The Biopsy

19 Mar

Thursday, Feb 1 I arrive at the diagnostics clinic accompanied by one of my closest friends. I am confident it isn’t cancer, but I still don’t want to be alone even though I know I won’t get results immediately.  They put a wrist band on me and confirm my identity. I’m seated in a small waiting room that isn’t set up for optimal space, but it has a small fire-place in the corner and several outlets so you can charge electronics. I start to work on the standard forms but am called in to see the oncologist before I can complete them. The nurse bringing me to see Dr. Niaz confirms my identity again and the doctor sees me right away. We go over family history and prior health topics. I am not what they consider a high risk factor but he says the scans are concerning. He examines my breast but says he feels nothing. I am sent back for a mammogram where a wonderful woman begins to explain the process to me by comparing my breasts to an overcast sky. We’re just going to part the clouds she says. She’s very lovely and informative, and I imagine this process is daunting to people so she’s trying to make it as pleasant as possible. I’m not the kind of person who likes things prettied up however so I am wishing she’d just get to it already. This needs to be done, so let’s get it done.

Before the mammogram begins she confirms my identity. This is the third time in less than an hour I’ve had to confirm my identity and each time they ask this they also check my wrist band. I am starting to wonder if the concern is my mental state or their accuracy.

We begin a series of incredibly awkward and uncomfortable poses involving this woman I’ve just met handling my breast as though it were molding clay while this machine clamps down and squashes. We do this a lot in various poses. At one point the machine actually lifted me off the ground slightly. Have you ever been picked up by the breast?

After several images are taken I am sent back to the waiting room. I am hungry and thirsty. If I can give you one bit of advice when going in for these appointments: bring a snack and water! I don’t have time to send my friend for anything because a nurse comes to collect me for more mammogram imaging. Dr. Niaz wants a better look at the spot where I can feel the lump. More awkward posing and squashing, this time with a smaller screen, and then I’m brought to a different waiting room where another nurse asks if I am Jessica. I tell her I’m not, but if being Jessica will get me in sooner I’ll be her. She laughs but then informs reception that since Jessica isn’t here and I am, she will take me in right away. Sweet!

She confirms my identity and looks at my wrist band. I ask if they’ve ever performed the wrong procedure on someone and that’s why they have to be this thorough. I’m fully expecting her to laugh but instead she just looks at me and says it happens, so this ensures it won’t.

I better not leave with a new hip….

I am brought into a small room with an ultrasound machine and an exam table. She searches for the lump with the ultrasound and we discuss the procedure. She tells me that the Doctor said it is concerning because there isn’t enough evidence to rule out concern yet and that it is a good sign that the lump feels tender because cancerous lumps do not typically hurt. Then she leaves to get the radiologist. I feel calm and relaxed.

Approximately 15 minutes go by when the door opens and in walks the nurse with a man behind her who is already talking when he as he enters the room. It took me a few seconds to realize he was speaking to me and that he was explaining the procedure as he walked in. As I am being prepped I stop the nurse to confirm my identity because we need a laugh. I’m in a good mood despite the hunger.

The radiologist explains that he is going to freeze my breast so I will feel a slight pinch for the injections, then he will insert the biopsy needle. When he shows me the needle I swear it looks like a small harpoon. He shows me that it will make a click when it collects the sample and that unfortunately I will feel pain when that happens but there isn’t anything he can do about that.

They have me lie as comfortably as possible with my arm up and place absorbent paper with a circle opening to expose my breast. The nurse cleans the area with a liquid resembling beet juice and informs me it will stain for a few days. The radiologist gives me a series of small injections to freeze my breast and explains he will be inserting the biopsy needle as parallel as he can from the side of my breast near my under arm along the top to reach the area where the scan shows the lesion, aka my lump. The reason it is done this way is to avoid as much breast tissue and muscle as possible for less pain and better recovery. I will bruise but will heal faster. He then begins inserting the biopsy needle and I am surprised how quickly the freezing kicked in and how effective it is. I don’t feel a thing.

It is completely painless. I even get to watch on the ultrasound screen while he harpoons me. He warned me about the click so I got ready to feel pain, but there was none. Not even a bit. He collected 3 samples and I was then cleaned, bandaged, given a small frozen gel pack and scheduled to return Feb 8 for my results.

The freezing began to wear off about an hour or so later and then I was quite sore. The pain was easily managed with a couple extra strength Tylenol and sleep.

My bruise lasted a couple of weeks and looked worse than it was. I did have a very small amount of bleeding overnight. Three blood spots smaller than pea sized on my shirt.

Photo taken 2 days post biopsy.

Now we wait…

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