I asked when she'd know her results from the second mammogram. She said her doctor was supposed to get the results yesterday afternoon, and that she'd call this morning to get the whole story. The biggest nod she gave to her concern was, "I'm making plans here; I don't have time for this."

This woman amazes me. She's my mentor. No matter how tough life is around her, she's got a smile on her face and an upbeat attitude. She hasn't always been this way, either. Becoming the woman she is today has been a process, a conscious choice on her part. A year ago, she and I started to get to know each other better, and I realized we had quite a bit in common. We've lived through some of the same situations. We've had to make some of the same difficult decisions. I was participating in a writing program at the time, and I decided to write a personal narrative on using humor to overcome abuse. I asked her if she'd let me interview her, and she graciously complied with my request. Our interview, over two hours in length, awed and inspired me.

I know D. must be quaking on the inside over this mammogram deal. I've been there myself, three years ago. When I was 35, I went in to have a baseline mammogram. Back then, I even debated whether to actually do it-- there's conflicting medical opinion about the pros and cons of exposing yourself to the radiation of the mammogram, versus the benefits of possible early detection of breast cancer. I gave myself a kick in the ass, and went in for the appointment.

The radiologist found something. Breast cancer is this funky, star-shaped doodad when viewed in a mammogram. There's also something called a radial scar, which is a benign growth-- however, it looks just like breast cancer on a mammogram. So, I got the talk. "It's probably a radial scar. You are quite young for breast cancer. However, we need to find out what it is, and the sooner, the better." See, that's what's puzzling me; when my radiologist found something, he talked to me right away. I'm taking hope in this-- that the cavalier attitude D.'s medical team is taking is due to a mistake in the film, maybe bad pictures.

I was a mess during the whole process, from the first talk my radiologist had with me until 3 days after I went through surgery. I had to go in for a core biopsy, and for breast tissue the procedure is both freaky and humiliating. You have to lay on your stomach on a table and, I shit you not, stick your breast through a hole in the table. The doctor isolates it and then numbs the area that will be biopsied. Wires are inserted into the locations the doctor wants to take samples from, and then this little punch tool is used to punch out tissue samples. Then, a metal marker is inserted, so your surgeon can find the location of the area to be removed. And even though you've been through all this stuff, you have to have another mammogram before you leave the office, to verify the marker is visible and in the right location.

Why the marker? Well, you're going to have surgery either way, because if you leave in a radial scar, chances are that the breast will develop cancer at a later date. What the biospy tells your doctor is if there's any preliminary signs of cancer. No cancer in the biospy means less tissue will be removed during surgery. And even after you have the surgery, you have to wait for the growth's core to be biopsied, to be 100% sure no cancer was in it.

I understand what D. means when she said she'd got plans and doesn't have time for this. Going through the weeks of procedure, wait, procedure, wait; it takes a bite out of your life. Tee is a year older than her youngest child. She's enjoying life; she's built , from the ground up, a successful career in the last few years. Her husband and she have started to travel a bit. One of her kids is close to entering college.

I'm hoping that everything is fine, that D.'s pictures were just bad, so they needed to be retaken. She deserves to enjoy life; after what she's been through, can't she have a few years off?


Post a Comment

<< Home