I thought having a mammogram was uncomfortable… let me tell you, a breast MRI is whole ‘nother something! This may be TMI (too much information) for some of you. You are forewarned! At least I didn’t include pictures.
So first you change into the metal-less garb of the imaging center. Then they start an I.V. because they are going to be injecting contrast into your vein at some point during the study. Then you lie facedown on the narrow “bed” that has two holes for your two boobs. These are big holes, because lots of people have big boobs. I, on the other hand, was blessed with my Grandma Callahan’s boobs. One of my high school friends referred to them as mosquito bites. Tiny. The poor babes just looked down into the great abyss of boob-space and sighed. But the MRI tech didn’t flinch. The part of the “bed” where the boob holes are is higher than the rest of it, so with my back arched uncomfortably because of the boob hole wedge, lying on my stomach, mosquito bites aimed at the holes, arms straight up overhead (diver style), one hand holding the button to push if I got too claustrophobic, I was slid into a narrow tube for the MRI.
What music would you like to listen to? They asked. I said 80’s music… why not… I was expecting the kind of music I listened to as I drove across the country in 1985 – road music… Wham, ABBA, Bryan Adams… music with a driving beat to go along with the anticipated noise of the MRI machine. Instead I was treated to 80’s soft rock: Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” and Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” – sweet music (hard to hear over the noise of the machine) that just didn’t cut it. I’ll know to be more specific next time.
The test took probably about 20 minutes, I don’t remember now. It seemed like forever at the time. I was wearing headphones playing 80’s soft rock, (headphones which, by the way, did not do much to filter out the banging and clanging and whirring of the MRI machine), when the voice of the tech came over the headphones and said something… who knows what. It sounded like the adults talking in a Peanuts cartoon. I hoped it wasn’t important information. Then I got this metallic taste in my mouth – aha, she was probably saying she was injecting the contrast into my I.V. Also somewhere during the process of lying there the noise of the machine went from clanging and whirring to whooping like an alarm… THAT was a little disconcerting. I may have jumped a little. Apparently that didn’t mess anything up – even though at the beginning I had been admonished to try to lie very still.
Don’t get me wrong – the tech and the nurse who took care of me during the MRI were awesome. They explained what they were doing and how long it would take, and what to do if I was having trouble. The experience itself though was… unique.
9/21 -mammogram. 10/1 – follow up mammo and ultrasound. 10/8 – core biopsy. 10/10 – biopsy results. 10/11 – appointment with surgeon. 10/12 – call from surgeon that I would need an MRI. 10/15 – MRI
All the while life goes on. I drove to Ocean Shores on Friday, Oct 12, for a weekend of scrapbooking. This was just after getting off the phone with Dr. Wooten telling me that she wanted me to have an MRI before doing surgery. I drove via White Pass, and shortly after I stopped to take this picture of Mt Rainier, the hospital called to schedule my MRI.
I didn’t want to spend the weekend being all “woe is me” with my scrapbooking friends – so I didn’t mention my diagnosis, and just enjoyed the people and the ocean. I was still wrapping my own brain around it all.
At the end of the weekend I went to my parents’ home in Des Moines (WA) to see my sister and brother-in-law who were visiting from Texas, and to tell them all the news. I know you are reading this, Mom. In fact you are probably reading it out loud to Dad. It was so hard to tell you. I want to shield you from things that might make you sad or make you worry. But I knew you would need to know.
We (Kevin and I) met with the surgeon on a Thursday afternoon. I liked Dr. Wooten immediately. She was (is) straightforward and compassionate. She explained the findings of the core biopsy… there was cancer found within the mammary ducts of my right breast (ductal cell carcinoma) and there wasn’t a finding of cancer outside of the ducts. This is good news. The grade of the cancer was high (other words for this are very active, or aggressive). This is bad-ish news. The cancer cells don’t have hormone receptors – something called “triple negative”. This is not good or bad news, it just affects the treatment for the cancer (more on that later).
One other piece of the puzzle was that the size of the area of cancer or mass was in question. By mammography it didn’t seem so big, but the ultrasound reported it to be 4 cm in diameter – that’s the diameter of a ping pong ball (I looked it up). Dr. Wooten wondered if they meant 4 mm (smaller than a pea). SO, if the mass was small we could do a lumpectomy followed by radiation and possible chemo. But if the mass was truly 4 cm then we would consider mastectomy.
Either way – we scheduled surgery for a week later. With the possibility that things might change after Dr. Wooten’s weekly breast conference the next day. Yes, there is such a thing as breast conference – where a variety of people (surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, and probably a few others) get together and talk about my breast. Super.
After the breast conference Dr. Wooten called me and said the team suggested further imaging – an MRI – that would help them to define the mass and to identify if there was cancer outside of the ducts. The MRI was scheduled for Monday. See how this went? Diagnosis on Wednesday, met with surgeon on Thursday, breast conference on Friday, MRI on Monday, surgery coming up on Friday. Things were moving so fast! More in the next post…
August – knew it was time to schedule the yearly mammogram. Also thought I was feeling a little extra lumpy-bumpy-ness in my R breast.
September – had the yearly mammogram at Ohana (Yakima’s breast health center). Not quite normal (which has happened before) so scheduled for follow up imaging.
October – follow up imaging showed a suspicious mass, so had a core biopsy, which came back with the diagnosis: DCIS – ductal carcinoma in situ. The person who called me with the news was the Ohana nurse navigator, Betsy. She told me the diagnosis, and told me the next step is to meet with a surgeon and discuss surgery option. She gave me surgeon options; I chose Dr. Wooten; She called their office and called me back within 5 minutes with an appointment for the next day!
This is how it started… I was surrounded by kind professionals, from the initial mammographer, to the team who did my core biopsy, to my Nurse Navigator, Betsy. More in the next post…