One of the benefits of working for a large-ish company is we have lots of perks that I never had when working at ad agencies. A couple weeks ago the Spectrum Health Betty Ford Breast Cancer Bus paid us a visit so I bit the bullet and scheduled my first mammogram.
Wheee! Can you feel the fun? My facebook friends were out in full force sharing stories about getting their boobs squished, as well as several breast cancer survivors high-fiving me for having it done. Since this was my first squish — more commonly known as a baseline scan — I had NO idea what to expect.
It was really uncomfortable, but even the tightest moments didn’t last too long, and within 20 minutes I was back at my desk looking forward to our final softball game of the season (I finally caught a ball for an out!). Then a week later, as I looked forward to getting the new iPhone 5C (it rocks), I got a call that’s made the past five days beyond stressful.
Apparently the scan showed something — they weren’t sure what exactly — and I needed to come in for more scans as soon as possible. The nurse assured me that since I don’t have a baseline to compare to they just needed more images to know what they’re looking at (plus something about dense breasts). That seemed like a logical explanation until she told me where I needed to go: The Lemmen Holton Cancer Pavillion, the leading cancer treatment center in the area and the same place where a friend of mine is going to treat HER cancer. (Not that I have cancer. This is just how my mind works.)
I made my appointment like a good little doobie and spent the next five days F-R-E-A-K-I-N-G out. Freaking. Every time I saw a woman with short hair I imagined what I’d look like if my hair fell out. I had more than a few emotions about my left breast: anger, sadness, longing (because I imagined if it was removed). Then I’d remind myself that it could be nothing. I had my first mammogram in a bus — how reliable could that be? (Again, I’m not knocking the SHBFCB’s quality, just sharing what was going through my mind non-stop for 120 hours.)
I also made the VERY difficult decision (for me) not to tell anyone beyond my husband and best friend. I didn’t want anyone worrying until they really had something to worry about, and MAN it was hard not to tell my family and friends.
Cut to yesterday — a beautiful, abnormally warm day for October in Michigan — when I drove to the CANCER CENTER. Seriously, it said ‘cancer’ everywhere in the meticulously designed building. A sympathetic woman directed me to the mammography floor and as I walked to the elevator I encountered a woman helping her teenage son who is clearly going through chemo. We’re all familiar with the images of cancer — weak bodies, pale skin, no hair — but standing in front of someone fighting for his life really brings it home. I nearly lost it in the elevator.
Things were a little cheerier on the Betty Ford floor, and before long I was robed from the waist up, sitting in a room with a dozen other anxious women. The mammogram wasn’t as bad as the first one (probably because I knew what to expect) and because it’s me I asked the technician how one gets into that line of work. “Someone has to do it,” she replied, stretching my appendage in a way I didn’t think possible. I was sent back to the waiting room as they read the scans, then called back for an ultrasound.
I must mention the decor in the exam rooms. We’ve all seen the poster of the cat hanging on a tree branch that dentists tack to the ceiling. Well the Betty Ford Center has this:
They read the ultrasound while I waited on the table, so of course I took a picture of my scan, too, but you’ll have to imagine that one.
The technician returned to the room and told me I have a cyst but they don’t need to do anything now. I’m to return for a follow-up in six months and we’ll take it from there. Even if it turns into something more serious, we’ve caught it early.
Moral of the story: GET A MAMMOGRAM!
Also, thank you to everyone who’s put up with my super pleasant attitude this week.
Final note: I have friends and loved ones who’ve struggled with cancer — some successfully, some not — and I mean no disrespect to them. I just wanted to share my personal experience.