“Suzana, you’re 40!”, Dr PrimaryCare reminded me during my annual check-up. “You should get a baseline mammogram”. This was not the only test she recommended that day, but it was one of the few I actually got done.
I called to schedule the mammogram and got an appointment a few weeks later. When I checked in for the appointment, they gave me a handout explaining that many women were called back: “If you are called for additional imaging, we hope it won’t cause you undue stress”.
I thought of the handout when I got the call. “There’s an area in your left breast that we want to take a better look at”, the lady on the phone said. The next opening was 10 days later, on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
I woke up on the day of the appointment and noticed we didn’t have power in the house. I thought that wasn’t a good sign, but tried to push this crazy thought out of my head. That didn’t mean anything, right? Bad omens are not for real, right? Right?
The new test was not in the same place as the screening. At the new place, all signs read “Breast Health & Cancer Center”. Didn’t seem they were that committed to avoiding undue stress.
This new test hurt like a bitch. My breast was squished so hard, by many tools, in many directions. “The radiologist wants more pictures”. “A few more”. “She now wants an ultrasound”. At this point I was sure the stress was not undue.
By the time the radiologist walked in, I was already in tears.
Even though at that point I knew, hearing the words was still brutal. “There is a mass and it’s suspicious. You need to get a biopsy and I think it will be positive for cancer”. Dr Radiologist sounded almost angry, as if having to give me these news had ruined her perfectly good morning.
“It’s a good thing you got your mammogram. If it sat there for 5 years, it wouldn’t be good”, Dr Radiologist told me in what must have been her attempt at cheering me up. “I just learned I have cancer, forgive me for not seeing the bright side of having this mammogram”, I told her angrily in my head. Though my mouth didn’t utter a word, I really hope my eyes gave her a hint of how insensitive that comment was.
I asked a thousand questions, she answered a few, then gave me cards with contact information for breast surgeons. An assistant scheduled my biopsy for 2 days later and showed me the door. I walked out of the clinic nowhere near ready to start living the rest of my life.