Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pink is my new favorite color

[Pink is primarily a color for girls. That's a nice way of attempting to persuade my male readers to stop reading at this point. There's a lot of female-related information that you might not want to know in the paragraphs below. For the rest of you, I apologize for the length of this post.]

Remember when I casually mentioned last month that I had my first mammogram?

Well, it came back abnormal. I kinda figured it might because I'd found a lump in my breast at the end of January. It took a few weeks to get an appointment with my doctor but she didn't seem overly concerned about the lump. She ordered a mammogram and it was about three weeks later before I went in for that.

The mammography tech was great. She explained things in detail and asked if I had any questions. I didn't, but I did mention the lump I could feel. She mashed around on it and like my doctor, she didn't seem too concerned either, but she did tell me that about 10% of women get called back for a second set of images. Sometimes it's because the radiologist sees something suspicious and doesn't have anything to compare it to (a baseline mammogram) and sometimes it's because they just need more information. I left that day with the feeling that I'd probably be one of the 10% that was called back. And I was.

I still wasn't super concerned. No one had really given me a reason to be fearful or in a hurry to follow-up so I scheduled that second mammogram for several weeks later at a time of the month when I'd be the least sore AND at a time of the month that my hormones would be similar to the stage they were in during the first mammo. It made sense to me at the time.

Now is a good time to mention that for as long as I can remember, I've had lumpy breasts. Sixteen years ago, a doctor in Dallas diagnosed me with fibrocystic changes. My breasts get lumpy and sore towards the end of my cycle and all of that completely disappears when my cycle starts over. The lump I'd found seemed cystic in nature to me. It would get bigger, then shrink depending on where I was in my cycle. I was optimistic.

The day of my follow-up mammogram, they called to tell me that their mammography machine was down. I ended up being rescheduled three times that week. It was a tad nerve-wracking, but mainly just annoying. I think I started to feel a tiny bit fearful when they told me that I was "high priority" as far as scheduling went because of my previous mammogram.

I ended up having an ultrasound instead of a mammogram when I finally went back in. I guess I wasn't totally surprised when the technician found SEVEN lumps--five in one breast and two in the other. Of those seven, four were definitely cysts and three were solid masses. Cysts are good; solid masses aren't so good. The radiologist came in to take a look and wanted to biopsy the largest of those three solid masses--which was the one I'd discovered at the end of January. You know why I could feel it? Because it was 2 cm in diameter. That's close to an inch and that's rather large for a breast lump.

Before I left that day, I set up the biopsy appointment and drove home. I was concerned, but not really worried. John left for Oregon within minutes of me arriving home from that appointment and I was a single parent for five days so I think I pushed any anxiousness I was feeling far, far away for the sake of my kids. I mentioned it to a handful of friends but talking about it stirred up unpleasantness for me, so I was pretty tight-lipped.

The night before the procedure (it was last Thursday) I used the world wide web to look up ultrasound-guided vacuum-assisted core biopsy. Big mistake. There are some things that should never be googled. That and 14-guage hollow core needle are two of them. It's pretty safe to say that I was freaked out. I just kept thinking of my friend, Joanne, who had endured multiple brain surgeries and telling myself that this was much more routine and much less invasive and asking God for courage!

I'll refrain from detailing the actual biopsy procedure. I made sure I had relaxing music on my iPod, put my earbuds in, closed my eyes to avoid what was playing out on the ultrasound screen, and tried (unsuccessfully) to relax. I couldn't feel anything, but the noise of the needle was freaky so obviously I didn't turn my iPod up loud enough. There was one minor complication which necessitated a second incision but thankfully they gave me more lidocaine. The worst part might have been finding out that I had to have a mammogram immediately after the biopsy to find out if the tiny marker they inserted was in the right place. They put the marker in (via the needle)(ick) in case they need to go back in later to remove the mass and/or to monitor growth. That's not alarming or anything, right?

I think the giant cloud of fear descended on me the second I walked out of that clinic. My mind went crazy with all the possible scenarios of how my life could change depending on those results. It wasn't pretty and the wait was torturous.

I tried to focus on the positive things I knew like the fact that my doctor and the mammography technician both seemed unconcerned at those initial visits and that there is no history of breast cancer on my mom's side of my family. But, I also kept running into women with bald heads--at Walmart, at the mall, and even at church--I saw four women in three days! That was tough. It also seemed a bit uncanny that I reconnected with a friend on Facebook who (unaware of what I was going through) told me that she is just emerging victoriously over her own battle with breast cancer. I wasn't sure what to think of all these crazy coincidental things (there were several more) but I was certainly paying attention. I thought of all the women I know who have survived breast cancer--including John's mom and two other friends--and I was moved by their courage and bravery.

Did I mention that the wait was torturous? I prayed. I cried. I asked friends to pray. I cried some more. I tried to let go of the fear (I had one semi-successful day out of the SIX that I had to wait) but it was just always lurking. I kept myself busy almost all weekend just to avoid the "what ifs" that surfaced in the quiet moments. I also have to mention here that I have THE BEST friends in the world.

There's so much more I want to say but this is already so long, so I'll just get to part you're probably all waiting to read--the biopsy results.

I got good news. My lump is a fibroadenoma, which is a fairly common, solid, rubbery BENIGN mass. The other two masses (which weren't biopsied) may or may not be the same thing but they are soooooo tiny that at this point, they're okay to be monitored via mammogram in six months. I'm more than okay with that.  And believe me, there were MANY prayers of thanks offered up yesterday as well as tears of joy. The relief I felt yesterday was E-N-O-R-M-O-U-S.

I'm very well aware that today would be a very different day if I'd gotten different news. Sadly, not everyone facing this kind of scare walks away hearing the beautiful word benign. I think that going through all of this testing/waiting/testing/waiting has softened my heart towards women going through similar health issues. Those bald women I kept running into all weekend? I don't know exactly what they're facing or what their story is but my heart was drawn to them and I know God heard the prayers I whispered on their behalf. This whole ordeal has made me wish to be a gentler, kinder woman because there are people in pain ALL around us...almost ALL the time...who maybe just need a smile, a nod, or a stranger to look them in the eye and let them know that they've been "seen".

One more thing. I've never liked the color pink, but I was shopping earlier this week and purposefully bought a pink top. Most of you probably know that pink is the color for breast cancer awareness. My new PINK top is going to be a reminder of these past couple of months and a symbol/statement of gratitude. I'm determined to love the color pink for all the women out there who have battled and/or are currently battling breast cancer, and I bet every one of you reading this can name at least one.

30 comments:

Deena said...

Praise the Lord! So glad you got good news! I'm sorry you had to go through such a long wait. My "scare" back in January just had to last 2 days instead of weeks of time like you dealt with. "What ifs" can be so draining! I'm sure you feel so relieved and refreshed about life. Thanks for sharing the good news.

Jennifer said...

Hi Meredith,

Thanking God that your outcome was benign.....and I am so sorry for the time you had to endure waiting. I had a similar situation in my early 20's....I, too have "lumpy" breasts. However...one of the "lumps" had to be removed and biopsied. Thankfully mine was benign, as well. However, I have a little scar that I see daily that reminds me of that time and yes...how grateful I am of the outcome. Yay for the color pink (not a favorite of mine) but love it as a symbol for all women who are fighting or have fought breast cancer and I know quite a few. I think I will purchase one when I am running errands tomorrow. Love to you!
Jen

Beth said...

I can't imagine the weeks you have had. I'm thankful for your good news, too. :)

Thank you, so much, for sharing your life with us.

Melissa @ Breath of Life said...

Praising God for your good news, friend! So glad to hear that everything is okay.

Anonymous said...

So glad for your happy news!

Laurie

Anonymous said...

I am around your age, go in for a mammogram every 12-18 months and my stomach was in knots reading your post because that story could be my story. I just wrote a reminder note to call in the morning for an appointment for my mammogram. I sent prayers of thanks up on your behalf. I am like you though when I see someone in the midst of cancer. My heart goes out to them - I can't imagine what they're going thru. We truly take good health for granted.

Karen in MD

Christi @ Writing the Waves said...

So thankful for your wonderful news! I was nervous as I read through your post! I had my first mammogram this year, and thankfully didn't get called back, but I think that we all feel that nervous feeling when we have to go through that process. So glad that you can relax now, and that you have a fresh appreciation for the struggle that so many have to face.

Elizabeth said...

God has brought you to mind a lot lately. I have a number of friends moving to CO and I've been missing it and Arkansas so much these days (the two places we have in common). Obviously I didn't know what was going on, but I have thought of you and hoped you were doing well. I am so thankful for your good news! I know we all know women whose lives have been changed by breast cancer. They are a great reason to wear pink with pride (even if it's not our favorite color)!

Kendra said...

So glad you've had a clean bill of health. I've had 3 mammograms by now and I am always scared and paranoid until they come back clear. I am so thankful for my health and then I remember there are women my age and younger who have or who have died from breast cancer and I am grateful. I love pink and don't wear it enough!

New Every Morning said...

Rejoicing with you, precious one!
What a tough week you have had, and yet, you've been so brave for your kiddos.

I'm overdue for my mamm. and I, too, have lumpy "girls." Thanks for a reality check and reminder. I'm making that appt. tomorrow.
Hugs, sweet one.

melissa said...

Praising God! What wonderful news! Thanks for sharing.

OhioFamOf4 said...

I'm so glad to hear you got good news. The waiting is just unbearable for those medical tests, I don't know how you spent all those days with the kids and didn't have John there. I get very pissy and just want to sleep when I'm waiting on those kind of things, which I've done way too many times over the past 9 years.

And I must say, I'm glad I'm not the only one who notices more bald women and thinks it's some kind of coincidence or message from God headed my way.

Congratulations to you! I hope you have a very blessed Easter weekend with your family.

JenB said...

Ok, I was freaking out a little when I first started reading! Was reading really fast to get to the result. Don't know why I didn't just skip to the end! ha! Anyway, so happy for the good results. Praising God for you!

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I'm so glad the story ended the way it did. Thank you for your mercy and grace, Jesus.

Happy Easter, Meredith.

Brenda said...

So good to hear your wonderful news!
Beautiful post.

Ali said...

Wow! I felt anxiety just reading your journey! I'm so happy for your outcome! You have a sweet heart of compassion for others.

~ Ali

The Bowden's said...

Oh my goodness! PTL! Great to hear you had good news. Very scary!!

*carrie* said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Mer. I'm sorry you had to wait so long, but am glad to hear you received good news!

Liz Almond said...

YAY for Great News!

Dawn said...

Okay, so I resisted the temptation to skip to the end of this post to see the end of the story...and my heart was racing as I read. I am rejoicing with you, Mer, that you are not facing cancer. and relieved. I love that you will love pink now. It is important to remember what we learn during these times. I went through a scare of another girlie cancer years ago, and I remember being thankful and tearful that I got to do the little things--like pick the kids up from school, etc.

I also loved your encouragement to "see" people--cause you never know who needs a smile or kind word--you never know what they are carrying...such a good reminder.

Anyway, I'm thankful for you and with you today! Happy Panera date coming soon...I can feel it.

Angie said...

Whew, Meredith! I'm so thankful you are OK!!! That was a lot to go through when you were waiting.

Gina said...

That you Lord, for that beautiful word, "benign."
Thank you that you work in our hearts even when we are breaking to pieces. You make all things beautiful.

Deidre said...

Goodness, Meredith. I was holding my breath reading this .. not wanting to see the end. So glad the end is good news! What a scary time for you. I'm sorry you had to go through it, but SO glad the outcome is good. I love that you bought a pink shirt as a reminder. Love you, sweet friend.

Gretchen said...

Soooo relieved & thankful! BTW, my friend finally heard that she's in the clear, too. <3 U!!!

Lindsay said...

Grateful for your good news, Meredith.

Dee Dee said...

Took you a LONG time to get to the good news, and I cried in relief for you. :-) With my mom's history and a small history myself of some cysts, each mammo is a little unnerving, and the waiting is SO not fun no matter how long it is. Thanks for sharing your sweet heart.

Melissa Stover said...

i can understand you wanting to keep this under your hat until you had more information but i'm so glad you shared it. i'll probably have my first mammogram this year.

Angela said...

MEREDITH! So glad it all turned out ok. You had my pulse racing at the first of that story. SO THANKFUL everything is fine. Big, thankful hugs to you.

Lisa said...

Meredith,
I am so happy for you that all turned out well. I can completely relate. When I was pregnant with my son (8 years ago), I started having seizures for no apparent reason. I had a CT scan that showed nothing out of the ordinary. After he was born, I was able to have an MRI which showed a brain tumor. We went through a few scary days. The tumor is benign. Per protocol, I had repeat MRIs every 6 months, then year, now every 5 years. Each MRI is a reminder to me of how fortunate I am and that not everyone receives the news that includes the lovely word "BENIGN". Congratulations to you!

Kecia said...

Hallelujah!!! I'm so thankful you got good results.