A year in my life, from the day I was diagnosed and for the full year after. Walk with me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day One

I will always remember the moment my fingers hit the speed bump in my left breast.  I was showering and just trying to recover from the same respiratory infection everyone else in this town has.  You know the one that starts in the back of your throat like a warning shot.  Moving immediately and deliberately into your head before rolling like a tsunami of mucous into your chest.  I couldn't speak or breathe and the steam from the hot water was so wonderful.

My day was spent marching endlessly in the therapeutic riding facility where I work.  I love what I do and rarely look at the clock, this day was an exception.  On top of the freezing temperatures, fatigue, coughing and headache one of the horses, Dallas had punched me in the chest, hard.  A pony sized bay gelding with a cantankerous attitude, he is famous for eating his handlers and walking out of the mount.  You have to stand in front of him like a door and be brave enough not to flinch, only then will he leave you alone.  This test of fortitude and dominance is often a learned skill, and I had a new tasty volunteer leading,  She was dancing to get away from him and he was having a ball making her jerk like a puppet.  I took his head to show her the technique and he made a fool out of me by driving his head into my chest.  There's alot of muscle in a horses neck and, if he had wanted to, I would have been sitting on the ground.  As it was I was just bruised and cross.

I was pressing into my sore sternum.  The shower's heat soothing my sore tissues, my fingers moved up and through my right breast, making circles when I found an abused intercostal space, combing through the inflamed tissue and bringing relief...blessed relief.  I moved automatically to the left breast and relief turned to shock.

Thickening.  A plane of it with a nodule in the middle.  It hurt.  It was not a lymph node.  I was a massage therapist for over 10 years, and I knew what I was feeling was not anything I had felt before.  I could not pull my fingers off.  I was frozen.  Over a period of several minutes the voice of denial got louder and finally screamed: "It's a bruise you silly heifer!  You were punched in the chest by a horse, what did you think you would find?" 

Absolutely, I knew that voice for what it was, but I waited hopefully for that "bruise" to disappear.  A month later it was still there.  I made an appointment for a mammogram.  I had to wait two months.  For two months my hand kept it's vigil on my left breast.  I was a walking Pledge of Allegiance. Indivisible.  Under G.d.

Yesterday I had my mammogram, followed by an ultrasound.   We saw two growths, close together with fingers.  Each less than a cm.  The Doctor couldn't believe I had felt them.  She says, with almost perfect certainty, we are looking at a malignancy.  I wasn't surprised.  I wasn't anything. I made my appointment (the next day per my physician) for 8:00 am the next morning.  Today.

My husband came with me.  He waited in the lobby with my purse while I disrobed and laid on the table.  I didn't know what to expect, so for any readers who are curious here's how it goes:  The technician/nurse exposes your breast and cleans it several times after laying a sterile field.  She locates the lesion(s) using ultrasound and calls in the Doctor.  The physician asks me to close my eyes at this point.  She says that if any of the anesthetic splashes into your eyes it will burn, "better to be safe" she says.  I think it's so you can't see the giant needles she is going to pull out and go into a mindless panic.  I've seen the needles before.  I close my eyes.  She injects the breast with an anesthetic to numb it.  The needle is moved progressively deeper into the breast tissue but just a little at a time and the spreading numbness makes it only a little uncomfortable...not bad. 

The Physician makes a small incision and inserts a large hollow (obviously) needle up to and into the body of the lesion.  I felt nothing at all.  Samples are taken by inserting a grabber thingy and pulling a trigger.  There is an audible pop and a burst of pain.  She took 8 samples.  I don't know if that's a lot, I didn't ask.  I laid on the table and breathed deeply and spoke to the Doctor about Yoga.  A passion for both of us.  It helped.  Still, by the end of the procedure I was done and trembling.  Partly from shock and partly from the autonomic effect of the anesthetic. 

I don't want to do it again, but if I had to I know it wouldn't kill me.  Right now I am on ice...happily.

Lane helped me out to the car.  I was followed by knowing, sympathetic glances as I walked through the lobby of the Cancer Center and out the door...but not for long.  I have resolved to learn everyone's name.  Lori was my xray tech today.  Her son is having trouble at school.  He's super smart and super bored.  My daughter is the same way.  I resolved to find her a math tutor in her area.

Tomorrow afternoon we go back for the findings.  I have to write down my questions, I won't remember them all.  Lane will be there to hear the answers and remember.  He said the sweetest thing today.  I said "This is not going to be a walk in the park."  He answered "No, it's going to be a hike, but I'll be here to carry your pack."

5 comments:

the sebaceous funk said...

Ok, first of all you are a talented and engaging writer. Second of all a brave one as well. I love you baby.

Darwin said...

Oh my -- you are a WRITER, my darling friend. Thank you thank you thank you for inviting me along for the ride, although I wish in my heart it was a travelogue, not a breast cancer journey. I am very hopeful that this will be a short segue in a long, happy life for you and your wonderful family. What a lovely man you have by your side. And let the book club begin...the first one will crack you up, I promise! xoxoxo

Diana said...

seconding all. i knew of your many talents- but literary too? you blow me away love

Leslie Lipson said...

Patricia-
Brave Warrior- thank you for letting us follow your journey. My mom sent me this blog link today and I will catch up. Sending you love and support-
Les

Darwin said...

I am missing you and waiting to hear that you have come through this part okay. I love you, my friend, and all my mitzvahs (bat one, bar two) are for you -- xo