Breast Cancer: The Biopsies
By Tanya Dodd-Hise
Eight days. That’s how long it has been since my world kind of got turned upside down by my mammograms and ultrasounds. But today is the next step. Four biopsies. I have been suffering horribly all week from dizziness and nausea, and after trying to figure out what the cause could be, I think I have finally decided that it must be my nerves. So maybe it will go away after I get this step out of the way.
My alarm was set for 5:15 AM, so that I could get up by 5:30 AM, shower, and be out the door at 6:15 AM (we had to be there at 7 AM) – but I was awake all on my own by 4:20 AM. Erikka’s parents drove in Thursday night so that her mom could stay here with the baby while we went to my appointment, and her dad would go with us to keep Erikka company in the waiting room while I am having the procedures done. Truth be told, it’s also comforting to me, for some reason, to have him along with us. Meanwhile, Noah spent the night before at my mom’s since it is Spring Break, and got to go to some Xtreme Jump place to jump trampolines with his cousins – so I’m glad he got some fun out of his week off.
We arrived to the hospital early, which shocked me. I checked in at 6:45 AM and they found their waiting spot and got coffee. After a few minutes, they called me over to sign paperwork and get my bracelets, and then back to waiting. Pretty soon I was being called back – first in line – and ushered into the little changing room and given the beautiful gown and robe that totally do NOT match. It’s kind of awkward to be a non-femme dyke in mammogram land, surrounded by other ladies who are dressed in the same little gown/robe combination – only they are typically older than me, with their well-managed hair, makeup, and accessories. Yeah, I fit in REALLY well among them. Soon, I was no longer the only one back there waiting, and the long line of floral chairs against the wall had a handful of matching patients, each waiting for a different thing. Some were there for standard mammograms, like they get every year. Some were there for diagnostic mammograms and/or sonograms, like what I had the week before. And some were there for biopsy procedures, like me.
Because I had to have four different areas biopsied, they had explained to me that I would experience two different methods, based on the area that they were looking at. The first one that they were planning on doing was called a Stereotactic Core Biopsy, and this was the method that they would use to examine the tiny calcifications that were found in the upper portion of the left breast (they were also on the right, but the doctor did not seem as concerned about them). This is where they lay the patient face down on a table (a HARD table, I might add), and the breast hangs down, through a hole, and they do all the work from underneath. Once they had me in place, they bring in plates on each side of the breast to hold it in place and take some images. Once they locate the calcifications, then they clean the area and prepare to numb it before they go in for samples. They used two syringes to numb the area, because I had been very clear that this was what I needed!
This is how I looked on the table, before they started (and that’s why I was still smiling). But that was the last of the smiles, pretty much, for the remainder of my visit there. The table wasn’t too bad, but with no padding bumped up against my ribs, creating some very sore spots.
Once they completed the first procedure, they buttoned me back up and ushered me across the hall to one of the ultrasound rooms, like the one that I had been in the week before. Here, they would complete the remaining three biopsies, guided by ultrasound images. They would be doing Needle Core Biopsies on three areas: masses in both breasts, as well as the abnormal lynph nodes on the left side. This would involve a lot more numbing meds, and several more needles. Now let me tell you, if you ever have to have a biopsy done, and the doctors/nurses tell you that it’s “no big deal” or “don’t worry, they numb you up a LOT” or “it’s just a tiny needle” – it’s BULLSHIT! They are LYING! The numbing meds burn going in, and the biopsy probe needles are SO NOT tiny.
They did the right breast mass first, and it seemed alright. Of course, I had taken two Ativan upon my arrival, so those meds had finally kicked in and I was pretty calm. I also had Pandora radio going on my phone, and my ear buds were piping calm meditation music into my head while he poked me with needle after needle, taking samples of what he needed.
He soon moved on to the mass in the left breast – the one that had started this whole process. It was also not too uncomfortable, and by this one, I was familiar with the process and how things would go. What I was totally NOT prepared for, however, was the last one. The fourth and last biopsy was to be done in my armpit area, so that he could get samples from the affected lymph nodes. Nobody had warned me that it wouldn’t be like the others, with just a little pinch from the numbing needle as the most discomfort. No. The numbing hurt like hell, but when he stuck the big tube in (the one that he used the bigger needle inside to gather samples) and shot the big needle in, I gasped as the pain sucked the wind right out of me. It hurt like a motherfu&*er and made me scream bad things! The doctor apologized profusely, and the nurse told me how great I was doing, I guess thinking that somehow that would make up for it.
Soon it was over, and they said that they needed to take me back over to the imaging room and get more mammograms – two images of each side – so that they could make sure that they got all of their markers in the right locations. Yes, they left tiny coil markers inside of me at each location, I guess so that they can easily find them next time. They got their pictures done and I was free to get dressed and head home. The doctor told me that he would personally call me on Monday or Tuesday, and from there we would be able to formulate a plan for treatment. Whew. I made it through. The nurses also told me that I would be “a little sore” for a few days, and that I should only take Tylenol (which is completely worthless, by the way).
Sore didn’t begin to describe the pain that has been going on since having this done. Especially under the arm where he went in for the lymph node samples. This is my left side, with the bandages under the arm (lymph nodes), the top side of the breast (that was the first biopsy site), and the underside of the breast (where the large mass is). Dear God do you see how swollen my boob is???? Yeah, not comfortable. At all.
So now it is Sunday, two days out. I’m still really very sore, with a lot of pain in my underarm area. It has been hard, because I am not supposed to pickup the baby until three days out, nor can I swim or take a bath. Tonight we are supposed to go out to dinner with the family to celebrate Noah’s birthday (which is tomorrow), and my daughter-in-law’s birthday (which was a few days ago). Erikka will help me take a quick shower later and wash my hair, since raising my left arm for any amount of time sends hot, searing pain into my arm. Another step down, with many more to go, I am sure. One step at a time, and hopefully I will get this gone for good.
Originally published on Domestic Dyke.