I wanted to share this story for a few reasons. First, my
close friends said I should share my story because it made them laugh. Second,
because women should NEVER ignore what their bodies are saying to them. Third,
we ALL get scared and need to know we aren't alone. The important thing is to
ask the questions. The QUESTIONS many times are much more frightening than the
On a Sunday night in September of 2010, I noticed a bloody discharge coming from my left breast. I literally could have been a wet nurse for Dracula’s baby. Naked, I ran through the house screaming for my husband. I made it to work the next morning, got through the morning show and arrived unannounced at my doctor's office, determined to wait until Thursday if I had to for her to see me. She, in all her compassionate wisdom, knew just what to say and do. She was pretty sure it would be okay but couldn’t say with absolutely certainty it wasn’t… you know.
My mammogram was normal so I had to have a test called a ductogram. They insert a needle directly into the duct of the breast through the nipple (pause while you cringe, ladies). They then fill the duct with fluid so they can see what's going on inside. And so my trip into the radiological abyss began...
I walked into the hospital. The check-in chick says "I've been here 5 years and I've never heard of that test." (Should I leave NOW?!)
Get to radiology and the tech looks at me very sympathetically.
Tech: You ready?
Me: Um, NO!
Tech: Did you take your valium?
Me: What valium?
Tech: They didn't give you any valium? Do you want one?
Me: HELL YEAH! Either that or a margarita!
Tech: OOOOOOkay... um... lemme check with the doctor.
Me: Is it gonna hurt?
Tech: Well, it's painful but the doctor is real good. It shouldn't take long.
Me: SCREW THAT... GIMME VALIUM!!!!
My husband and I leave the hospital to go pick up said valium. The prescription says take 1. I talk to my friend, the pharmacist. He asks what I'm going to have done. I explain. He says "better take 'em both." NO NEED TO TWIST MY ARM!
We get back to the hospital and I go into the mammogram room. Not one, not two but FOUR (count them FOUR) people are in the room. (Did I mention I wanna leave?)
They mercifully put lidocaine cream on my nipple. By the way, the words "nipple" and "needle" should NEVER be used in the same sentence. Doc comes in. She puts on these funny looking goggles, and there is a bright, hot light shining on my exposed boob. She whips out this needle on the end of a long tube attached to a syringe. I press on my breast to “do my trick.” She starts probing... yeah with the needle… and it won't go in.
Doc: You have very small ducts. (Should I be offended?)
She pulls out a smaller needle. GOOD! Goes right in... YAY!
Doc: But that's not the right one... I can't get the contrast in through that one.
SO WHY THE HELL DID YOU PUT IT IN!!!! She takes it out and inserts another one... PAY DIRT!!! That's good right?
Doc: I'm trying to dilate the duct so I can get this one (bigger needle) in.
WTH?!?!?! Breathe in
breathe out. At this point, the
radiology tech is fanning me. I've said so many Hail Marys, I can SEE the
Finally, we get the BIG needle in. Doc starts pushing in the contrast using the syringe. She tells me it may burn a bit (oh, goody!). All of a sudden, CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT AND CSI. SOMEONE HAS STABBED ME IN THE BOOBY! The needle pops out... NOOOOOOO! Doc is perplexed.
Doc: Now, why did that happen?
Well... hm... I don't know... YOU'RE THE DOCTOR!
Doc: Okay, let's take a picture of it now.
They do. It appears the duct is completely blocked. Apparently, the contrast is supposed to be pushed in and easily flow through ALL of the ducts in the breast... it hasn't. I hear myself say (it must have been the valium talking):
Me: Do you want to try again? (Shut up, stupid, shut up!!!) Yeah, let's try one more time.
She reinserts the needle after trying to do so for about 8 1/2 years (I think my 11-year-old graduated high school in the meantime) and she can't get any more contrast in. It keeps leaking out AND the needle pops out AGAIN. GREAT! (At least I had the good sense not to suggest we try that again.)
THE WAITING GAME CONTINUES…
… and it goes on and on and on. The wait to see a breast specialist was torture. If you’ve ever been in that no-man’s land of waiting to find out if you have some catastrophic illness, a day seems like a year.
The day finally came and did not start out well. I'm not a
crier but that's all I wanted to do. The previous 10 days of not knowing
anything definite, searching for answers to only get more questions and trying
to be stoic and laugh it off had finally caught up with me.
But today would be THE day, the day I got answers. Not the big "C" word answer but "what the hell is it?" answer. I mean, really, dude... this brownish, bloodish, stuff-that's-not-supposed-be-coming-out-of-my-boob stuff... what is it and where is it coming from? Intraductal papilloma... really? I had read all I could on that. No one outside of the medical field had ever heard that term before. Sometimes, it sounded to me like a small Indian village (the dot not the feather). Sometimes, it sounded like that character on the Saturday morning public service announcement. Those of you old enough to remember him know who I’m talking about, "they call me Yuk Mouth, cuz I don't brush." Yeah, him. It’s this blackish-green blob, and he is lurking in my boob, spitting out this junk and tormenting me. Little bastard. And I can't put my toothbrush there! (I mean, I could but somehow I don't think Colgate would get rid of the problem.) The problem is that NO ONE... no medical professional up until this painstaking point has been able to give me a DEFINITE diagnosis!!! "Your duct is blocked." Well, obviously not so much so that it can't produce the stuff horror movies are made of!!! Yeah, thanks... JEEZ!
So, I go see the booby doctor. I put on what has become my standard not-at-work attire... the paper gown. Interestingly enough, this guy wants the opening to the BACK (now, ladies, you all probably just went "huh?"... so did I). Anyway, this poor guy has no idea that he is about to meet a woman on the verge of a total breakdown. You see, I have come into his office DETERMINED about two things: 1) I am GOING to get an answer as to EXACTLY what this is and what's causing it and 2) I want it OUT of me.
He walks in and it's like a mental and verbal tango. He has basically told me (in a fairly blasé tone) that it really is no big deal (hm, let's make this come out of your PENIS and see how YOU react) and he can't understand why I'm crying. DUDE, SERIOUSLY?!?!?
Fast forward... I
calm down, he realizes I'm really NOT okay (ya think?) and he becomes much more
compassionate. He really is very knowledgeable and takes the time to explain to
me what an intraductal papilloma is. It's like a wart inside a duct (yeah, a
wart... nice, huh?). He draws pictures, explains our options, walks me through
the scenarios and is very kind and patient. And then he exits the room to call
the radiologist himself. (Bless his heart, he was probably scared to death.)
He comes back in and tells me the radiologist wants to repeat the ultrasound and the DUCTOGRAM. AND I HAVE NO VALIUM!!!! KILL ME NOW!!!!
But wait… there’s more! He also explains that there are several procedures they may need to do that involve putting wires in my mammary area and leaving them there.
Me: Will they put me to sleep?
He looks at me sympathetically. For one brief moment, I
considered reaching for his manhood and telling him "you first."
I leave his office. I don't think I remember the brief drive to the imaging center. I walked into this place and was, thankfully, the only person there. The lady got my insurance card and driver’s license. I think she knew I wasn't ok. Maybe crumbling into a heap next to the wall in tears was an indication. She was amazing. She prayed with me and held me. I cried so much, I cried my false eyelashes off.
At this point, I'm thinking the ductogram is a "maybe." Little did I know, that was only the beginning of what they had planned for my little (and I do mean little) left breast.
Me: Um, no valium?
I have to tell you, the fight had just gone completely out of me at this point. I wanted answers SO badly, I just didn't care anymore. I could handle pain because one of two things would happen: 1) I would get through it and get answers or 2) I would die. Either way... problem solved!!!
They numbed my nipple (I can see many WONDERFUL applications for that little tube of cream). They put me in this big, white roly chair (I called it my "throne"... I have a throne at home but it has a big hole in it). There are, again, four people in the room. They lay the chair back (the first time, I was sitting up so I had to watch all of it). I, again, make that horror movie juice come out of my booby. They move in for the "kill." Almost no pain! WHAT? Dang, Doc, you're good!!! Contrast going in (I am so scared, I'm shaking, waiting for Freddy Krueger to come stab me). Nope, just a little tingle. And we are done! You sure? That's it?
Him: Let's take a picture.
They take mammograms and I hear "there it is!" Cue the Halleluia chorus!!!! They found it!!!!!! OMG!!!
Doc: Let's set her up for a needle biopsy.
WAIT... A WHAT?!?!?!
I'm not exactly sure what was happening at this point, to be honest. It was going so fast, but not. It was sort of like being in a wind tunnel in slow motion. I did tell them I had my big girl panties on and I'd be okay. I go into this room with a table with a hole in the middle. I lay on the table on my stomach and (get ready for it) hung my breast through the hole. (pause for laughs) They take all these pictures.
Now, my face was to the wall where there was this picture with all these swirly things on it. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be an abstract of boobs or what. Maybe you were supposed to try to figure out what it was, like a diversionary tactic to distract you from what was about to happen to your poor hapless, unsuspecting breast. I mean, it’s just hangin’ around, right?
Doc came in and his nurses tell me he's gonna give me the lidocaine shots. HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD! FIRE FIRE FIRE!!!! I have never been able to cross my eyes... until now.
Doc: Okay, Tracy. You're gonna feel some pressure.
Yep... you're right.
But I'm good.
About half way through, my big girl panties turned into an adult-sized Huggies diaper because I started crying. Something hurt... bad. The blessed Doc gave me more lidocaine and did what he had to do to finish this test that felt like it lasted until December (I'm not sure it's done YET). But they found my papilloma. I had a titanium marker placed in my left breast (that they assured me would not set off any metal detectors) next to the offensive growth so the surgeon would have a guide when he went to remove it. I was totally fine: me, my papilloma, and my new titanium booby. I had an answer. And that was the beginning of the end.
WHEN I SAID I WANTED MY BOOBS DONE, THIS WASN’T WHAT I HAD IN MIND…
The following week, I returned to the imaging center. In order for the surgeon to know exactly where he is “going” during the surgery, the radiologist attaches a wire to or very near the titanium clip. AND he leaves it hanging out. Yes, hanging out of your body. That way, the surgeon goes in, gets the nasty stuff and surrounding tissue out and does what he needs to do.
The funny part about this was that my mom was my driver the day of the surgery. She drove me to the imaging center which is separate from the surgery center, and she accompanied me into the room where they inserted said wire. Her awe at what they were doing was quite comical. And then we loaded back into the car and drove down the road, me with my protruding booby wire, bound for the hospital. She wouldn’t admit it at the time, but I think Mom was freaked, well and good!
I’ve heard the term for the surgery I had several times but it sounds nothing like “boob job.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it either. The good news is that “The Thing” is gone. I have a scar and slight irregularity to show for it. I think about my friends who got the opposite news. I have also found a great deal of women who, like me, had scares.
Two years later, I can laugh about it. There are women who can’t, and for a number of months after my ordeal, I felt guilty that I could breathe easy. What I found out was that I didn’t have to. THEY don’t want me to. THEY want us all to pay attention to our bodies and do the things we need to do. Because, as I said at the beginning… it’s NOT the answers that are the scariest. It’s the questions. And believe you me, you will ALWAYS be able to find someone who will hold your hand until the answers come and through the solutions that are necessary. Be well!
I was a huge fan of "The Matrix" trilogy. For the record, I was NOT a fan of the way it ended, but I LOVED the concept. The phone ringing thing... that's how I've felt for the past few days! If you've never seen any of The Matrix movies (Matrix fans are gonna gasp and maybe hate me for "dumbing it down"), basically, the characters are part of a big matrix where their bodies and brains drive some sort of machine that causes humans to live in a dream-like state. Those who get "unplugged" are actually living in the real world which ain't pretty. They can visit the dream world and are pulled out of it by a phone... the real plugged-into-the-wall or phone booth (kids, ask your parents what that is) kind. So... I spent yesterday waiting for that doggone phone to ring!
My status on Facebook Tuesday afternoon referenced me having "lost" Tuesday. It wasn't a bad day. I DO have bad days, but not often. At least, I don't claim to have them. I don't like bad days to win. It was just jam-packed with things I did not plan! More importantly, I felt very unproductive. AAAUUUGGGHHHH! It was very like watching a movie of yourself. You know you are moving but you aren't going further than the TV screen.
I got pulled away from work early to do a favor for a coworker. It helped him out and that's a good thing, all in all. I gave a speech to a college class. My hope is that at least one person in the group got SOMETHING out of it. I had zero prep time which is fine because I would have tied myself in knots if I had more than an hour to think about standing in front of 30 twenty-something year olds who thought I looked like their mother. I hiked across the campus (let's not talk about doing that in south Louisiana humidity in a blazer and inappropriate shoes). Most of them yawned. Some of them doodled. I suspect the guy in the front row thinks I have a crush on him with the way I kept looking at JUST him. He seemed to be the only interested soul in the bunch. All I could here was "Doctor, we're losing them. Get the paddles!" I do have to say, it was those 57 minutes that made me very glad I can't actually SEE my audience in the morning. Poor souls...
Hand and wrist therapy was next. This was actually the highlight of my day. Having my injured arm twisted, turned and contorted in the hopes of healing it... and then begging for more! Yep, I did that. I can only hope it is all worth it. We shall see.
On the way to therapy, I received a call from my distressed daughter. My pekignese awoke with both of his bugged eyed swollen shut. How you can actually tell that they are swollen is beyond me, but she said he also had green stuff oozing out of one of them. Great! As I left therapy, my husband calls to tell me that my son noticed that morning that the dog was running into the walls. I may wanna check on him. I'm not a vet and I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express but I'm thinking that the wall thing and the eye thing MAY be related. And I'm not a psychic but I can tell a vet visit and a big fat bill are in my immediate future.
I get home and my poor puppy is lethargic and his eyes are indeed crusted over with stuff that looks like creamed spinach. I called the vet and they get me in. And we wait... and wait... and wait. I must say, the walls in this particular office are very thin and I know more than I want to about canine bowel habits, blood sugar and what may or may not cause seizures. Then it's our turn. The normal vet is out and a sub is in. He's 12. Or he looks like it. I almost asked for ID. Lemme tell ya, looks can be deceiving. He was very good. My poor puppy wasn't. Because pekes' eyes protrude, they are prone to ulcers on their eyeballs and he's got 'em on both. The vet dyes his eyes some weird color and now my dog looks possessed. And he's growling. I've got a 15 pound Cujo and the vet's about to stick him with a needle.
I calm the dog down, the vet gets four boxes of meds and tells me that he hopes they work. He's only had to remove eyes twice. What?!?! Dude, you're 12! How many dogs could you have seen? Anyway, he seemed pretty confident that the meds will help. I sure hope so because it cost me a kidney.
By now, it's 4:15. I've been awake since dark-thirty and the most productive thing I've done all day is Chinese balls and wrist torture at the therapist.
I figure I'll take my bath, finish the supper my wonderful daughter has started for me and call it a day. Just... a day. Bath complete, I'm moisturizing my face when the doorbell sounds. My poor blind dog goes to barking like someone is storming the castle. Who is at my house? (No one ever comes to my house and rings the doorbell.) It's my neighbor. I throw on a robe and he proceeds to tell me that someone has hit the car parked on the side of my house. The car belongs to my daughter's friend who is visiting. The problem is, the person who hit it has driven off! So much for an end to this... day.
Twenty minutes later, I find myself in my big, fuzzy, flowered bathrobe, standing at the road with two police cars. I instruct my daughter and her friend on what to do and talk to the officers. I can't fix the car, I can't find the person who hit it, my dog still can't see, my wrist is really not happy, some college kid thinks the TV lady is his stalker... and I'm about to burn supper. I'm not sure where Tuesday went... and I'm still waiting for the phone to ring.