(and why it is important to advocate for yourself….)
On September 1st, I got the “situation” in my boob biopsied. Finding the doctor to do the biopsy was primarily decided by my insurance network. The original doctor my OB-GYN referred me to did not take my insurance (thanks, HMO). So, the office referred me to a surgeon who seemed amazing on paper. Harvard Medical School, Sloan Kettering Fellowship… To make a long story short, despite the fact she herself seemed knowledgeable, I was not comfortable with the medical practice. She only had one assistant/office manager, and the ultrasound machine had broken, so a traveling ultrasound woman with an ipad and a wand came into the consult.
On the actual biopsy, she had prescribed a Valium so I could be as relaxed as possible. I think she did a good job getting the sample, no complaints there. However, I left that appointment being told that I would get the results in two days. Fast forward to 8 days later, on Wednesday, September 9th, I had to physically drive to the pathology lab to pick up my results. (more on the results later…)
I have always been an advocate. An advocate of my children, an advocate of my students, but rarely had I ever had to advocate for myself. The biopsy was on a Tuesday. Thursday (2 days later) came and went. On Friday, I called the office, but the office was closed and the answering service informed me that the office would be closed for four days for the Labor Day weekend. I was pretty anxious and disappointed that I had to endure the whole weekend waiting… Tom Petty’s “The Waiting” kept running through my mind all weekend; the waiting IS the hardest part, even if he was singing about chasing some woman.
On Tuesday, I assumed the office would open. I left three messages with the answering service. It was torture! By then, I had already made the decision to switch to a different breast surgeon. I did my homework and found someone who came personally recommended by a former patient, and she attended Duke for undergrad and medical school. (Yay! How can a fellow Blue Devil NOT be awesome?) The new doctor’s office had me email them all my medical reports up until the biopsy pathology report. All I had to do was get that.
Wednesday rolls around and I finally got through to the office; I was getting ready to drive there. The assistant couldn’t locate my results, but she did let out the name of the pathology lab that my samples were sent to. I ended up driving directly to the lab and getting my pathology results in person. I’m glad I called, I’m glad I persisted, and I’m glad I took the initiative to call the lab and insist on getting my medical records. Maybe a younger, less assertive version of me might have waited and waited… but this 44 year old mom who doesn’t put up with any bullshit anymore was not going to sit around waiting to be told she had cancer.
Invasive mammary carcinoma. Estrogen receptor (ER) positive, Progesterone receptor (PR) positive Human Epidermal Growth Factor receptor (HER2) equivocal.
The bad news in the pathology report is that I do have cancer. It’s invasive. If I did nothing about it, it would eventually spread through my body and kill me. Cancer is an evil awful monster.
The good news is that the cancer I have is the most common kind of breast cancer there is: hormone receptor positive. This means that through decades of research, scientists have developed very specific targeted medications and treatments. This cancer is very treatable, not terribly aggressive, and I will be around for a while. The next step is to meet with my Dr. Dudak, my new breast surgeon, and map out a treatment plan to get this thing the fuck out of my body.
Today, I am GRATEFUL for screening mammograms.