breast biopsy: is it cancer?

Marvin drove me to my office where I worked until noon. We left for the Orange County Women’s Center around the corner from my office at UCIMC.

They wouldn’t let Marvin come into the room for the biopsy, so he stayed in the waiting room. I went into the exam room, undressed to the waist, signed some forms and then read Rolling Stones until the technician popped her head in to say the radiologist might be about ten minutes late. OK. No problem. More waiting that seems to eat up hours, not minutes. I busy myself by looking at the needles on the table. Not bad. Normal looking needles with lidocaine, I presume. I didn’t want to see what was underneath the towels.

Dr. T, my radiologist, let’s me hear the way the instrument will sound a loud clap with each sampling so I won’t be alarmed during the procedure. It’s a bit funny, this clapping sound.

Finally, we begin. We joke. The tech is on my right with the wand and the screen over my right shoulder. Dr. T is on my left with the clapper. After the little skin prick with the lidocaine, she then starts to insert the clapper. It stops. She can’t get it through the tissue in my breast. It’s really dense. Maybe like what’s in my head. She pushes and apologizes for the discomfort and pushes more. Damn. She seems a bit unnerved that it’s being so difficult to penetrate. I say I’m OK. I’m OK. Just keep doing what you need to. Inside my head I’m thinking, I’m not coming back to do this again, so do whatever you want now and get it over with . . . . I start shaking and the technician strokes my arm and shoulder. I say I’m OK, just a little nervous. Clap. Burn. Whoa. Dr. T asks oh, no, did that hurt? No, it just felt like a fiery explosion in my boob. A tiny spot of the most intense burning, which, thankfully, dissipates rather quickly. Five more claps.

I’m bleeding now and the tech is pressing on my breast with a powerful strength. I want to pop her upside the head, but my rational thinking says she’s not trying to hurt me, she’s trying to help stop the bleeding by compressing the area. I know this. It’s just instinctive, I guess, when someone is hurting you, you really want want to pop them upside the head. I relax with some deep breathing while she’s applying the strength of Achilles to my left breast.

Since I had another little well-defined lump near the big messy mass, Dr. T went in one more time to aspirate that one. That was fine. No trauma at all.

I’m delighted to be dressing and leaving, trying to run out before they decide they need to do something else. I decide that I’m going to wring the neck of my sweet derm resident BG who told me the biopsy would be a piece of cake.

I’m glad to see Marvin as he always makes me feel more calm.

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