Breast Cancer: The Appointment
By Tanya Dodd-Hise
The morning seemed to drag on as we waited to get ready for our 11:30 AM departure. We planned to leave early enough to go have lunch before my 1:30 PM appointment in Dallas. As we drove to one of our favorite spots, the knot in my stomach returned, and I barely had any appetite in which to enjoy my lunch. After leaving the restaurant, we started the drive to UT Southwestern University Hospital, knowing we would likely arrive pretty early. Better early than late though. As we drove, Erikka reached over and held my hand like she usually does when we drive, but this time there was no idle chit chat. I was lost in my thoughts, and I’m sure she was as well. Once we figured out where we were going, we got the baby in the stroller and valeted the car.
My appointment was at the Breast Imaging Center within the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern. I have been here before. This was where I got my first routine mammogram back in 2007, and where I returned the following year after finding a lump and going through a diagnostic mammogram and sonogram. My nerves had been shot at that time, in 2008, and everything turned out to be harmless and benign. So as we entered the waiting area, all of that memory flooded back, but didn’t bring the anxiety with it. I signed in and filled out the paperwork, then sat down to wait with Erikka and Harrison. Little did I know how long we would be there and how much things were about to change.
Soon I was taken back, alone (unlike the last time, when Erikka went with me). Because she had the baby and stroller, they said that the larger waiting room would probably be more comfortable for them. So I went back, changed, and waited – texting Erikka and one of my BFFs while I did. A nurse named Holly came out and called me into the small imaging suite, and quickly did the routine mammo shots – two of each breast. She then made me go back out and wait while she showed them to the radiologist. After he looked over them, along with my old films, she came back and got me to do more images. She informed me that there was a new mass on my right breast that had not been there in 2008, one that neither I nor my doctor had detected; so she did two more images of the right side. She then informed me that there was not one, but two, masses on the left side (the larger one that I had come in for had broken off and had a smaller one behind it), and a lymph node looked suspicious. Great. Wonderful. She then did four more, painful I might add, images of my left breast. After she got all of these images – there were ten in all when she was finished – I was again sent back out into the smaller, waiting area. I did, however, send her to the main waiting area to get Erikka and send her back. I knew that the ultrasounds were coming up next, and I wanted her to be back there so that she could go with me. Holly gladly went out and got them and showed them to the back. We waited there, together, for a few minutes before another person called me to go for the ultrasound. But she said that Erikka and the baby would have to stay there, because there wasn’t enough room for the stroller in the sono room. I was disappointed, and unnerved by having to go in alone – Erikka had been able to go with me last time!
I went to the next little room, laid down on a table, and waited. Soon, the radiologist came in and proceeded to ultrasound my right breast first. He showed me the mass on that side, and explained to me that he wasn’t all that concerned about that one, because it was oval and had defined edges. He was slightly concerned with the tiny calcifications that showed up on that side as well as the left, and would have to take a further look at those. He then moved over to the left breast and began his assessments. The mass that I had felt all this time, the one that started the whole procedure, was slightly bigger than my doctor had guessed – 2.76 cm. However, there was a second mass, much smaller, that looked like it had broken off of the larger one. Lovely. There were also suspicious calcifications on the left side, and not just one, but TWO of my lymph nodes were enlarged and too dark. Wonderful. The radiologist was really good about answering my questions as he went along, comparing what he was doing to the mammograms posted behind me.
Once he was done and I had toweled all of the goo off of my chest and armpit, I buttoned up so that he could talk to me. He said that he wanted to do four different biopsies: one of the mass on the right, one of the calcifications on both sides, one of the mass on the left side, and one of my lymph nodes. I sat there, kind of dumbfounded, silently telling myself that it was VERY important that I remember everything that he was telling me. This was another reason that I needed Erikka with me – so that she could hear and remember all that was being told to me! He went on to tell me again that he isn’t all that concerned about the right side, and he believes it to be a fibroadenoma, which is a benign mass that I guess they don’t worry about too much. He then went on to tell me that he is very concerned about the left side, and he is fairly assured that it is cancer – mainly because the mass is jagged, with uneven edges; along with the affected lymph nodes. He said that he would be completely shocked if the biopsies came back NOT showing cancer on that side. Oh. Wow. Okay. The biopsies, he went on to say, will show the pathology of the cancer, and tell them which course of treatment will be necessary – surgery first or chemo first. I asked him if he thinks it is early enough to get it completely, and he said yes, he believes so, and believes that with surgery, chemo, and radiation that it can be eradicated. Oh. Wow. Okay.
The next step was to send me back across the hall, where Erikka was waiting still, to get dressed again while they go to schedule my biopsies. I quickly got dressed and sat down beside Erikka, relaying the information that the doctor had just given me. She looked stunned, and I tried to NOT have a meltdown. I knew going in that this might be what they told me. I just didn’t expect it to be this much. After a few minutes, they came and got us and took us to a small consultation room across the hall. We were told by Amanda, a scheduling coordinator, that I was scheduled for next Friday at 7 AM, and that we would be there for about half the day. Oh boy. Can’t hardly wait for this. They gave me a few instructions, and we were then on our way. I think we were there for about three hours in all, and given a lot of information. It looks like it might prove to be a very long summer in the Dodd-Hise household, but whatever is decided, we will handle it and just get it done. I haven’t got time for an inconvenience of this magnitude!
So…oh. Wow. Okay.