May 12, 2010

I am 38%

5:45am alarm today. I arose from bed with more ease than I thought possible. As I made my coffee I began to wonder, what am I doing scheduling a 6:45am mammogram? Who in their right mind begins the day with such an event? Fine, perhaps, for the woman who had her first at age 40 and has never seen an abnormal result. But, for someone with a breast disease who will inevitably discuss larger, potentially scarier things, this might be a mistake. But, at this point... coffee done, yogurt consumed, 10 minutes left to leave the house... this was not the time to start changing my mind. Plus, I'm strong. I can handle this.

I'm strong.

Mammogram goes smoothly. Pleasant technician. Minimal discomfort. Now, I wait for results. (Results come quickly for us high-risk gals.) 10ish minutes go by. A nurse comes in. I am released. Sign here, here and here. Call your doctor to schedule, blah, blah, blah.

Great, right? No. No no nonnononono NO. (This is where my struggle begins.)

I explain as patiently as possible that a sonogram was ordered by my oncologist. She says it's not necessary. Their policies, etc. I explain again. Explain my disease, past imaging, past experiences where I've told "no" before. I get upset. I calm down. Then, explain "I am not leaving til I get my sonogram... sorry". She stares at me for a moment. I stare back. And then she empowers me; tells me it's nice to see a young patient stand up for themselves. She smiles as she exits the room to speak to the doctor again. I wait... again.

Now my adrenaline is coursing through my veins. It's only 7:30am and I have blood surging. I calm myself and decide to look over the documents I just signed, but I've been here so many times before that I hardly pay attention. The one thing I notice... 38% risk of developing breast cancer in my lifetime.

Another waiting room. Another pleasant technician. More talk of my disease, past imaging, surgeries, how I'm "so young", blah, blah, blah. Test is over and again more waiting for results. Alone in this room with my thoughts. (Not a good thing.) I begin to think more about that 38%, wondering what that means exactly. How bad is 38% really?

Many, many minutes go by. The technician pops her head in to say we're next in line for the radiologist. I force a calm smile and go back to my thoughts. Minutes go by and by.

She returns. All is well. I am released, but here is this form to sign again... this 38%. I can barely comprehend. I know this is a higher risk than I've been told before, but the weight of this escapes me. Here I am on a Wednesday morning... before the school day begins, before my office phone starts ringing, before my husband & dog are awake... and I face a new reality. Less than two hours ago I was making coffee in my kitchen laughing at what a silly girl I was to make this appointment so early. Now? I'm not laughing. Nor am I crying. I am barely breathing.

Fast forward a few hours to my office kitchen. I stand alone with the afternoon sun beaming through the window. Good day, considering. But then, right there between the coffee maker and the dishwasher, I begin sobbing. And sobbing. The weight of the day has finally sunk in. The 38% finally has a meaning. All I want is to be home right now in my husband's arms.

I sob for what seemed like an hour. Probably only 20 seconds or so, in reality. Then my strength returns. My armor builds. Head up high, I make my coffee and walk back to my desk with this new reality ingrained in my heart. But you know what? I'm strong. And really? I've the other 64% on my side.