Thursday, July 9, 2015
It takes a man to come up with a simple solution. Why do women always have to jump through the hoops and tunnels, and do the whole agility course of dealing with something as simple as a little weight gain? I haven't run since last week's four Rock Repeats. I was sore for 5 days after that and then we've had a bunch of rain, to the point where we've got mushrooms growing all over the yard. I've been working and finding all sorts of reasons not to go running.
On Tuesday I had my mammogram, my regular visit to the boob smasher. I always dread this visit for several reasons, obviously the fear of what it might find, as I'm considered at higher than average risk for breast cancer, but also, I have to go through the halls of my former employer and run into people I know. And then I usually get asked, "are you still up at the hospital?" or some such question...coming up on two years since I left.
Two years ago on my way into the building I ran into one of the pulmonologists I used to work with, I just came right out and told him when he asked what I was up to. Then he was all worried, and I had to reassure him that it was routine, not because I had any problems. And then last year right after my annual smashing I ran into one of the big wigs and gave him my long-overdue exit interview in the parking lot.
So this year I scanned my surroundings carefully as I walked from the parking lot into the building. Walking past the seating area for urgent care there were no familiar faces anywhere. I ducked into the breast center and the volunteer immediately sent me to the check-in desk. The woman checking me in was having a laughing fit over something and could not get rid of her giggles. I'm glad she was having fun at work, because otherwise the place is pretty somber. They took me back immediately and I changed into the pink flannel gown that opens in the front and sat down in the waiting area for the tech to get me.
I've never had to wait very long there, and she came back to get me in a few minutes. We walked to an office where they review your health history and risk factors and so on. I noticed she didn't ask if I was having any problems or concerns. That should have been a question. Yes, I'm concerned, they hurt like hell lately. Sometimes even with a tight running bra on I want to reach up and smash them against my chest to keep them from moving. That would look pretty silly though, running down the street holding my boobs. When I was in for my checkup we were talking about hormones and menopause and how that would do it.
I was more anxious than usual this time. Maybe because of the pain, or just the fact that when you work with people with cancer all the time you start to get paranoid for yourself. I don't know. The actual smashing part didn't hurt at all except for the left one when they do the diagonal image. But even that wasn't bad. She hesitated and looked at the pictures before letting me go, and then told me they'd send me a letter in the mail within 10 days, and if they found anything concerning they'd give me a call this week. The usual thing.
I got out of there without seeing anyone I knew, ran across the parking lot and drove home. Tried to forget about it, even though it would be in the back of my mind until I heard. I have never been called back before and I hope to continue that streak.
So yesterday around noon I was sitting out in the woman cave in a driving rainstorm outside and my phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and it was my doctor's office.
The entire contents of my abdominal cavity dropped, I felt that adrenaline rush and fear sensation, that funny metallic taste in my mouth. Less than 24 hours had passed.
I answered the call, feeling shaky. It was the MA for my doctor, she was calling to ask me what my mail order pharmacy was. I asked her why. She said the one they had on record wasn't the right one. I said, "Is there anything else you're calling about?"
"No, just that."
I felt my gut move up a foot or so. I changed the brand of one of my thyroid medications when I was there a week ago. I threw my head back looking at the ceiling, let out a huge sigh of relief.
"You scared me so bad, I thought you were calling because I had my mammogram yesterday."
She said, "Oh, no, I'm sorry! Actually I just sent you a letter telling you that everything was fine with the mammogram."
All of my organs suddenly floated back into place. I asked her to check where my other prescriptions were going, and she found it. I don't know why she couldn't have figured it out herself by looking in the computer, but whatever. I got some reassuring information. Nothing else mattered.
When we got off the phone, I wondered, if they knew about my mammogram results, why the hell can't they tell you right away instead of sitting on it until a letter comes by snail mail? They were going to let me sweat it out. I could have called to find out, but in 24 hours I had already distracted myself enough to not have it in the front of my mind. Not only that, if she knew I just had my mammogram yesterday because she sent out the results, why couldn't she have started the conversation by reassuring me that it was okay?
I don't think I've ever waited 10 days for the results, but there really should be a rapid system that lets the patient know immediately after the results are read by the radiologist even if they are negative. My doctor is a breast cancer survivor too. Our healthcare system really needs to serve patients, not itself. My little fantasy, I know, but I'm working on it.