PROJECT: 05-DJC:174.9

This is Deirdre's Breast Cancer Diary. I try to update this blog at least every evening. This is an easy way for me to keep a journal of the experience, and at the same time, I can keep my friends and family up-to-date on what is going on. I find it is not so bad to have cancer, but it is awfully depressing to talk about it. I hope you laugh as you read along. You can find the beginning in February ...in the archives. Thanks again for reading :o)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Regarding Mammograms

1) My first mammogram (a few years ago):
(Screening mammogram) You park the car, you go in, you check in with the receptionist, you fill out one or two forms. After just a short wait, one of the technicians calls in and out of the reception area, you change out of your top and into a gown in a small private stall, and then you are brought into a room where your breasts will be imaged by the xray machine. I was quite a bit uncomfortable with someone touching my breasts. The nice technician lines you up at the machine and places your breast on the glass. Under the technician's control, the machine brings down another sheet of glass until your breast is as squished as it can get. If the tech doesn't get a good image (breast too large to fit on the film cartridge, patient moved while the image was being captured, etc.) , the process is repeated. This is done for both breasts. Then you're done. You put your own top back on, and you will get a call from your doctor the next day with the results. Results are "negative" (for anything suspicious).
I remember the ladies I worked with at that time telling me how they hated getting a mammogram because it hurt so much. They said that their breast was squeezed soooo hard that it hurt very much. I didn't think it hurt at all, though. Yes, the procedure was the same for all of us, but it didn't hurt me like they had warned me it would. As a matter of fact, I used to joke about it to them. I'd say, "I always did like my breasts squeezed..." They would laugh.
2) My second mammogram (in February 2005):
(Screening mammogram -that's what they call them when they are certain there is a lump) Procedure might be the same as the first experience, but it didn't seem like it. It may have been due to the circumstances surrounding my exam. Hello! The differences in this experience from the first - a.) the receptionist must have given me about 12 pages to read and sign/complete. (thanks to the new laws regarding patient privacy, I guess) b.) waiting for one of the technicians to rescue me from the waiting room felt like forever. c.) I still felt a little uncomfortable with the technician touching my breasts but you just have to get it done, right? d.) ultrasound is included for a diagnostic mammogram, and I had never had an ultrasound of my breast before. e.) different results this time. (Suspicious for Invasive Breast Cancer or "Invasive Ductal Carcinoma") And, I didn't have to wait a day for the results - I got a phone call from my doctor 30 minutes after the exam asking me to come to see her at her office as soon as I could.
This time around, I was afraid the mammogram would hurt because of the lump, but it did not. The ultrasound, however, hurt like crazy.
3) My third mammogram (last week):
(Diagnostic follow-up based on PET Scan concern) I am now an expert at completing medical forms. Nothing much bothered me about the waiting room - I have learned not to sweat the small stuff. I am no longer shy about having medical personnel touch my breasts. As a matter of fact, I have to be careful because now it is a natural reflex for me to remove my top and bra when I go to a medical building, even though one of my visits was to a dermatologist...and I was there for my foot. If I had a dollar for every time someone in scrubs or a lab coat touched my breasts this year, I'd be a rich woman. Still waiting for the results of this exam.
I was in so much pain for this mammogram. I mean, YOWEE! Oh my goodness, it did hurt. It didn't hurt much at all on my right breast, but the left breast imaging was excruciating, and it was because of the scar tissue in that breast. The technician told me that I could count on it to hurt that much every time from now on in that breast. Doesn't that just suck?
Before my diagnosis - in 2004:
I never looked forward to routine check-ups in the doctor's office. I knew about monthly self-exams, but I didn't check my breasts. I kind of avoided checking them. I kind of avoided the doctors' office, too. I was not yet 40 years old so I wasn't on schedule for yearly mammograms yet. Yes, I knew a little about breast cancer - we are all inundated with pink ribbon stuff every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, aren't we? We raise money for breast cancer reseach in the hopes of finding a cure - we see pictures of smiling bald women who are "beating cancer" - they are "survivors". We hear stories of advancements in medicine and unbelieveable survival rates for people with breast cancer.
Now after I have completed treatment for breast cancer - November 2005:
Now, I look forward to my doctor appointments. And now I check my breasts REGULARLY. I was nervous about getting screening mammograms once a year, and now I will have to have a mammogram every six months. I really know about breast cancer now. And now, even when it is not October, I see the face of breast cancer. I see it every time I visit the chemotherapy infusion center, I see it at breast cancer support group, and I see it everyday in the mirror.
If I had known in 2004 what I know now, you wouldn't be reading this blog.
Mammograms can be uncomfortable to say the least. But you have to get them - you just have to. Once a year, that's it! Do it.
Giving yourself a monthly breast self-exam may make you nervous the first time. But keep it up, and you'll get to know your body.
If you need any further motivation to get your mammogram and to perform your self-exams, try picturing yourself with no hair on your head.

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