Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Little Tribute To October

Let me get on my soapbox for a moment and air an ugly grievance.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Seriously.  In the year 2012, we have to have a month where people become AWARE of this horrible thing we call breast cancer.  

Are there people who are really unaware of this disease? 

I could go on and on about how much this irritates me and how it's high time we stopped calling it awareness and, oh wait, I'm going on and on. 

Anyway.  It's October.  This is the month Americans have designated to think about breast cancer.  Like you never think about it any other time of the year.  Oops, there I go again.

So, in light of this special month of awareness, I  thought I'd bring back one of my own favorite posts.  What- you don't have posts you've written that just entertains you again and again? 

I sort of hesitate to repost this because I think when I orignally wrote this, some of my parents' friends weren't avid readers and now they'll have to read about yet another personal event that I'm just putting out there for the world to read.  Oh well, it's what you come here for, isn't it?

Ok, here we go.

So, a short while back, I had to go to the Boobologist for a baseline mammogram. Ugh. The 30s are not a fun decade. Blood pressure talk.  Talk of calcium.  Injuries from daily activity.  Now a mammogram. Not because anything felt wrong but because they like a baseline. So I made the appointment and then it snuck up on me. At 6pm one night. It took like 20 minutes and was a breeze. It's digital, so apparently not as painful as the other kind. And much more modern. My doctor told me I could go to several places that but the Breast Care Center would have digital mammography. Well, who WOULDN'T choose the most modern???   Oh, I'd like the old fashioned kind, the kind where no one can really see anything and is very painful.  Do you have one of those kind?
So, it was relatively painfree and kind of surreal. She was excited to only take 6 pictures instead of 8. She reeked of peppers and onions. And wanted to know all about Gwenstopher. They don't fool me when they take such an interest in you or your pet. It's all about distraction. I'm no dummie. She ended with the fact that 90% of people have to come back in for more screening because they need that for the baseline, so DO NOT BE ALARMED. I only need to hear those 4 words to become VERY ALARMED. She ended with "I mean, if it was something HORREDOUS, they'd call you right away, but otherwise, just wait for the results in the mail." A direct quote, I swear. 
OH GREAT. I spent each day for a few days worried when the phone rang. After about a week, I decided it was nothing "HORRENDOUS", so I forgot about it.

Until we had a snow day. Thankfully, I went to the mail later in the day, or I would never have accomplished anything that day. The pink paper (that is a little trite, isn't it?) said to come back for more images and that it was PROBABLY NORMAL, so DO NOT BE ALARMED. Cue VERY ALARMED FACE AND BODILY REACTIONS- racing heart, shaking, worry, stomach ache.

I didn't like the appointment time, so I called to reschedule. The girl was so nice, accommodating my every need, and we determined a better choice. And otherwise, my choice was a whole month later and though she said I could wait, it was with caution that she said "I mean, it doesn't matter to me, you can wait if you want. It's all what you're comfortable with."
Oh, umm I'm comfortable with a world that doesn't have disease, thanks.  Guess I'll see you in 2 days.

Many scenarios played in my head over the next 48 hours. Knowing I felt nothing bizarre, my doctor wasn't worried when she saw me in September and there were no calls of the HORRENDOUS nature did nothing to alleviate the imaginings I was able to produce.
At last it was time. So, I arrived a little early and was taken right in. This time, a different woman did the images and she was ultra serious and didn't care about me or my cat. She started with something about why I needed to come back in, didn't say it was normal, and that we'll see what the radiologist says after that. No reassurances.
She was quick, didn't smell like food and quiet. This time, it wasn't the 6 pictures, it was just 4, but of particular areas. Dun dun dun.

Then I had to sit and wait for 15 minutes. Another woman came in and said the radiologist would like me to have an ultrasound, so could I go with her. Yes, this had been mentioned as a possible part of the "normal" routine, but I wasn't buying it.
In I went to this room that they tried to make very cheerful. And cozy.  With lots of birdhouses painted on the wall and that didn't make me too happy. And she began to do the ultrasound, going over the same places over and over. Making me very nervous. Then she did the other side, so I at least felt like maybe nothing was weird and I calmed down a little. Maybe just some dense fibers. I am a pretty solid person, so dense tissue wouldn't surprise me at all. And I dont' have big bazoongas, so I can't imagine there's much room in there, so everything must be dense.    People say all the time that they have dense tissue, right? 
But this side required her to dim the lights and do a lot of squinting at the screen. Not a feel good moment.

And it got worse when she quickly stood up and said she'd go show them to him to see if he wants more done.   She hurried out of the room and banged the door. I discovered I really hate birdhouses on the wall and that's what I had to look at for all the time she was gone.  Imagining all sorts of atrocious things. 
I pictured a young guy, feet on his desk, coffee in his hand; the tech goes running in and says "you've gotta see this!  Have you ever seen anything like this before?  Is it supposed to look like that?"
The doctor sits upright and says "damn, we've got to get that out STAT, where is she?"4
"She's in room 100, the one with all the birdhouses, Dr. Handsome."
I'm telling you, I have quite an imagination.
The next thing I knew, she banged the door back open and gave me a paper that says everything is dandy and I'm all set to go and practically ran out of the room! 
Phew. What a sigh of relief. What a pain in the ass.

So, Breast Care Center? Let me make a suggestion. Since you claim 90% of your patients have to come back for more images when getting a baseline, how 'bout you schedule them for 2 visits to begin with. And you don't tell them that the 2nd one is a normal follow up. You just make it standard that you have 2 visits.
And then if they see everything clearly the first time, you call that lucky 10% back and say "hey, you've got nice boobs, don't come back for a year. And go play the lottery!" This way, people like me won't get all worked up about receiving the notice to come back. And you'll save a lot of paper, time, postage and ink because you won't have to send out those follow up letters.
And you can still tell people that if anything HORRENDOUS is on the images, they'll call right away. You could send those 10% who don't need a revist a singing tellegram like this:
da da da da da da da:
about your recent test
you have no cancer in the breast
so jump and cheer
see you next year!
Right, now get your mammogram.
Be prepared to go back for the routine retakes.
And for God's sake would you be aware????

Linking up here.


  1. I have to say I never thought of Awareness month that way, but you are completely right. It really should be renamed Beat Breast Cancer month or something where people are called to actually DO something. Thanks for warning me about the call back/second visit.

  2. I have been there, I was 26 with a huge lump did the mamogram went to ultrasound and turned out fine, fortunately mine was in the same day. I couldn't imagine waiting two days. I would have flipped out. Glad everything turned out fine.

    1. Thankfully, there was no lump or cause for alarm, they just wanted a baseline. Had there been a reason like that, they told me they would have done extensive ultrasounds and stuff then. Which makes me want to know why they couldn't do it all even if there wasn't cause for alarm! And it wasn't 2 days!! It was like 10 days before the letter arrived and another 2 days beyond that before I went in for the follow up! That's what the agony was! Waiting for sooooooo long.

  3. I totally hate the term "awareness" as it's used these days. Not only breast cancer awareness, but domestic violence awareness, bullying awareness, diabetes awareness.... I'm aware!! Thank you!

    I just got the ultrasound for the first time after years of mammograms. Apparently I have a cyst, and it's nothing to worry about.

  4. Oh, I am right with you on the overuse of awareness. Again, is there much on the awareness spectrum we aren't aware of? I think even those tribes who speak clicking languages have to be aware of some of these disease because they are worldwide.

  5. I love how you call it the "Booboligist."

  6. As a former X-ray tech, who did some "boobology," (love, love, love the title, BTW!), and a 50 year old woman with 10 years of mammos of my own under my belt, I have NEVER heard of a statistic that 90 % return for more images. A good tech knows she's got quality diagnostic images when she performs your exam. The radiologist may wish a "spot" image or ultrasound to rule out anything suspicious. But 90% ? I have fatty breasts (TMI, I know, but bear with me) and I have been asked back once for an ultrasound to rule out a cyst in ten years. Please do me a favor- find another place to get a digital mammo next time. The FDA certifies facilities; they have a list on their site. You can also find one through the National Cancer institute's info service. There is no reason women must go back for extra films and exposure to radiation unnecessarily - through poor imaging, sloppy reading of images or greed. I hate it when people have anything but a positive experience with xrays, mammos, mri, ct, or ultrasound. It reflects poorly on a profession I loved. I will get off my soap box now. (And may I add I great enjoyed your writing!)


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