Monday, January 07, 2008

My lovely lady lumps

Today when I left work I went to the Indian Clinic for my "Well Woman Checkup." I love it when they give exams names that are capitalized. It just enhances my anxiety tenfold.

I was diagnosed with Stage 1 cervical dysplasia when Paul and I were first married. Oh, imagine the tears that diagnosis brought with it. I was a newlywed and scared I was going to die. Turns out, it was pretty much not so bad, the doctor froze my cervix, the scary dysplasia went away and all went on with life as usual. All subsequent paps came back normal. I was vigilant about those yearly Well Woman Checkups for several years after that because I didn't want to experience the terror that came with a diagnosis of pre-cancerous cells on my girl parts especially since I had children to think about. And trust me, Paul raising those kids is a scary thought indeed. Then life happened and those Well Woman Checkups fell to the bottom of the List of Things I Need to Do. I know, I know....

I had an exam back in 2006 (or was that 2005?) and the pap came back normal. After that the Exam (or Drape and Scrape, however you wanna call it) again fell to the bottom of the to-do list. But then a few months ago I felt a lump. Yes -- A Lump. In my breast. (This is where the women are gasping and the men are wondering what the conversation is about on a manly blog today.)

I am somehow related to ostriches because I tend to bury my head in the sand when there's a chance something might be bad. I put off the testing for Factor V Leiden for quite awhile for the same reason - if it's bad, I don't want to know about it. I stress out too easily, so please don't add this to my List of Things to Freak the Hell Out About. That list is already pretty full with things like What if There's a Spider in My Shoe, If I Die Today My Girls Will Never Have Good Hair Again Lord Please Teach Paul How to at Least Do a Ponytail, Did I Unplug the Straightening Iron Before I Left for Work and my favorite, If I Have a Heart Attack in a Public Place Dear Lord Please Don't Let the Crowd that Gathers Around My Unconscious Body See All Those Stretchmarks and CelluliteWhen the Paramedics Have to Rip Open My Shirt to Defibrilate Me. I mean, yeah, it's pretty evident I have stretchmarks and cellulite, but I bet it would just look so bad in the lighting at the mall or Wal*Mart. So I took the ostrich approach to the lump in my breast as well.

That is, until my breasts started to ache a lot and the lump felt bigger and I self-diagnosed myself with cancer and started teaching Paul how to put in a ponytail and showed him where the kids's birth certificates are. I mentioned it off-handedly to Mom and Tater at dinner one Sunday and Mom, in her Mom-ly way, said, "And your doctor's appointment is when?" and Tater said, "Well, you're stupid for not having it seen about sooner" because she's my little sister and the only person on the planet who can talk to me like that. And still I put off getting that lump seen about.

Then, a month or two later my little sister told me that she had a lump, too. Yeah. My Stress-o-Meter went through the roof then, by cracky. And because she's a strong, independent woman who has her shit all kinds of together, she made a doctor's appointment immediately. Read that? Immediately. She made an appointment while I continued to run around in circles, waving my arms in the air, screaming like a lunatic because that's how I react to anything out of the ordinary. See, it's better that I'm in the dark on most things. Really.

Tater was concerned, but still cool because remember, her shit is all together, whereas mine is in scattered all willy nilly in piles all around my life. I nearly hyperventilated when she said that doctor had ordered a mammogram for her. He ordered a mammogram - not flowers or a singing telegram, but he ordered her a mammogram. She'd had a lump for all of two hours and was having a mammogram - I had had a lump for a few months and was at that point certain that I was a goner. Turns out, Tater's were just cysts that are incredibly common and we all breathed that proverbial sigh of relief.

And then, because I had to let my little sister pave the way for me first, I made an appointment for my very own Well Woman Checkup. The appointment clerk suggested I see a new gal out there and assured me that she was wonderful. I wasn't convinced, but allowed her to make me an appointment with her regardless. She asked if she could schedule me for after Christmas and I figured heck yeah, I've been lumpy this long, what's a few more weeks? That just gave me plenty more time to obsess and worry and run around in circles screaming.

When the nurse checked my vitals this afternoon she said, "Your pulse is a little high, hon. Are you nervous? Because there's no need to be. Of course, I'm not getting ready to get into the stirrups, am I?" I laughed and instantly liked her and wanted to bake her cookies and put her on my Christmas card list. We chit-chatted about my periods (irregular), my preferred birth control method (the kind that works and had better continue working) and the temperature in the room (freakin' COLD) and she said she was going to move me to a room that was warmer (for which I was thankful). She led me to a room that was definitely not warmer, handed me a delightful blue paper gown and told me to get 'er done. Well, maybe not in those exact terms. I stripped down in a room that was about the same temperature as my refrigerator and unfolded my new duds.

I remember when I had my first Exam at 18 that paper gown would've gone around me three times. Today, not so much. I was secretly wondering if there was a stapler in the room so I could somehow fix two together. I hopped (okay, not so much hopping as it was more like hoisting and then wondering when they changed the width of those exam tables) onto the table and unfolded the pretty white blanket that looked and felt like a dinner napkin and wasn't much bigger either. And then I waited. I scooted around on the table, tried to contain my left breast that kept trying to escape from my pretty new dress and was just wondering if I had time to get down from the table and grab a magazine before the nurse and PA came in when the nurse and PA came in. Whew. Glad I didn't attempt that one - I'd have been caught with my boobs a'floppin' out of my blue gown and that would've made my pulse either speed up or stop altogether.

I instantly liked the PA, the woman who would soon know me in a way that few know me. (Hush, Tater. We are not going to discuss my sordid past today.) She asked when I'd had my last bloodwork done and I told her the whole Factor V Leiden story and she said she was going to research the condition more and hinted that Coumadin therapy might come into play and I politely said, "Nah, I like your Coumadin Man and all, but I'll wait till that first clot, thank you very much." And she still said she was going to keep my chart on her desk so she could look into
it. Then she said she wanted to do some general bloodwork, too. Oh yay. That means I'll probably find out my cholesterol's high, I'm anemic and my blood clots too quickly. Tell me something I didn't know.

Then I told her about my lump. (Here's where one could easily go into a twisted version of Fergie's My Humps if one wanted - trust me, I've been humming it all day) Her first question was, "How's your caffeine intake?" And I told her what my sister said about the amount of caffeine I consume - when I die they won't be able to have my funeral for a week or so because that's how long it will take for the caffeine in my body to wear itself out. And she said, "You really need to stop that." Well, duh. It's pretty much common sense that something that makes you feel as good as caffeine does is really not good for you. She said she'd check it out, lumps are always worth checking out, but most are nothing, especially in caffeine drinkers, etc etc.

The last doctor who did a breast exam wasn't nearly as impressed with my ladybug tattoo as those two women were today. They oohed and ahhed over how cute it was. It's an interesting experience to be naked on a table as two women admire your body art while your exposed breasts are just out there in the open and all vulnerable and stuff. Oh, and one of them is fondling you.

"Ah ha. Yep, there it is," were her words as she found the dastardly lump. She pinpointed that puppy like she had a sonar in her hands or something. Then she moved on to lucky contestant #2 and whaddaya know, there's a lump in that one, too. And while she continued to feel around like she was reading braille, she explained that finding a lump in the same spot in each breast is actually a good thing. Not a good thing, like "Whoo hoo! You have not one, but TWO lumps, you lucky girl!" but a good thing in that it's not a lone lump and therefore they are friendly lumps and not lumps that require smooshing between two plates or inserting syringes into.

Then she said, "Here's this one. I want you to feel it."

Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?

Now, during a breast exam, I do my best to not make eye contact with the breast examiner. I count ceiling tiles, compile a mental shopping list or just go to my happy place, but I do not look the person who has my breast in their hands directly in the eye. It's just weird. But when she suggested that I join her in feeling myself up, I looked that woman in the eye just to make sure she was talking to me and not the nurse on the other side of the table. Nope, it was me. Alllll me. So I got acquainted with my newest lump. In a very weird, uncomfortable way.

And after she completed my Well Woman Checkup and declared me to be, for all intents and purposes, at that particular moment, a Well Woman, she sent me to the lab to make my appointment for the blood letting.

And my lumps and I came home - to indulge in some caffeine while we get to know each other better.

7 comments:

Shannon said...

Oh Kristin!! You sooooo need to write for a magazine! I need to make my appointment too. BLAH!

Glad everything is OK!

Sam said...

Sh$%! I am almost a year overdue for my annual "Horseback Riding" as I call it. Also, this is where I say "You have a ladybug tattoo, me TOO!" and then you say "Duh. We've talked about this ten times" and I say "Sorry, already took my evening meds and my brain is swiss cheese" and you laugh at me for being an old person.

Anonymous said...

Diva, I am a coffee addict and cannot give it up - even to get rid of those scary, sometimes painful lumps. Let me introduce you to Evening Primrose oil capsules. They are magic. Take one in the morning and one at night and those lumps go away - not to mention, the hormones also do a happy dance! Its magic!

Patricia said...

I am so praying for all of you. My best friend had breast cancer last year. I spent a month with her thru surgery and the beginning of chemo. It changed me in ways I cannot begin to tell you.
I wish you all a healthy mammogram!!!!

Jax said...

OMG!! I love your blog and am SO glad I found it! I will be checking it often...you are hilarious!

Stewed Hamm said...

I think I saw this movie. I'm pretty sure that in the next scene a burly eastern European guy comes in "to be fixing zee cable, ya?"

Christy said...

Too funny! Jax sent me your way and I'm fixin' to go thank her right now. I get those pesky lumps too and have had a few surgeries. I totally get the running around in circles thing!