Friday, October 5, 2012

X Marks the Spot

     If you are just stopping in, this is the sixth post in my 31 Day Series:  I Wear Pink.  Join me as I share my breast cancer journey.  You can find the previous posts here

Day 6:   

      The nurses at the health center are some of the best hand holders around.  I know this is true because, the nurse managed with one hand to hold mine, and with the other to maneuver the ultrasound wand according to the radiologist's instructions during my biopsy.  I might have been a little nervous.  I'm sure she got feeling back in her fingers in a week or so.
     There are several different types of biopsies performed.  The one ordered for me was a vacuum-assisted core biopsy.  I was given a few injections of a local anesthetic to numb the area.  Then a small incision was made in order to insert a probe.  The probe cuts tissue and then vacuums the tissue up.  This way several samples of the tumor can be taken without removing the probe.  The ultrasound image helps to guide the radiologist to the right place.  It wasn't painful after the initial injections, but I did feel tugging and pulling.  
     I had been told that it would take about an hour.  It took two.  The way it was later explained to me is that a tumor can have a slightly slippery surface, kind of like a pumpkin seed.  This causes it to skate away from the tip of the probe.  I have to give the radiologist credit.  She was determined to get samples of the tumor and persevered until she was successful.  At the time, I just wanted it to be over.  Later, I was grateful that the samples she had taken provided me with the diagnosis.
     Eventually, the samples were obtained and a tiny metal clip was placed.  Like the X on a treasure map, the clip marks the site of the biopsy.  If there is a carcinoma, the clip will guide the surgeon to the cancer and be removed with it.  If the biopsy does not show cancer, it is safely left in place and will be visible on future mammograms.  I understand that the clips are made of titanium and are about the size of a sesame seed.  They do not set off metal detectors in airports.  Regrettably, I did not have the opportunity to test that out.
     Finally, the samples were taken and the clip placed.  The incision was closed with steri strips and pressure.  It did not require stitches.  I was so ready to leave, but no, there was more.  I needed yet another mammogram.  My poor breast had been poked with needles, cut, had a probe inserted for hours, vacuumed from the inside, and decorated with a clip.  I knew I would be bruised and swollen.  The last thing I wanted anyone to do was squish it between the cold plates of the mammogram machine.  Fortunately, it wasn't terrible.  Not comfortable, but not more painful than an ordinary mammogram.  Perhaps the anesthetic helped.
     In the waiting room, I found my son, Patrick, snoring peacefully draped across the couch next to the fish tank.   He had worked the night shift and then taken me for the biopsy.  The poor guy was exhausted.  The receptionist laughed when I woke him.  She said, "We wondered who he belonged to."  Large snoring males in a waiting room are likely not good for business.
     When I got home, I took medication for the pain and placed an ice pack on my injured breast.  I took the remainder of the week off of school.  Now came the hardest part - waiting for the results.
     I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
       and in his word I put my hope.
    I wait for the Lord
       more than watchmen wait for the morning.  ~Psalm 130:5-6
     I do not like to wait.  Do you?
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