Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fun with needles

My update on facebook was pretty brief, so I thought I'd give more of the details.

So yesterday I went in for my follow-up mammogram. They told me they would start with getting the magnified images, and only do an ultrasound if they felt like they needed it. They took several pictures, squishing me in super tight, then had me wait while they looked at them. Ten minutes later, the ultrasound tech came and got me to do the ultrasound. This was painless and pretty quick, but she had me wait there while she went to get the doctor so he could take a look. As it turned out, the doctor and I know each other from dance. He was super kind...but then, pretty much everyone I've run into at Sutter has been.

He ran the ultrasound wand over me himself and said that the asymmetry and dense tissue they saw doesn't seem to be concerning. He told me to get dressed and we would talk about the calcifications. I did so, and in his office he showed me the mammogram pictures, including the ones from last year. There was clearly an increase in the number of calcifications (which are really, really tiny) since last year, which  he said is a concern. He also said the fact that they are clustered, rather than randomly scattered, is sometimes indicative of cancer but not necessarily. About 75% of calcifications are benign, but since I'm high risk, he wanted to biopsy it. He did say that there was no rush and I could do it at my convenience. I asked if we could do it that day, so they worked me in and did it. I'm going to drive myself crazy until I know, so no reason to wait.

Last year, they tried to biopsy this same spot, but because of its location at the bottom near the chest wall, they couldn't get to them and decided I'd been through so much with the biopsy on the other side (it was painful, they drained fluid, etc) and there was little concern about the calcifications at that time, they decided to just keep an eye on them. So, again this year they had a hard time getting to them and finally decided to go at it from the top of the breast, meaning a longer route to get to the tissue they needed to sample. Why do I have to make everything difficult? It was a good 10 minutes of one painful position after another before they finally came to this conclusion. The tech felt bad and I know she was trying her best, but it was not fun.

They did numb me, so there was only mild discomfort for most of it. There were a couple points when the needle was deep inside that there was some pinching and it was pretty unpleasant for a few seconds here and there. The doctor put in more anesthetic, but then decided they had enough samples and wrapped it up. They had me ice for about 10 minutes, then took a few more mammogram pictures (gentle this time) to document the metal marker he'd left inside to mark the biopsy site, and I was done. They will send results to my oncologist, and I should hear back Tuesday or so. I'm still a little sore.

It took all day to get all that done, and when we finally got home, we soon noticed that my 17-year-old cat Isis, who seemed fine in the morning, was acting very odd. She probably had a stroke or a blood clot or something, but in any case her condition quickly worsened and we took her to the vet knowing that in all likelihood we would not bring her home--and we were right. I didn't want her to suffer, and after talking it over with the vet, we decided to let her go. I think this was quite possibly the saddest day of my life. That cat and I went through a lot together, and she was a stalwart friend.

In general, I'm having a really hard time of it, physically and emotionally. They told me this might happen--that when the fighting was over, the enormity of it all would hit me and I might become depressed. I thought I'd escape it because I'm so strong and smart and blah blah blah, but it's hitting me harder and harder every day. All that I've lost, and how hard it is to get back. The fear of that biopsy coming back positive for cancer. The pain. Getting exhausted so easily. At physical therapy on Thursday, he told me I'm not stretching enough--I need to do each exercise three times, three times per day (so nine times per day), and I was only doing each one once, often only twice per day. They're painful. So by the time the ten minutes of torture is finally done, I'm a wreck. I feel like I have no tolerance any more. It's all I can do to get my work done, and I'm pretty sure i'm doing a shoddy job of it.

As always, Michael is my rock. I've soaked more of his shirts in tears than I can count. He understands me like few people do, and he offers perspective and comfort and lets me talk, but in the end I just have live through it and keep taking steps toward it being better. It's hard. I'll take all the love I can get, my friends.

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