Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dark Fantasies

November 10, 2008

Kaiser started harassing me to get a mammogram at the beginning of the summer. For some reason my birthday had defaulted to 1/1/68 so as soon as I joined I was late to get it done. When the birthday thing was finally straightened out, they left me alone for about six weeks, and then they started again. I made the appointment for the second Thursday of October, and I tried to approach the day with a "rite of passage" attitude.

I was given the most elaborate hospital gown I've ever seen, a cloth one that wrapped all the way around like a monk's cassock, held closed by the second sleeve. Despite the elaborate garb, I wound up not feeling like I'd experienced a rite of passage, but feeling just that virtuous "preventative care" feeling I get after leaving the dentist. They sent me on my way with the promise of a postcard with the results.

[Note for those of you who wonder what it's like: It didn't hurt. I've had men squeeze my breasts harder. For the record, though, the radiology tech said that it's different for everyone, depending on breast size and time in your cycle, as well as - though she didn't say this - pain tolerance levels].

The postcard came, dated October 15:
I did not wait seven days to be contacted. I called after four days to make the return visit, which was scheduled for Nov. 6. I barely spoke to anyone about the return visit, because I was trying not to think about it. That was easier than it would have been otherwise, because of the Presidential campaigns and the Prop. 8 campaigns winding up to fever pitch (and the no on 8 campaign winding up at all). Everyone I knew was absorbed in politics talk, as was I.

When I thought about the return visit to Mammography, I found myself thinking, against my will and against my superstitions, about what I was going to say about what was happening. Telling Zirpu, who's already got a lot going on. Imagining telling my brother and my mother, who already lost someone to cancer. How much and when I would tell the volunteers at work. Whether the Bi Women's Group was even going to apply to my life during this. Telling myself I would "beat this thing," imagining the faces and names of women I know who have. Then I would quickly veer away, and force myself to think about something else.

I was really annoyed with myself for indulging in these dark fantasies. I knew that these were the first mammograms I've had and that Kaiser, having nothing to compare these pictures to, was being as cautious as they've been with Zirpu's heart. So I would repeat all this to myself when I was imagining the bad stuff.

I went back to Kaiser, and this time bypassed the fancy gown. I told the woman who offered it to me that I would decline it to save resources, though the real reason why I did was because Shmeen told me I could. "You don't have to look like a patient just because it makes them feel better, " she said, "Besides, it's stupid. You wear it for five minutes and then they put it in the wash. Stupid!"

The first thing I asked the radiology tech was if I would know anything before I left that day because I did not want to get bad results off a postcard. She said a doctor would look at the x-rays right away and meet with me within about ten minutes. She took the pictures and I went to wait for results. In those eight minutes I coached myself to not freak out if the doc told me they wanted to take a biopsy. I reminded myself to go into crisis management mode to take care of business, get the appointment made for as soon as possible, and freak out later.

The rad tech came out and told me the pictures showed nothing, and everything is fine. She noted that I have dense breast tissue, which once she mentioned it I realized I'd heard that before during breast exams at an annual physical or two. She said I should tell the rad techs at future mammograms so they could compensate for that when posing my breasts for the mammogram machine.

"Everything is fine." Great words to hear. That's why I start this story with those words.

1 comment:

Amy Stephenson said...

I had a biopsy this summer and it turned out to be nothing. Had me anxious for a while, but I figured if there was anything to worry about I'd be catching it extremely early. Still, it's a great relief to know there's no problem after all.