Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What it's like when they call you back

http://www.cancer.gov/

This is a long one folks, grab some coffee or tea and settle in

I am one of those few people who loved their gynecologist.  I mean really...I friggin' cried when she left.  One thing she was adamant about was she wanted me to get a baseline mammogram when I was 37.  She said she thought it was imperative to have something to compare it to when I turned 40 and began getting them yearly.

"You WILL get them yearly!" she smiled and I agreed because I respected her plan for my health enough to follow her lead.  When she retired from her practice with no real notice, I was devastated and we even cried on each other's shoulder.  My tears stained her doctors coat and her tears stained my ill fitting paper towel that doubled as my gown.  Her plan for my breast health was manual exam by her (or now my new doc) and then 6 months later to do my mammogram so that every 6 months, someone was whippin' biscuits or flattening cookies in my breastage area.    I was down with that plan and made my appointment for January 18th.  I went back to the women's mammogram center I went to the first time because I really liked them and figured it would be better for continuity.

I got through it fine but on the last scan of my right side, I held my breath at the wrong time and was sure I exhaled when I was supposed to be holding it because that time she forgot to tell me to hold it.  The first time I had one done, the tech immediately retook the right side because she said she saw something and wanted to redo it.  We did and there was no issue.  I expected it to go the same and figured if the tech didn't say anything about the exhale issue then it must've been clear enough not to matter.

Two days later, the Mr was teleworking and the phone rang.  I never look at caller ID anymore because I know that it's likely a robo call.  He looked and said "its the mammogram place."  My heart dropped.  I knew that if all was well, they would be emailing me the results.  I said "that's not good" and answered the phone.  We exchanged pleasantries and she said there was something on the scan and they wanted to bring me back in to get a clearer picture.  I said okay and immediately started silently crying.  She said the radiologist wanted to redo the 3D mammogram with a harder compression (because 25 lbs of pressure on the gauge wasn't enough) and they had an ultrasound scheduled if needed immediately after.  She told me it was on February 4th at 10:15am and I repeated the information out loud and I could see the Mr trying to keep it together to be strong for me but was concerned thinking it was for a biopsy.  As I listened to her, my sniffling could be heard and she said "I want you to know that they have not listed anything ominous or of concern.  She simply wants to be absolutely sure of a denser area that is different from your previous mammogram before she signs off on a clean bill of health."  I eeked out an "mmm hmm" and she said "I make these calls everyday and there is no notation of any concern, I'm telling you the truth."  I don't know if she was saying it to comfort me but it did in the way she said it.  I asked to be put on a cancellation list if that was possible and she said she would but they rarely have cancellations.  That's fine but Ms. Anxiety would like this over with please.  The only good thing was that she said I would get results that day so I wouldn't have to wait again.

When I got off the phone, the Mr hugged me and I told him what she said and he said he was relieved and that sounded like they just needed a clearer picture.  I told him my concerns about the exhale and how I could kick myself for not bringing it up when it happened so she could retake it.  Now I had to wait for 15 days and let my mind run wild.  The Mr said he would obviously go with me and was glad he was home when I got the call so he could be there for me.  I weeped for a few minutes and then I emailed two friends I knew had gone through this as well.  They were both comforting and one gave me very detailed info about her experience and said the fact they were pushing me off for two weeks was actually a really good sign because if it was something of concern, they would likely want me in asap and usually leave a few time slots open per day for those.  I did feel better once talking to them about what they went through.  Then of course I hopped on the internet and looked up mammogram call back and this page eased my mind as well.  The problem is...easing your mind with facts doesn't stop that horrible hamster wheel of thoughts, fear, doubt and regret from spinning in your head.

(The feelings below are things I actually thought and felt during the waiting period.  It may not be the way you would react in the same situation so please try not to judge the flood of consciousness I experienced when potentially faced with a life changing illness.)

"Okay so the odds are in my favor and it's probably nothing.  Don't stress, it's not good for you and there's nothing to worry about until there's something to worry about."  Then I thought of all the women who were told those same stats and didn't get good news.  "But then they probably had something a little different on their screen and the technician wouldn't lie to me would she?  Maybe she would to calm me down so I don't stress out for two weeks.  Remember that they would likely call you in earlier if something were truly wrong  but what if they're so booked up that was the soonest they could get me in.  But they have three centers so they would send me to another location if they needed something asap."

"Why did I spend my whole life obese?  I wasted so much time, what if I don't have much time left?  I don't want to die.  I don't want to leave the Mr.  Why are you thinking that way?  Now you're going to jinx yourself, you idiot!  I should start writing down his favorite recipes in case he's a widower and he can still eat my favorite dishes.  Stop thinking like that!! You're making a mountain out of a molehill!  Funny...we're talking about your saggy, floppy molehills.  I don't want him to remarry for two years.  That's not fair to put a timeline on it, how selfish are you?  Shocker...selfish in life, selfish in...STOP THINKING LIKE THAT!  You are seriously blowing this out of proportion.  You realize if he remarries the wife will probably make him get rid of any life you shared together."

I tried to stop the hamster wheel and I'd be fine for a while and then I'd catch a glimpse of the Mr and start tearing up.

Then I blurted out loud "don't put me in a box and forget about me.  Your new wife might not want any trace of me around but don't put me in the attic and forget what we had."  He hugged me and said he would never do that and whether the new wife liked it or not, I would still be a part of his life because he knows I would do the same for him.  He said he would be here for me and whatever I face, we face together.  I told him to ignore my occasional outbursts that might occur over the next two weeks.

It wasn't long until my next one right before our workout and I started bawling and said I wish I were stronger because I feel so emotionally weak when faced with any kind of health scare or challenge.  We talked and he calmed me down and we got down to business.

I tried to spend the following days not stressing about it and while I kept myself occupied, it would creep in and I'd feel overwhelmed and try to distract myself before I had a chance to well up again.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't and when it didn't...the thoughts got dark.

"I need to get our vacation planned.  So much to map out...well, actually I can't do that yet because that vacation might end up getting cancelled and you could be going through chemo for your 20th anniversary."

"I should get those couple crafts done for Christmas you wanted done so you're not stressed about it as the time creeps up.  Well, I guess I should wait because depending on what they tell me who knows what I'll be going through then or if I'll even be here anymore.  Stop it!!  Stop going to the worst case scenario!"

"He's touching it.  The one that they need to scan again.  What is he thinking?  Is he thinking she could have cancer, I need to pretend everything is normal.  Is he trying to get some good action with it before it's gone?  Is he thinking about it?  Probably not, he's a dude.  He just sees boobs.  But what if he doesn't.  Stop thinking about this...you are missing out on a physical and emotional connection with your husband because you're scared shitless.  This talk is not sexy, girlfriend.  I just called myself girlfriend...how 90's of me."

As the days ticked by, I did a good job of keeping my thoughts on the back burner.  Then I got a phone call on a Friday.  A cancellation popped up and the woman wanted to offer it to me since I asked to be put on a cancellation list.  It would be on Monday instead of Thursday.  At this point, any time I could take off the excruciating wait was fine with me.  I took the appointment.  When I hung up, my heart was in my chest and when the Mr got home, I gave him a teary hug.  He said he was glad it was sooner because then we'd know and could move on.

The only thing I couldn't stop from thinking was one thing..."I want my grandma."

What it's like when they call your wife back...his side...

"I was teleworking the day we got the call. The phone rang and I saw that the caller ID said the name of the mammogram clinic and, without really having time to consider it, told Anele who it was and that she should probably answer it. She did but the look on her face made me realize that a call back was not exactly what she was hoping for. I was trying to listen in and discern as much as I could while she was on the call but of course at that exact same time I had a co-worker ask me some questions via our work chat system. It was so hard to focus on either thing happening that I barely even recall what I said or if I even answered their question successfully. When she got off the phone and told me that they were calling to have her come back in for another look, a feeling of dread came over me. I dreaded having to watch the woman who is my entire world have to struggle through something like that. I dreaded all the terrible things that come with any form of cancer and believe me I’ve seen it first-hand too many times already! We did feel that the fact that they didn’t need her to come back right away was a good thing. But then that also means it prolongs the waiting, and we all know waiting is the toughest part. I have a habit of trying to bury bad news and keeping things like that deep down until I know exactly what the outcome is or exactly what I’m dealing with. I don’t do well with waiting around for answers. Deep down it was in there swirling around with all the other stresses that happen in a typical week but of course last week was a week where my work was being audited which made things about as bad as they could possibly be for me from a stress standpoint."

Come back tomorrow for what it's like when I went through the recall mammogram.

**I am sharing every scary thought I had while going through this process, not to scare anyone who may be waiting to have theirs, but to illustrate that despite knowing the odds are in your favor, fear goes against all logic.  People can tell you not to worry but it won't stop many of us, especially first timers, from worrying and going to the worse case scenario.  Fear of the unknown is powerful and know if you're going through this, that all of those horrible thoughts are normal... and they suck.**

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8 comments:

  1. It is terrifying to be called back. On my callback visit, while I was waiting for the squish, the tech lit up a previous scan and highlighted the area of concern. I felt the room closing in on me and got really hot. I fainted and was hanging by my chicken wing on the damn thing! I woke up to many nurses lying on the floor and they were giving me oj.
    Probly didn't help my nerves that the obviously gay tech was kind enough to put the metal nipple markers on for me! Was called back again for an ultrasound. Luckily everything was okay but the thoughts that went through my head...

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  2. It's such a range of emotions that are hard to put in check. Just being on the other side of your phone call was hard to put into words, despite my attempt in this post. I won't say much more so as to not give anything away.

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  3. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I have had yearly mammograms since I was 30, due to my mom being diagnosed with breast cancer at 41 and then passing away at 43. I am glad they are being diligent about your health and not just saying it's "nothing." Also, those 3D scans are really the best!

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  4. You've captured the huge range of emotions perfectly. My callback was the day after Christmas and I had to go in immediately. To say I couldn't even draw a breath was an understatement. I insisted on going alone - I was going to be alright, after all. But being there and sitting in the waiting room I desperately wanted my mom or my husband with me. Luckily, I am okay and it was just a shadow. I know you will be fine too.

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  5. It is so very scary. The waiting is hard.

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  6. I think an intelligent mind considers every possibility and that's what you were doing. Plus I think we smart folk tend to worry more, simply because we are more aware of outcomes, etc. Hope the call back showed NOTHING....NOTHING AT ALL, cause I know from my Du's cancer, it really really sucks.

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  7. Fear truly goes against all and any logic. Your relationship with your husband is amazing and how you support each other is incredible. Waiting is the very worse part of anything.

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  8. Getting that phone call and having to wait is just excruciating. And for me every time after that I'd be a wreck waiting for the results. Even as you go about every day living, it's lingering in the back of your mind. Gah... it's a miserable feeling for sure.

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