Another Scary Mammogram

by Maggan

in Anxiety & Fear,Mammogram,Ultrasound

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As I enter the semi-dark room for my third mammogram in a month,  I notice two large X-rays mounted on a back lit panel. One shows a breast with two lumps and a calcified area, all clearly circled in red. I assume this is the view of  my right breast and freak out at the thought of having a mastectomy, after all. (It is automatic when you have cancer in different parts of the same breast.)

Then I notice the markings in the corners. The x-ray with red circles is marked Left, not Right. It is in my right breast the cancerous hazelnut lurks – without red ink drawn around it.

My knees buckle underneath me. I sink down on the chair and stare at the back lit photos. The tech comes in, and I hope it is too dark for her to see my teary  eyes. But my voice trembles when I ask : “My cancer is only in the right breast, why do you have the left breast film up there with areas circled in red?”

The tech doesn’t seem the least bit concerned.

“No, there is no mistake,” she says calmly and continues to shuffle her papers. “The requested procedure is for the left breast.”

“No, it can’t be. I have a lump in my right breast.”

The tech walks up to the films and looks, not at my film of the right breast with infiltrating ductal carcinoma, but at  the left x-ray film before turning around.

“Are you all right?” she asks. Her tone is sympathetic, yet she keeps her distance by going back to the paper work on her counter.

“No,” I admit, “I am scared. What is wrong with my left breast? What are those three red markings for? You can tell me. Just tell me.”

“Sorry I don’t know,” she lies. But I know that she knows when she says: “Only the radiologist can tell you.”

This radiologist is another female, but she is the polar opposite of Dr. Dork  at the Breast Care Center. This new radiologist, Dr. Confident, reminds me of a cheery English school mistress: a plaid skirt peaks out from underneath her white coat. She wears high heeled – yet sensible – shoes. Her hair is groomed, but unfashionable. Her face looks kind.

Dr. Competent  tells me she has good news. Well, mostly. The big lumps in the left breast “went away” on the ultrasound. The calcifications are still there though.  Do I remember which breast and year my calcifications were biopsied? she wants to know. No I don’t.  “Then it would be medically prudent to do a needle biopsy now,” she says and she doesn’t even give me a dope slap for being so stupid. In fact, she exudes kindness, along with calm and competence. My MRI, she assures me,  is scheduled for a couple of days later. But first she needs to check those milky streaks in my left breast.

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