By Frances Barrie
I know that the yearly mammogram you get after you are finished with all treatments for breast cancer are supposed to cause anxiety and stress but that wasn’t the case for me yesterday. I admit I was quite stressed getting to my appointment, because we are now dealing with 2 broken vehicles and I had to ask a friend for a ride into Boston, but once I was in the building I was calm, cool, and collected. So calm in fact, I fell asleep in the chair waiting for my results. Head back, mouth open, deep snooze until I heard my name from far, far, away, “Frances Kolenik”. My head snapped forward as I wiped drool off my chin and looked around at the other woman in their starched blue and white gowns, busy reading or worrying. I wondered if they overtly stared at me while I slept or stole fleeting glimpses of my slumbering while thumbing through their magazines. I’m sure they thought it was wildly inappropriate.
My mammogram was over quite quickly. Done in half the time it used to take. Since I have only one real breast, they only squash and flattten one side into their heineous machine of torture. The nurse I had was exceptionally rough yesterday, handling me like a slab of meat. “Just slap that baby up on this counter…ya come on, up here, stand on your toes. That’s it, now stand like that while I screw this vice down on top of it..one…more…turn…there now don’t move, and hold your breath.”
Like I could breath if I wanted to.
But I was spared the agony of having to do this on the other side because they don’t check the implanted side. So within minutes I was sent off to the waiting room with the other women to await my results, and in my case catch a few winks. My results were normal. This was good news but nothing I didn’t already know. See, it is not the other breast that concerns me. I don’t expect to get breast cancer in my other side. That would be a new cancer. What actually causes me anxiety is that a cell from the cancer I already had somehow escaped the onslaught of chemo and has attached itself elsewhere in my body. The area surrounding my implant particularly worries me-but they don’t check that. Nor have they done any other scans on me like they do for others that have had the same treatment. I am still not quite sure why.
I did see Dr. Christian who ‘manually’ checked my chest and said it seemed fine. I told him about a pain near the sight of the original cancer and he said he had no answer and that maybe it was a “ghost” pain–pain some people get in an area of the body that has been removed or amputated. I am not quite convinced that is true, but for now this answer will have to do. I will bring it up again with my oncologist in August.
So as far as the year mammogram check, which some think is a big deal, I am not feeling that great sigh of relief. I am happy to have a clean scan in my right breast but what would make me really happy is a PET scan that would show no evidence of cancer anywhere else. This, again is something to take up with my oncologist.
The good news is this…a full year has passed since the end of my chemo and I am here, and feeling stronger than ever. I certainly don’t need a test to tell me that.