Last Spring 2011, I had a second surprise biopsy after the doctors reviewed my MRI. Even though I brought a friend with me, they wouldn’t let me have anyone in the examination room while I had the procedure done. The doctor offered for me to hold Landau’s hand while she collected another sample from the second tumour on my breast. Poor Landau. She had seen my name on the chart that day and because she remembered me from a couple of weeks before she specifically took me on again. At the second biopsy, I wasn’t as accommodating as my first. I tried to convince the Radiology doctor the second lump was not cancer and only a lumpy breast. She kept on telling me there were many spots other than the two lumps she could not tell from the MRI alone and needed to make sure by testing the second lump.
To convince me, we needed another biopsy, she showed me my MRI on another computer screen. By moving her mouse I saw a white outline, section by section, of my head to my chest, as how my body moved through the MRI. The doctor slowed the mouse down as the visual came towards my breast mounds. It felt like riding a roller coaster as we watched moving through the white outline my neck and pausing at the base of my chest where my breasts began to slope up. We approached uphill slowly, slowly, saw a small white mass on the black screen, on the side of the breast near my arm… That’s okay, it’s still small enough to be a lumpectomy I remember thinking to myself. I just need to convince Dr. C to do two lumpectomies even though Dr. C was adamant this would not be the case if this biopsy came back as malignant. The ride moved up to my nipples, and just like any thrilling roller coaster ride this one did not fail to scare at the denouement. My jaw dropped as I rode past the nipples and down the mound of my breast into a constellation of white sparks which covered the bottom half of my cancer filled breast. A larger white mass, the lump I found, sat on the other side of my breast. The radiology doctor made me notice how “quiet” my other breast was, it was black as night, not one spark. This was what she was trying to figure out. Why so many sparks on one breast and not the other? Were all the sparks cancer? Were they just calcifications? She had so many questions to answer. She told me her job to me was to prove it was not cancer. I knew then, from what I saw, no matter how much I fought the doctors, there was no way they would let me keep my breast.
So, there I was squirming, holding Landau’s hand, gripping it, as I would while hanging on for dear life riding down the steepest wooden rollercoaster, as I let the Radiologist pierce through my breast a second time…
“Oh, hey there! Is Landau working today? I’d like to have Landau as my radiology tech today if it’s at all possible!” I said to the Medical Imaging receptionist.
At the beginning of a fresh 2012, I had my second mammogram ever and my first ultrasound for my remaining breast. Already the receptionist was taken aback at my requesting a specific radiology tech. She said Landau was upstairs and I should get there by following the yellow line from the elevator to the Breast Imaging waiting room. In the elevator, I texted Natalie on the specifics of where I would be. She would meet me at the end of both appointments and at the end of any surprise biopsy, should they spring one on me.
Natalie wasn’t aware of my lump either. I chose not to say anything about it to everyone because I didn’t want to think about what it would mean, especially over the holidays. I had just finished chemo and there was no way I could anticipate going back for more treatments, if it came to that. Let alone the implications to do radiation should this lump require a lumpectomy or another mastectomy. This was not even factoring in breast reconstruction logistics. It was a huge headache, all over again. I was scared, I was pissed, I was really disappointed. It would have broken me to have to tell everyone there was a possibility I would have to do this, all over again. Yep, the best thing was not to talk about it, no matter how much this was killing me.
Landau smiled when she came into the waiting room to call on me. I was happy to see her as I followed her into the Mammogram room feeling a little bit nervous. She asked me to point out where the lump was on my breast. I felt around the crease underneath my boob and had a bit of a hard time finding the lump but eventually settled on a bump. Landau placed a sticker on the site and began to position me in front of the machine and squeezed my breast between two plates. I held still while she ran over to the computer to record the image. She repositioned me a couple of more times and asked me to go back to the waiting area while she found a radiologist to look at the images.
In the waiting area, I started texting to Natalie to get here sooner than later as I was starting to panic. Everything was familiar again which was not settling well with me. Landau came by a few minutes later, as I was furiously texting, and maybe she sensed I was nervous because she told me she was still waiting to see the radiologist. She explained it was just their protocol, the radiologist has to see all the mammograms before proceeding onto the ultrasound. Upon hearing this I was able to breathe a little more normally and eased up on the texting.
We got the okay to move along to the Ultrasound room. I laid down on the examination table beside the computer. Landau placed a bed sheet over me to keep me warm and then excused herself to get more blankets. I looked around the room. It was just the way I remembered it. A little disheveled, reminiscent of somewhere between the likes a storage room and a broom closet with expensive ultrasound equipment. A mish-mash kind of hospital room where my two biopsies took place. Landau returned carrying a stack of blankets and towels which she placed under a shelf by the far wall. My eyes zeroed in on the towels! Why do we need towels in here for?!! My heart raced a little faster but I remained calm, if not a little high-pitched in my voice, when I asked Landau straight up, “Are we doing a biopsy today?!!” She looked up and said no, there would be no biopsy for me. She clued in and smiled, informing me the mammogram looked great, actually.
Relieved with this news we began the ultrasound. I asked her if it was common for women to have a malignant lump so soon after chemo. She said no, the only times she would see it was when they were older women in their 70’s or 80’s. She assured me it was probably a cyst, as they did not see anything alarming in the mammogram. When I asked her if she saw a lot of women with reconstructed breasts, Landau became animated. She told me a lot of the times she could not tell which breasts were real or not. Filling out the info form before each visit, sometimes is her only guide for her to differentiate around the real and reconstructed breasts. Unsolicited from me, and based on what she saw with my skin and my mound, Landau gave me a thumbs up on the start of my reconstruction. I appreciated her approval knowing she saw an assortment of breasts, breast reconstructions done by plenty surgeons, everyday and was probably the best candidate to give me an honest answer about my breast reconstruction progress.
I reached over at the spot where the sticker was to show her exactly where the lump was again. However, while lying down I realized the lump wasn’t in the place where I had put the sticker. I showed Landau, I made a mistake during the mammogram, where the lump was. She glided the wand over to the new position. We looked at the screen and both of us became silent.
I gulped. With my quiet voice, I asked, “With this black hole we’re looking at, do we need to disregard everything you just told me about how great my mammogram was?” Landau said, “No.” How could she tell? I asked. She explained, the hole was black, indicating it was filled with water, which essentially made what we were looking at, a cyst.
It was good.
Landau gave me the low-down but I was still to wait to talk to Dr. C to give me the official word. I got the official word today. It was a cyst!
Everything is still good.