There are so many scary things about cancer… death, chemo, surgery, metastasis, recurrence, infertility. For me, biopsies far exceed my fears of all the other horrible things. There is just something so torturous about being awake while a doctor pulls tissue samples out of a spot in your body that may or may not be cancer. Not to mention, that needle is larger than the ones that haunt your nightmares.
I knew from my first biopsy that the anticipation is worse than the reality. I knew that the biopsy itself takes about 15 minutes. I also knew that last time my heart was beating out of my chest and I was on the verge of crying, throwing up, and fainting. This time I planned on taking an excessive amount of Xanax.
I was scheduled to have an MRI guided biopsy down in Miami on Thursday. Miami is a pain in the ass. As miserable and terrified as I was to have this biopsy at all, I was dreading having to venture into the zoo that is the Miami hospital. I did not want to go there. Plus, the radiologist wasn’t confident that she could get a piece of the spot. Not only was the task going to be miserable, but there was a strong possibility that it would all be for naught and I would end up going into surgery again after they failed at the attempt.
I should back up a little though… I was beginning to feel like God, or my angels, or whatever entity had taken a little vacation. It was as though I had tripped and was rolling down a small small mountain of bad luck. I was picking up speed, feeling as though I might never stop rolling. Tuesday, at my port post-op appointment, I finally stopped falling. In fact, my momentum was stopped abruptly by a nice patch of soft earth.
That soft patch of earth came in the form of my favorite surgeon. He is warm and kind and exudes a modest confidence that makes me feel so safe. I don’t know if it’s because he punctured Judy’s lung years ago and feels like he owes her, but this doctor has been a wonderful, supportive member of Team Sarah. He has consistently gone out of his way to make sure that I’m taken care of. He has taken great interest in my case and made me feel like a priority. He’s a wonderful doctor and an even more wonderful human being.
I brought him my MRI images and the accompanying report. He couldn’t look at them while I was there with him, but he promised to bring them up to the radiologist and have her take a look. He gave me his personal cell phone number and told me I could call him later on if I didn’t hear from him or needed anything (how many doctors ever do that?!).
After my appointment he brought them upstairs to discuss them with the head of the radiology department (another fantastic doctor who happens to be his wife… shh, that’s a secret).
My luck was beginning to change. They had squeezed me in for an ultrasound the next day. She believed that they might be able to see the spot. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
The imaging department at The Lynn Women’s Center is truly beautiful. It’s clean and bright and pleasant. There’s definitely a great deal of money spent to make the patients feel relaxed. The ultimate alien spa.
The ultrasound room had a large tv on the wall with soothing mountain views. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy them given the orientation of my body away from the screen as they searched my breast for the illusive spot. They couldn’t see it clearly. Damn.
I changed back into my clothes and Judy and I sat down with the radiologist and the head nurse. We began discussing the findings. I explained the whole Miami situation. The doctor felt that it shouldn’t be a problem to do the biopsy “if the radiologist is good.“ I couldn’t help but feel like she was referring to herself when she said that. “Do you do that here?” Judy asked. They did do the MRI guided biopsies at Lynn. Judy and I exchanged a look of ‘maybe she could do it?!’ At that moment I had visions of her and her husband sitting at breakfast in their scrubs and white coats while he told her, “Do whatever you can to help this girl.”
She personally went to the scheduling department and moved people around so that I could come in the very next day to have my biopsy with her. I was beyond touched and grateful. We cancelled my appointment at the Miami hospital.
So, this morning was biopsy day. I took more Xanax than I’ve ever taken at one time. By the time we reached the facility was totally and completely blitzed. It was awesome!
I changed into a gown and sat in the waiting room where a large television showed the mountain views that I wasn’t able to enjoy during my ultrasound. I became highly distracted by footage of a cute little duck cleaning it’s feathers while it floated about in the water enjoying the mountain view. My family came back to sit with me while I watched the duck.
A little later I was brought back for my IV and and then to the MRI room. Thank goodness I was so drugged up because that procedure was absolutely miserable. You lay face down like usual for a breast MRI, but for the biopsy they compress your breast and line it up with a grid so that they can plot out exactly where to place the core needle. I came in and out of the tube while they determined the proper placement. They stung me with lidocaine a couple times on the surface and then deeper in my breast and then completed the biopsy. I felt one of the pinches of the core needle, but the rest of the time was nothing more than pressure and movement. When it was over they cleaned me up and the doctor came in to tell me I did great and they got the tissue sample they needed. Monday we will have the results.
All I can say is I am grateful. I am keeping my face to the sunshine. There’s nothing fun about a biopsy. There’s nothing fun about cancer. But I have so many things to be grateful for. I’m grateful for my family and friends who love and support me. I am grateful for wonderful, competent, caring doctors. I am grateful that I get to enjoy the weekend ahead. I am also disproportionately grateful for Xanax.