One year ago tomorrow marks the last day I didn’t know I had breast cancer. In and of itself, it was a really bad day. As a result of being connected with organizations that help breast cancer patients and survivors I have written lots of my story to share. Tonight I just want to share about my awful biopsy day. It was without a doubt, one of the very worst experiences of my life.
My annual mammogram showed two calcifications. My OB/GYN’s office asked me to follow up with more mammography and ultrasound. That testing led the radiologist to recommend biopsy of both calcifications. The biopsy was a nightmare. There is no other description for it. You take off your blouse and bra and lie on a metal table with a hole in in for your breast to hang through. The table is raised so that the technician and radiologist can work comfortably. Your cheek is at the top edge of the table so the top half of your head hangs off the table. The technician wanted to get both calcifications in the upper right quadrant of my right breast into one x-ray view for the radiologist to be able to collect tissue without having to reposition my breast. As I lay prone on the table with my breast hanging through the hole in the table, she compressed my breast, stepped over to take the x-ray, stepped across the small room to view the x-ray on the computer and then came back to me. She would release my breast, pull on it some more, compress it again and repeat the process. I lost count at 8 compressions. There were 9 or 10 total but I gave up counting. This part of the process took about an hour. Then came the numbing of the boob. Lidocaine injected into tender, smashed tissue is grossly unpleasant and very painful. Then you wait a few minutes for the Lidocaine to take effect. The tissue from the first calcification was collected and x-rayed to make certain the calcification was there. Once that was confirmed, the technician asked how I was doing. I told her my neck hurt. She offered to release my breast, let me stretch and reposition me. I declined. I just wanted it over with. More Lidocaine was injected and they managed to find the parts of my breast that were not numb for that second shot. The second tissue sample was collected, x-rayed, and confirmed. By this point I was crying. Tears were dripping off my nose onto the floor because the top half of my head was above the edge of the table. They released my breast and turned me over to put pressure on the incision to prevent a hematoma from forming (the biopsy I had 5 years earlier that was negative for cancer resulted in a golf ball size lump that lasted for a month). After pressure for a few minutes, I was then put through one more standing up mammogram to make sure they could see the titanium clips that would tell future mammographers where this biopsy had been. My tears would not stop. The entire thing took about two hours and Hollis drove me home. I cried most of the way. I fully expected this entire torture session to be another negative result. My OB/GYN called the very next day. Pathology showed DCIS (cancer) in both samples. One month later I would have my surgery. I’ll write more about that later. I just wanted to tell you about this very bad day.