The morning after my birthday. I was laying in bed, feeling a little randy, and so I started to take advantage of myself. Actually, I didn’t get far with it because suddenly I realized that I wasn’t alone in the bed. While grabbing my breast in a way that should have been naughty, I instead realized I was achy and something was amiss. I called it a lump, but it wasn’t round. It wasn’t a mass either. I wasn’t sure WHAT it was, but it wasn’t there before. It had never been there before. Suddenly it WAS there and all I knew was that I didn’t have insurance.
I had applied for insurance a month earlier and so the day after my house guest moved in, I called for an update on my application.
“Backed up”, they told me.
“A couple more weeks”, they said
So, I waited, and I said nothing. To almost anyone. I didn’t want to worry people needlessly. I didn’t want people fussing if there wasn’t a reason. I didn’t want to TALK about it. I was trying with all my might to just get by until I could get insurance and get tested. Then, last Monday, I called again, assuming that calling three weeks from when I was told that 2 weeks would be a fair estimate for processing…well, that would get me good news, right?
“4 more weeks, ” she said, ” we are short-staffed and backed up over here with processing.”
I couldn’t handle the stress and the silence anymore. I wasn’t sleeping well those previous weeks and now I was crying myself to sleep some nights. I was beyond frustrated. I wanted to tell Type Geek, but I didn’t want to worry him. He just lost his brother last Spring. Cancer. Without some sort of diagnosis, I didn’t even know what to say. Why make people worry and feel helpless? So, I kept quiet and I researched. By midweek I had located the Women’s Health Network and the lovely woman there put me in contact with Lisa at Cambridge Health Alliance. Lisa hooked me up with Julianna & Coreen who were able to act as my advocates and fast track my insurance application. There was still chaos in that process though, as the insurance company lost the letter they faxed over last week, forcing us to re-fax it this week. Then the insurance agency decided that they would no longer deal with my advocates and I had to go back to calling them. Back and forth, back and forth. They leave me a message Monday late afternoon, only to tell me that, “Oops, you can’t call me back because the offices are now closed.” Making me wait until the morning. By mid Tuesday I finally have insurance. By end of day Tuesday I have an appointment at the Breast Care Center and a new primary care. Exhale.
Wednesday is a lot of waiting. I woke up late. Not concentrating. Appointment regarding my benefits in Downtown Boston, stroll through TJ Maxx for spices (a hidden gem for spices, btw), through Whole Foods for meat, and get home in time to do a bit of research before meeting a friend and her business partner for dinner about a potential business arrangement. Home and exhausted.
I woke this morning with an hour before I needed to be at the hospital. I showered the night before. No deodorant or powder. They can cause false positives on the films is my understanding or at least make reading the films difficult. No jewelry on the neck. Wear separates, so the top can be easily removed. Check Check Check. Got it.
Walking to the train… red line is down. Of course.
Cab stand. Nothing there. Guy hails one as I am trying to. I’m sure he has to go to the hospital to get his balls fondled, fine.
FINALLY I hail a cab…and he turns out to be agro overly caffeinated impatient driver from some townie North Shore part of Boston. Yay! Dude, that’s cool, yell at people for stopping at yellow lights. That’s cool. I might have cancer, but sure, it’s fine to let traffic lights totally ruin your day. He drops me off, finally. Free at last from his clutches!
As I am doing my check in… “But ma’am, your appointment is TOMORROW, the 30th.”
Ha Ha Ha Ha, “Umm, no, it’s THURSDAY, Today. Today is THURSDAY and my appointment is on THURSDAY.”
“But ma’am, it say’s here….”
“I DON’T CARE what THAT says. I made the appointment for THURSDAY”. Did I mention that I cut sugar and coffee weeks ago. Damn, if there was ever a time I could use a triple tall nonfat vanilla latte… it’s fucking right at that moment. BREATHE
They shuffle me off to the Breast Care Center to see if they can do anything. Thank you Lisa at BCC registration for fitting me in with Denise, the NP. Now for the fun part:
An hour undressed with a ridiculously designed gown (thankfully it was cotton, not paper) with arm holes larger than my skull, and lots of where is the lump, which breast, describe how it feels, describe the pain, on a scale from 1-10, where is the pain… ok, arm up. Thank you Denise for making the clinical exam not too torturous, and having a charming breast side manner. Having not found anything, she offered two options.
- I could go home and “watch it”. That means that I would still have the nagging questions in my mind. What if, Could it, Might it?
- She could justify to the insurance, while I have it, the reason for further tests, and schedule me a mammogram and ultrasound.
I opted for peace of mind. She agreed that it peace of mind was a good way to proceed and had me wait (there’s a definite trend here with the waiting) while she checked with Lisa. Ten minutes later I am told to go take a walk for an hour and come back for a 12:30 mammogram and 1 pm ultrasound. That’s a super long hour; if you are wondering. How do you think of anything other than what the tests MIGHT find. Even though Denise didn’t find anything, hell, the films could. So, I wandered around and checked out 2 vintage stores, a bookstore, picked up a white tea and wandered back. Lisa directed me to the mammogram suite, where I checked in, stripped again, and waited. YAWN. Of all days to be off coffee.
A quirky woman named Carol came and rescued me from boredom, only to torture me with an iron apron an inch smaller than my waist and the Tit Terrorizer, aka the mammogram machine. If they threatened criminals with mammograms, you’d get confessions sooner. Maybe it hurt so much because I’m petite and between the contorting and the shoving and the pressing, small breasts just hurt so much more when compressed to the size of a small luncheon sandwich. Once the 6 images were taken, and yes, the small paddle does hurt the worst, it was off to sit…and wait.
Sweet Maggie May, with the spasmy back… she rescued me from my waiting room purgatory. Leading me to the ultrasound room, she was quite funny and down to earth. We complained of getting older, my shoulder pain, her spasmy back. I suggested back stretches and arm stretches, and anti-inflammatory diet, and lots of ibuprofen. She poured warm gelatinous gook on my right breast and scanned it. I joked that I deserved a voucher for a really nice dinner after getting my breasts fondled for so many hours. After the scan, Maggie stepped out, I waited (yup) and once the doctor reviewed it, I was cleared to go.
Results? Nothing. Well, not nothing, but nothing cancerous. Turns out my breasts have decided to develop their own version of internal cellulite. Pockets of fat. Yay! I love old age. Apparently totally normal for women to have, some even develop like that initially.I guess I can find relief in that my bodies sick idea of symmetry. Cellulite on the thighs, cellulite in the breasts. Top to bottom. Grrar.
I headed back down to give Denise the heads up on results, book a follow-up with her in 3 months regarding the “pain’, and then wander over to make an appointment for a physical with my new primary care so that I can also get a referral for a dermatologist. All of this cancer scare has me wanting to get everything checked out while I have the insurance. So, all those moles and skin spots… be sure as hell I am getting those looked at. I’m also going to get to the bottom of my headaches, once and for all.
As I walked out of the hospital I exhaled and felt a definite sense of relief, but I also was oddly bummed out that it meant I couldn’t get La Perla customized breasts after all. That was my one silver lining. If I was going to have cancer, I would come out with implants and perfect La Perla sized breasts. Oh well, guess I will have to be happy with cancer free breasts instead of manufactured cleavage. In all of this, the best lesson I can find is this… if you have insurance, USE it. Get things checked out people. Been how long since a comprehensive exam? Get one. I know they are [fill in blanks], but they are necessary and they could save your life, or at least, your small and perky, yet imperfectly shaped for La Perla (sigh) breasts.