It's all relative. All of it. I jammed my toe on the bedpost tonight, which for a second was the worst pain of the day but then subsided faster than the rest of my bodily discomforts. But if you tell someone that jamming your toe is more painful than, say, having contrast dye injected into your bloodstream while laying face-down on a hard plastic plank, they are not likely to believe you. People also have trouble believing that you are going to report to your job for a few hours between your breast MRI and ultrasound appointments. Might seem ridiculous to the layperson, but hey, when you've had cancer this is just the way it goes.
Let me explain.
For the past week or so I have noticed a tingling firmness in my right breast. It's more lump-like than the inflammatory breast cancer ever was, but it's not distinctly lumpy like a pea or other round object. My quarterly appointment with Dr. Oncologist is scheduled for tomorrow morning, so I thought I'd be proactive and report this new development to her via electronic correspondence (MyChart is awesome for those of us with health issues!). I figured she could either wait to check out my lump on Friday, or order some exploratory tests prior to our meeting. No harm either way. In true Dr. O fashion, she took my words at face-value and ordered some tests.
This by itself was refreshing, because I sometimes wonder how well I walk the line between being a hypochondriac and too complacent. As a cancer survivor who is still in the high-risk-of-recurrence zone, I worry that I could be overly sensitive to every little bodily change. I don't want to turn into the girl-who-cried-wolf when it comes to a potential recurrence. On the other hand, I want to be diligent and not miss something if it does pop up. No one knows my body better than I do, so if something truly alarming happens I want to sound the alarm. Instantly.
At any rate, Tuesday evening, I sounded the alarm. Dr. O had a sample of my blood before noon on Wednesday, and she had me scheduled for a mammogram and breast MRI scan on Thursday morning. At the mammogram appointment the radiologist briefly viewed my pictures and requested an ultrasound of the breast, too. That appointment was made for Thursday afternoon.
You see, it all sounds awful when it's typed up like this, but I promise you it was no big deal. These are just the things you have to do when you've had cancer before. I wasn't even stressed about it. I'm still not stressed about it. I'm a bit sore and stiff from spending 3 hours being smashed (mammo) or contorted (MRI) or both (ultrasound). But mentally I'm bringing my A game because I'm not sick. I'm WELL. And if a lump disagrees with this assessment of myself, then we'll cut it out. And if the lump decides to go viral before we get it cut out, then we'll kill it with chemicals. And after the lump and its cancerous offspring are out we'll irradiate the premises to make sure it's gone for good.
See? I'm a professional. This is no big deal.
Also, I got a preview of the results. Wanna hear? Dr. Radiologist thinks that 1-2 lymph nodes are the culprit(s). The one that I can feel is a tiny bit enlarged. A neighboring lymph node is both a tiny bit enlarged and has slightly increased metabolic activity. However, he reminded me that lymph nodes commonly get enlarged when they are busy fighting an infection. I don't feel sick, but I have been exposed to illnesses so perhaps my lymph nodes are busy. His recommendation is to have another breast ultrasound in 2 months. I'm not holding my breath on that because I think it's entirely possible that Dr. O will want a biopsy tomorrow, but that's okay. Biopsies are the best way to learn what's going on!
I'll end with the good omen that was Dr. Radiologist. It was the same radiologist who performed my spine biopsy, and he is the best radiologist in town. I told him that I was thrilled that he was on my case (the way my clinic works, it's a lottery which of the 8 or so radiologists assess your pictures). After describing the cause of my lump(s) to me, he launched into the usual doctor spiel about how we don't really want to do a biopsy unless it was absolutely necessary...I cut him off and said that I am perfectly willing to call up Dr. Surgeon and have a biopsy right that second. I am not afraid of using biopsies to get answers; in fact, biopsies have been the only way I have gotten most answers. Dr. Radiologist replied with, oh, well, then I'll talk with Dr. Firstname Surgeon about it. In fact, he was going to see him tonight and converse casually about my case.
Brilliant! One point for having a team of talented medical professionals working together to work for me, and two points for living in a small town.
Everything's fine. Time to watch some Olympics!