Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Second Mammagram

 This appointment was for 8.30am on Thursday 19th May. Two weeks had passed since the first one. I was beginning to be a little apprehensive. I had tried not to show it to anyone, much less to tell my mother about it. I had no idea what “They” would find. As the letter said anyway “it is a mere formality that we ask you to have a second mammagram. Most women have this, it does not mean Cancer will be found….”

I was taken on a quick trip down memory lane when I had my very first mammogram at the tender age of just 20 something. I thought I had found a lump in my breast and I wanted it confirmed. Though I had no idea where to go to investigate this other than a doctor. As we had just closed our shop recently, and moved our business home, I was in between regular doctors so I just went down to the medical centre in Liverpool. It was one of those medical centres that Dr Hagglestein had created during those times. Very fancy with pink carpet, a baby grand piano that allegedly worked in the waiting room and state of the art computer system that had everyone’s details on it, inspite of the fact that they kept a hard copy of everything in yellow manilla folders in the background of the reception area and above the receptionists.

Well, I waited for the next available doctor and went into his surgery, a little in trepidation. I found a lump in my breast, doctor and I don’t know what to do about it…I fumbled out. Fortunately he was the matter of fact kind and didn’t put me into a spin of panic mode as he asked me to take off my upper garments so that he could check around my breast. “Hmmm, yes…I see….” then he looked at me over the top of his glasses. "Just take this down to the hospital and they’ll do scan for you. Then you can bring the x-rays straight back to me….okay?” he finished writing out his referal letter. He gave it to me and then said “I’ll see you when you come back this afternoon” Then he wisked me out the door without so much of a goodbye and next.

I looked at the letter for the address of the hospital. It is almost a blurr to me now. However I remember that I walked down, past Bigge Street Park and then into the Hospital grounds. I went to reception and gave them the letter in the hope that they would tell me where to go. Yes, they did and gave me instructions as well on how to get there.

I remember that the mammogram then didn’t take very long at all. The room had a concrete floor and I felt as though I were in a factory line. The radiologist had one of those big heavy aprons on that they used to wear and would set me up at the x-ray machine with my breast squashed in the right place and then hurriedly rush behind the screen and yell “Hold” and then “breathe” and it was done. About four of these hold and breathe takes later, I was asked to wait in the waiting room for a few hours – or I could go and do some shopping and then come back to pick up the x-rays. I went back to Westfields, and walked around in a daze, not knowing what to expect – not even imagining that I could have breast cancer…just walking around and window shopping without even taking much in at all.

Returning back at the required time to pick up my x-rays and then walking back to the doctor’s surgery at the Medical Centre, I was one of the few people waiting to see any doctor at that time. There was another young woman there waiting, who had arrived shortly after me. I remember noticing her frightened look and white face matched the colour of her very blonde hair. Her big blue eyes were opened wide with fear as she sat down and waited for the same doctor. When he came out of his surgery he called my name and looked at me, though when he saw this other young woman there, he asked me if I would mind if she went in before me. “She must need to see him more than I do,” I thought and said “No, I don’t mind” and I turned to her and smiled. She smiled gratefully back at me and raced straight in almost in tears. I was taken aback a little, though as I didn’t know what her problem was, decided better not to dwell too much on her.

When I finally went in to see the doctor again, he thanked me for allowing her to go in ahead of me and said she really needed his attention to her problem. So I was glad that I hadn’t challenged her with thoughts of my own self doubts and then turned my attention to the doctor. I handed him over my x-rays and he had a look at each one of them. “Mmmnn” was his murmuring for each one.

“Well, the good news is that there is nothing wrong here. All normal” he said. Then he ventured as he showed me the x-rays “Looks like little bubbles of air doesn’t it?” I hadn’t seen an x-ray of my breast before and was astounded by the large bubbles of ‘air’ that were there. “Nothing wrong –all clear – you live another day” and then he put the x-rays back into their envelope and wisked me out the door just like he had that morning.

However, now was different. Now I had to have the second mammogram. I was first requested to enter into the waiting room and given a gown to wear. I was also given a key to a locker where I could put my bag, purse, and top half of my clothes while I waited for the nurse to come and introduce herself.

“Hello, my name is Ruth and I’m your nurse here” she smled at me. A lovely warm smile, although her soft voice was friendly, I had trouble hearing her with the acoustics of the room. Still, I smiled in return to her and she lead me into a small cubicle where she had me sign some more forms and explained to me that I was going to have a second mammogram. That dependent upon the results of this mammogram, I may need to have a biopsy to my breast and would I approve of this happening etc…

I tried to stop her from telling me too much as I could feel the small amount that I had eated for breakfast slowly coming back to repeat on me. The thought of the biopsy troubled me and I was determined this would not happen to me. So i signed my life away here and there where required to and begged her to only tell me what was absolutely necessary.

She then led me to the room for my x-rays and left me with another lady who was a different radiologist to the one I had seen a fortnight ago. I noticed the thread bare patch of carpet from the x-ray machine to the door and commented on it. “Yes,” she said “we’re debating whether to get new carpet, or to just patch it up as we will be moving this year soon. They are going to be renovating the mall and everyone will be moving. We haven’t found a new home yet though” She was very matter of fact about all of this as she manoeuvred me and my body so that she could get the best x-rays possible of my right breast. “Put your head in this position, and move your right arm over…over here…yes, that’s right…then place your left arm by your don’t turn toward me..just stand front on looking at the machine…no, place your head in this position…” and so on. It seems like I was doing contortions in order to get the best possible position. I was glad I wasn’t going to stay in this position for long, just that every position took at least 1-2 minutes to manoeuvre me to it.

Then it was over for a little while and I was directed back to the waiting room where I was tempted to get myself a hot drink. I didn't, instead I got my book out that I was reading - Think Big which all made more sense to me and I was happily engrossed in this until I was called back again

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thursday 5th May 2011

It will remain the day it all started really. Although I did receive some prompting from Dr Tanya at the Liverpool Women's Health Clinic to go along and have a mammagram. She told me "You are over 50 now, and they are free. You may as well have one!" So I phoned up to make the appointment. That was some time in late April. The earliest appointment I could get was 5th May 4.00pm.

So at just before 3.00pm I waited for the bus at our local bus stop and waited..and waited..and waited...I was becoming more and more nervous by the minute. I phoned Breast Screen to tell them that I may be late and to let them know that I would still be there. Finally the bus came down the hill at 3.20pm as I was just starting to phone the 1300 number to find out when it would come. My blood pressure must have been up alarmingly. Dr Tanya would not like that as she had done a double take at how high it was already.

So I finally get there - right on the dot of 4.00pm. I was wisked into the waiting room where I could collect my thoughts and even make a cup of coffee if I wanted. I did not, I was still too hyped up from waiting for the bus! However before too long, I was wisked into the x-ray room and requested to take off my jumper, and all the other layers I had on - it was not particularly cold that day, I had just become used to it being near winter and so had some extra layers on for protection.

Anyone who has had a mammogram, will understand the physical contortions we are made to command with having our breasts squeezed, crumpled, squashed and flattened with our arms in this direction, or head in the opposite direction and so on. It really doesn't hurt that much, more discomfort than pain, just sometimes it can be rather uncomfortable.

"Sandra we will need to take another couple please before you go. Just need some further investigation" I winced at her using my formal name. I hated being called Sandra, when Sandy was more friendly. Oh well, just another couple should be okay.

It was all over bar the shouting in 10 minutes, and that was including the waiting, the extra x-rays and the filling in of forms once I arrived giving permission to perform the said x-rays for the purpose of locating any possible "cancerous" cells.

Then back to the bus stop and waiting for the next bus to arrive. This time, it took nearly as long as it did for the bus to get me into Liverpool, however I at least had a "show" to watch this time. A young man had purchased a motorised remote control car and was showing off to all who would watch at the bus stop. Up and down the foot path he remotely made it zoom, then onto the road when there was no traffic to stop it. I watched the traffic come closer and closer and thought - he would be angry if it got crushed under some tyres. Perhaps he was just as good as he was cocky about it, for he managed to control it up and down with no accidents or near misses.

Finally the bus came and I could settle down all the way home and not have to think about the mammagram for another two years...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Letter Arrives

For some reason, I could not fathom, I continued getting butterflies in my tummy all week. Feeling a little strange and now, thinking back on it, still can't understand where that feeling came from.
Still, I seemed to be all over the place in my head and in day to day activities. I was trying to put together a new website for the markets that we go to every weekend. It looks really great and I enjoyed getting it all together. I was even surprised by the great support and interest in it from the other stall holders. So I was feeling rather happy and proud of myself.
As the days went on I was feeling better and better. Starting to get somewhere I thought to myself. Even a little was better than nothing. Still that nagging feeling would not leave me, so I decided to let it stay in the back of my mind. Something would show up soon and confront me. I was certain. That's how it usually worked for me.
Then Thursday came, and I walked down to the post office in a feeble attempt to get a liittle more sunshine and exercise. I walked down on my own, and caught up with a neighbour on the way down so was able to catch up a little on some of her news. No gossip though - she wasn't really in a talkative mood. Oh well, it was nice to chat anyway.
The post office wasn't busy and they had a rather largish parcel for me to pick up. Even though I was walking back, and it was up hill on the way, I decided I could carry it myself. There were a heap of other letters including all the regular bills. I just bundled them all in the bag I had taken for it all and started on the walk home. I had seen the letter from Breast Screen. "that was quick" I thought - they must have got the results back quicker than they thought. I'm not due to go and see my doctor at the Women's Health Clinic for another 3 weeks yet. Well, it'll be good news anyway.
Then I got home, unloaded the parcel and proceeded to open up all the mail. I opened the one from Breast Screen first and started to read...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Getting something off my chest

Early in May, or it could even have been late April, I made an appointment with Breast Screen for what I thought would be a routine Mammogram. It wasn’t until 19th May, and when I told this to Greg, he looked at me and said “you wouldn’t want to be in a hurry would you”. Even though, that comment looks more of a question, it was said more of a tongue in cheek.
So anyway, I got there on that afternoon – just made it too as the bus from here into town was unreliably late. I panicked and phoned them up to tell them I’d probably be late. I had no idea I was the last one before the radiographer left for the day!
Well, as luck would have it, I arrived right on the dot of 4.00pm! I was asked to enter into the lounge – where I briefly sat waiting for someone to come and fetch me for the x-ray. On the coffee table they had some 2011 breast screen diaries. (I just realised, it would probably help if I used mine) I decided I would take one for myself as there was a sign - “please take one”. It is a lovely diary actually, full of helpful ideas and room for your own notes. I stuck it in my bag, where it has remained since!
I heard my name come out – Sandra! I hated that. I deliberately put my name as Sandy – why is it that some people insist on using my birth name? Even my own parents call my Sandy! Oh well, in for the x-ray and get it out of the way.
Really – it was all done and over with in about 10 minutes. Four, no – five x-rays.
Then I was out of the office and on my way home. Well, that was done. I was told it would be about 2-3 weeks before I would have the results and they would send them to me as I had no regular doctor. I was happy with this.
Little did I realise, I would be back so soon...