I went in yesterday to the UCSF (real) mammogram office. After 5 years, it seems, they downgrade you to a lesser machine across the street on Sutter. The quality of the mammogram is evidently enough to just spot something, but not know what the heck it is, and for that, we need you to come back and get a (real) mammogram.
The Russian lady (that I have SPECIFICALLY asked to NOT have, EVER AGAIN) is so brutal and once you start screaming, she only tightens the machine one and a half more cranks…such that, a few years ago, I remember screaming early…NOW, she doesn’t release you right away (as other mammogram techs do.) Usually, they get the image, and hit the release button ASAP. But this one, she gets the image, tells you to breathe, waits a full 15-30 seconds until you scream again, or buckle at the knees.
I was afraid if I fainted from the pain that my left breast would be the only thing holding me up off the floor, it was squeezed THAT tightly.
I get dismissed, to wait in the post-waiting room…the same room where you leave your things in the little locker cubby, and wait for them to call you with the flimsy little robe on. A room full of women, in varying degrees of aging—the youngest I’ve seen could barely be 22, the oldest, well…they do get up there in age.
My Russian Sadist comes out to tell me that the “DoctR wld lk MR imges” So, from ONE more image, she says “FEW” as we’re heading back to her high-tech dungeon.
After putting the smaller paddle on (now it’s not the square dinner plate sized vise, it’s the spatula sized one that can generate more pressure—I took physics, bitch…I know what you’re doing) As she’s putting me into the machine (I’m not sure what hurts more, her groping hands and the tugging and pulling, or the machine) she says the doctor wanted more pressure—sure, why not?
After two images, she says to wait for the doctor to read them (“to see if she needs me to inflict more pain on you” is implied.)
So, the Radiologist (this is a 29 year old MD, usually) comes in to tell me that they saw some calcification, and takes about 10 minutes to explain that this could be, maybe, we think, sometimes due to FAT NECROSIS from injury, such as a surgical scar.
I’m numb, all day. I am thinking of the job I just resigned from, how I won’t qualify for disability should this be cancer again, how I can’t imagine going through all this again, how I probably should have gotten the mastectomy, but wait—if I had…would this be metastatic disease? Are the breasts a sort of canary in the coal mine of cancer? I get here and I’m subjected to this Russian pain monger and they think, maybe, possibly, sometimes, probably, likely it’s nothing to worry about.
For the first time, I look at her, and she says “oh, I was wondering if you were hearing me…”
I nod. I hear you—what I hear is you don’t know. What I hear is that you wanted to be a hero—to come in and tell me “it’s not cancer” (though, you didn’t) and you wanted to feed off my jubilance when I jump up and hug you, as if I had had cancer, and you took it away—right?
First, I’m a nurse, and I know how you MDs are—glory hungry. You’re all seeking validation for what heroes you are. In reality, you’re only following practice guidelines as all of us are; it’s just your job to give good and bad news.
What I heard was that I dodged a bullet—maybe, possibly, this time.
But, after all the emotional ups, downs, worry, not sleeping, making plans, saying goodbye to my life and husband in my mind, seeing him grow old alone over the span of 12 hours since you called me back to have more mammograms because there was something on my mammogram…the mental hell and back I’ve been to, and you want me to rejoice?
I’m aware that I’m still in a mine-field. And as with anything, it’s all in perspective. If I’m lucky enough to live long enough, I will be subjected to many similar sorts of “we think” “maybe” “possibly” couldbelikelyprobablies in the future.
Unless I start riding a motorcycle without a helmet, this is probably the way it’s going to go, until the maybeprobablies go away and it’s “I’m sorry” as it was with my mom.
Sometimes it sucks knowing so much.