Surgery Part 1: This Can’t Be Happening

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I wrote the following posts earlier this year as I was going through this journey, but I just now decided to share my experience…

(October 23, 2014)

It started off as an ordinary, nondescript day. I put the kids in their rooms to play and went to take a hopefully uninterrupted shower. Why is there always a princess emergency/crisis that comes up while I’m trying to shower?

Anyway, while showering, I happened to notice a lump in my left breast. Not great. I sent off a quick email to my doctor about it and decided it was most likely a non-issue. The doctor’s office called me back a few hours later to ask a million and one questions. Of course they decided to call at the worst possible moment – while I was visiting my husband at work and his male co-workers were right there. Thankfully almost all of the questions were yes or no so it wasn’t too horrible. I was asked all sorts of questions, but the answers were all negative. So, since it was just a lump with no other symptoms like pain, etc, the doctor told me to just wait it out a bit and call her after I had my next menstrual cycle in case it was just something weirdly related to hormones.

My period came and went and the stupid lump stayed. On November 17th, I called to make an appointment with the doctor. I did not want to make this appointment. It’s not like I don’t like doctors, but it seems like every time I see a doctor for something (like maybe twice a year) they happily take my co-pay and tell me there’s nothing wrong, so just take some ibuprofen and I’ll be fine.

I called to schedule my appointment. I sat on hold. I sat on hold some more. After about twenty minutes (not even kidding) I was finally directed to scheduling. When I told them the reason I needed to be seen, she automatically told me she couldn’t schedule me until I first spoke to an advice nurse. “Are you freaking kidding me?!” I wanted to yell, but instead I politely informed her I had already spoken to a nurse previously and just needed an appointment. It didn’t matter, she transferred me anyway. Only instead of transferring my call, she hung up on me. And I burst into tears and decided I hated my doctor’s office.

Knowing I would have to spend quite a bit more time on the phone, I waited to call back until later that afternoon. My family and I were driving to Cory’s hockey practice, so I decided the drive would be the perfect time to sit on hold. I attempted to connect directly to an advice nurse this time. I sat on hold for SO LONG that it became a race to see if I would finish my phone call or we would reach Vancouver first. Spoiler alert: it was a very close race, but I did finish the phone call with about 5 minutes to spare. And I managed to get an appointment to be seen the very next morning. That’s never a good sign…

I went into my appointment the next day blissfully kid free. I could only imagine how that appointment would go with a curious 4-year-old and 2-year-old in the room while the doctor inspected my boob. Well, the doctor gave me a customary exam and I was ready for the usual “it’s nothing blah blah blah”. Instead, I was told stuff needed to get done. I was scheduled for an ultrasound and told that I shouldn’t worry about it being a tumor or cancer because at my age (thirty-something-ish) it just is not very likely. My doctor was guessing it was mostly likely a cyst and would be easily taken care of, but took the time to talk worst-case scenarios with me so I knew what could possibly happen.

I started worrying a little bit more.

I went in for my ultrasound a few days later. I watched on the screen as the tech took pictures and measurements and just kept thinking to myself that this ultrasound was not nearly as fun as my last one where I got to look at a cute little baby in my belly. The ultrasound wasn’t terrible. I am an incredibly modest and private person, so you would think having to lay there while a lady takes a wand and smooshes your boob around might be extremely awkward. When I was in high school I had to see several cardiologists (almost all of whom were males) and have ultrasounds of my heart done (also by males) so I’ve kind of gotten over it. Anyway, the tech finished her job and told me I could get dressed and then wait for the doctor (radiologist?) to come in and talk to me about my results.

I sat and waited. And waited. I’m starting to sense a theme here…

The doctor finally came in and told me I needed surgery. Everything is a bit of a hazy fog, but she told me that whatever this “thing” was inside of my breast needed to come out. It was too large and would continue to grow if left alone. I would skip the step of having a needle biopsy done and just have this “thing” removed then biopsied after. I wanted to cry. I just wanted to burst into tears and sob for hours, but I couldn’t. As soon as I got home, I was supposed to be getting a family picture taken for the holidays. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a picture with swollen and puffy red eyes!

The doctor went on to explain that again, because I’m so young, it’s most likely not cancer, and blah blah blah. The problem was, as she was explaining all of this, she just kept looking at me with this look that seemed to say “I’m so sorry. You’re probably dying”. It was awful. And I couldn’t cry.

I was whisked away to a private room to schedule an appointment to see a surgeon for a consultation. The soonest they could see me was in two weeks. I would soon find out this would be the longest two weeks of my life.

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