Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Big C vs. the Little c

About a week ago I got the call I have been expecting for many years. The Piper Breast Institute called to say there was a spot on my mammogram they felt we should look at with an ultrasound. I was so sure I was getting this call that before the gal provided any details, I correctly predicted the problem was on the right breast. When I was having my annual mammogram the technician took two extra shots on that side. You can't tell me that those techies, who do this all day and look at 100's of scans don't notice things a little out of the ordinary. Then again, I suppose I had a 50/50 shot to get that one right.

Anyhow, I dutifully made my ultrasound appointment and began to mentally prepare myself for bad news. Mom was a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in her mid 50's. Her sister was diagnosed when only in her 40's. Unfortunately for my Aunt Margaret, the discovery came too late and she died. I still remember driving her to the doctor getting treated for back pain when she was still wondering what the heck was wrong. When my mom underwent a biopsy and they found a malignant tumor, she opted for the full mastectomy. They did it right away. She went into the operating room hoping for good news and came out with one less body part. When the doctor told us what was going on, he made it clear to me that I was in a high risk category. Hence my pessimistic viewpoint. I'm 57. I've been having mammograms for 30 years. The time seemed right.

Consolation prize: European cruise
Hubby and I walked the lake and chatted about the upcoming ultrasound. I told him my plan was to assume the worst. He thought that was good. He is a prostate cancer survivor. When he was diagnosed he was so unprepared that he literally tuned out the doctor telling him. Had to have it repeated. Just shocked that it was happening. But assuming the worse to me means I will get diagnosed, treated and survive.

Now I come to the true confessions part of this post. Prior to the ultrasound, I began thinking about how to capitalize on the inevitable sorry feelings others would have about my terrible news. Grace would want to cheer me up and insist we go pick out a cool prom dress instead of insisting on wearing her Internet bargain. Members of the Music Board, of which I am chair, would insist on taking over the planning of the big annual fundraiser.  Hubby would take me on a fabulous European cruise.  I could lose that extra 15 pounds.   Ahhh, the benefits of The Big C seemed mine for the taking.

As the day of my ultrasound drew closer, I began doing Internet searches. Did she say it was a centimeter? Is that big? Maybe Stage 1. Check.  I'll survive.  Lots of info on the problems of detecting lumps in dense breasts.  I've been repeatedly told mine are very dense; almost no fat.  Normally anything with no fat would thrill me to no end.  Apparently my missing breast fat found a home along my waist. The Internet said there's only a 50/50 chance a mammogram will detect anything in breasts like mine. So guess this was a lucky find.   The search also said it may be only cysts. I have a history of cysts. It's been quite a few years since I've dealt with any. Those were all found with self exams. I could not find this mysterious creature even knowing it was there.
The internet prom dress was just fine.

So the big day arrived for the ultrasound. Bill volunteered to go with me but I declined figuring I'd still have a biopsy step to take before we really knew anything. The folks at the Center greeted me in a subdued manner being careful not to be too cheerful. At first I thought I had never had an ultrasound on my breast but as soon as I saw the machine I realized this was used to locate my problem cysts. It took all of a minute to have the exam. Then the radiologist came in to talk to me. She confirmed I had very dense breasts. Thank you. That I knew. Then she announced, "You have cysts.  Nothing to worry about."

So that was that.   No Big C, just the little c.   As I walked through the reception area I must have looked happy or relieved or both because I got a much cheerier reception from the desk ladies.  I announced happily, "I'll see you next year"  and they smiled seemingly as relieved as I was.

So I didn't get to pick out that prom dress or get relieved from my Booster duties and the European cruise will have to wait. And that tummy fat is going to have to come off the old fashioned way.   But I think my reception face must have told the story.   Despite my acceptance of my fate, I'll take the Little c over the Big C any time.