Anonymiss in DC

{December 3, 2010}   At the breast care center

So I’ve spent some time at the radiology place that specializes in, well, boobs. They do mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies, you know, that kind of stuff. Even though it wasn’t especially “fun” to be there, the whole thing kind of felt hilariously cliché. There I was, sitting in a pink chair in the waiting room, next to a table with a fake boob with a lump in it, a bunch of women’s health magazines, and a poster about a Race for the Cure, watching P.S. I Love You while I waited for them to call me back to see the doctor.

I sighed, not sure whether to be amused or what. There were like five other women sitting there, too, also not looking especially thrilled to be there, but equally sucked into the movie. Nervous, and, I guess, hoping for solidarity of some sort, I managed not to say something like, “So, what fun thing are you here for?”, but instead tried to strike up a conversation with the lady sitting across from me about whether I should rent the movie to see the rest of it. “Oh, you haven’t seen this one yet?” she said. “It’s a tear-jerker!”

They even have pink pens.

Still, the place is super quiet, impersonal, and sterile. And to make matters worse, the women behind the counter look especially unfriendly.

The second time I was there, to get my “ultrasound-guided biopsy” (since the first ultrasound revealed I have a small but distinct solid mass, not an easily-drained, fluid-filled cyst) I borrowed the bathroom key before my procedure. I’m just returning it to the counter when Miss Cranky Pants looks over and says “Actually you can just stay up here, Ms. Anonymiss. I’m going to need you to fill out this paperwork.”

“Oh, ok, no problem,” I say, a bit taken back at her total lack of friendliness (I’m about to get a biopsy to see if I have cancer, for Pete’s sakes).  She says something like “Fill this out, this out, and this out and sign here, here, and here” and kinda chucks the forms and a pen on the counter. I hesitate for a second thinking she’s going to give me a clipboard so I can go sit down and fill them out, but she stares straight at me like I’m a complete moron, so I start filling out the forms at the counter. I feel like I’m under a magnifying glass as she stands there, waiting.

“Oops,” I murmur after a few seconds, noticing that I was starting to sign my name where it shouldn’t be. I cross it out and continue.

“Is there a problem?” she says sharply, catching me by surprise. I feel like I’m about six years old and just got caught talking during a lesson. (Been there, done that.)

“Hmm? Oh, no, I’m fine,” I say, kind of embarrassed.  “It’s just early, you know, haven’t had my coffee yet, and I was signing in the wrong place.” I smile at her and go back to the form, hoping that’s the end of this conversation.

“You do need to sign there, ma’am. That’s saying we can release your protected health information to your insurance.”

“Oh, I thought that was here,” I say. “Oh! So I guess I was right the first time. ” She looks at me, completely unimpressed. “Do I also sign here?” I ask, wishing I could just get something right already.

She kinda half rolls her eyes so I know that she thinks I’m completely incompetent. “Yes, you also sign there.”

“Great,” I squeak, hoping I don’t sound too inauthentic. “Was there anything else you needed?”

“No. You can sit in that chair and wait until I call you, and then you can meet me at the door.”

At the door? Oh my God. This woman is going to be my nurse? I think she might kill me!

After a minute or so sitting in my pink chair, she calls my name, and I grab my stuff as quickly as possible (so she doesn’t have to wait) and head for the door. She leads me to this little room with more pink chairs and five little changing stalls and says that I should go into one , put on a gown so it’s open in the front and take my clothes with me when I’m finished.

I obey. These gowns are ugly, and not especially comfortable. And this one smells a little funny. But whatever. At least they are cotton and not crunchy paper.

As I step out of the changing stall, I realize she didn’t tell me what to do next. Or maybe she did but I didn’t catch it. Great, Anonymiss. Really setting the world on fire today, aren’t we?

I stumble down the hall and see her moving stuff around in one of the exam rooms. She looks up at me, again, with total disdain.

“Yes?” she says simply, like “Oh no you DIDN’T just show up without my calling you.”

“Oh,” I say dumbly. “Did you…did you want me to wait in the chairs? I wasn’t sure.”

“Yes, I’ll come get you when we’re ready.”

“Ok, great, thanks,” I say, scurrying back to the chairs.  I sit back down and try to pull myself together. This is going to be ok. Just get it over with. (But seriously, thanks a lot for your compassion, lady!)

She finally calls me, and I take a deep breath and follow her to the ultrasound room, where she tells me to lay down on the table next to the machine. Then she starts pulling stuff out of the cabinets and putting it on one of those “surgical trays”, which, frankly, always give me the heebie jeebies, even though it’s mostly just bandages, etc., sitting on what could probably be a cookie sheet if it weren’t “sterile.” She also pulls up the ultrasound of my lump on the screen, which I decide is somehow less scary to look at than the tray. (That may or may not be because there’s now something on it that looks strikingly like a syringe.)

I crack a small joke about how excited I am about this whole thing, and she actually chuckles for a second. Thank God. Pathetic as this sounds, I feel instantly less panicked. (Really.)

Stop reading if you don’t want to know about how biopsies work. 😛

I’m especially grateful for her chuckle, because next she starts explaining to me that the doctor will use the ultrasound to find the lump, then he’ll give me an injection in the area to numb it. Eeeeek. “You’ll feel a little pinch, and then some stinging as it sets in.” She goes on to talk about how he’ll  stick a needle in and use the ultrasound machine to help him take small pieces from different parts of the lump.

Of course, I’m still back at the part where she mentioned the injection before I’m numbed.

“Does it hurt?” I ask, realizing I sound pathetic, but going for it anyway. I can’t be that much wussier than ever other woman who’s ever been here, right?

Instantly, she says, “No, because he’ll numb you.”

Nice try.

“No, no, I mean, the needle he uses to numb me.”

“Oh. It feels like getting Novocaine, like when you have a cavity.”

I ponder this for a second. Right, because I’m sure getting a needle in my breast is going to feel like getting a needle in my gum.

“Ok. So it’s like…a pinch, and then stinging?” I manage. She nods.

“Just for a few seconds.”

I take another deep breath, and try to be cool as she announces she’ll be right back with the doctor. I lay back and try to focus on something on the ceiling. (Kinda wish they put a picture up there or something. I’ve seen that before and thought it was silly, but I could totally use to stare at a picture of a puppy right now.)

The doctor (a man, not a a woman, but frankly, I don’t even care anymore) is a bit cheery for someone at work at just after seven in the morning on a Friday for purposes of pulling chunks of tissue out of people to see if they have cancer. But, you know, maybe that’s just my opinion.  He does do this every day, or close. (Not to sound weird, but what kind of person would want to do this?)

He pulls a tube of jelly from the ultrasound machine, which, I notice to my amusement is actually warm on my skin. No kidding. Ultrasound machines have jelly warmers now? For some reason I want to laugh.

But then my lump pops up on the screen. (“There it is!” the doctor announces), and starts getting ready to numb me. Normally I like to watch when people take my blood or give me shots or whatever (it makes me feel a little more in control), but I make a split second decision that I really really do not want to see this. Instead, I watch for the needle on the ultrasound. This is actually kind of cool.

And it does hurt for a tiny second, and there’s another second of kind of like a burning/stinging feeling, but actually, it’s really not that bad, at all. I think it hurt less than getting Novocaine in my gums. I guess it is fatty tissue…right? Whatever.  I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Next, he tells me that he doesn’t want me to freak out, but the thing he’s going to use to pull out the samples makes a clicking noise. “Kinda like a staple gun!” he says jovially, demonstrating the sound. I don’t look. It does sound like a staple gun.

“Oh great!” I say. “That’s lovely!”

“Don’t worry, it won’t hurt,” he says kindly. “The only thing is you’ll probably feel it moving around in there while I’m getting it in place.”


Luckily, I don’t know if my nerve endings suck or if that numbing stuff was just really good, but I don’t feel anything at all. I just lay there and watch, mesmerized, as the needle moves around inside me and CLACK, he pops the staple gun to pull out a piece. I jump at the sound, but realize (with satisfaction) that I don’t feel a darn thing. He does this about three more times, and announces he’s done. Yay!

Because I’m curious, I ask him to show me the “staple gun”, which really is enormous. That needle must be as wide as spaghetti.  “Holy moly,” I gasp. “Definitely glad I didn’t see that before. ”

“Gee, I can’t imagine why,” he says, obviously amused.

We chat for another minute or two, and then he promises to call me personally as soon as the results come in.  “I really don’t think you have anything to worry about, but I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.”

I am so relieved that it’s over– and that he’s reiterated that he thinks it’ll be ok.  As for “Ms. Cranky Pants”– I’m taking it back.  She’s mellowed. (Then again, so have I.)  She bandages me up and explains how I should take care of myself for the next couple of days. She also tells me she thinks that if the doctor thought I had something to worry about, he would’ve told me “straight out.”

It’s funny. I was afraid of her before, but now I could hug her.  I can’t help myself, so I gush about how relieved I am that the whole biopsy thing is over, and I tell her to have a great weekend and a wonderful holiday.


But the very best part about the whole thing??

The doctor did call me a few days later, and he said that the lump is a fibroadenoma, like they thought, and that it’s benign.

Benign. THANK GOD.

Of course, I had (and still have) lots of questions I wanted to ask him, but when he said that I was ok, I swear, my mind went blank, and all I could think of was how lucky I am.  Honestly.

I’ve officially lost my “It couldn’t happen to me” feeling that we all have a little bit of (even if we won’t admit it) but that just might be a good thing.  Of course, am I thankful for the experience? Not especially. But I sure am thankful that it was a wake-up call, and not a scary diagnosis.


To those of you who’ve actually read all this stuff I’ve written about this experience, thanks for “being there.”  It was a tough call whether to write about it or not, especially since it’s super personal, and yeah, maybe a little “TMI.” But in the end, I decided I wanted to. Partly for my own sanity, yes. Partly because if anyone who’s going through something similar sees this and it could make them feel better, it will have been totally worth it as far as I’m concerned.

Also, I’m frankly sick and tired of people being so hush hush all the time about things that happen all the time but seem to be too personal to talk about.  We’ll all go buy pink visors and coffee cups for “the cure”, and we’ve all heard the talks about doing self-exams and getting regular mammograms and all that, but God forbid it actually get personal.

I do realize that I’m annoyingly talkative, particularly when I’m nervous, but something about sitting in a room with a bunch of women all there to get their breasts checked, and then in a second waiting area full of women sitting there in gowns, probably all worried about the same thing…well…it strikes me as sad that none of us can make eye contact, let alone crack a joke about the “joys” of womanhood.  No?

Anyway, the end. 😛

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