You Want Me to Pay How Much to Have You Touch My Breast?!

I’m not one of those people who likes to go to the doctor’s office.  I mean, I don’t think there are really that many people that “like” going to the doctor but they’re more than ready to show up for their regular check-ups, give up two hours of life to sit in the pharmacy area, and pay for an office visit when they have a really bad head cold. I’m not one of those people.  I will stay home and puke in every empty vessel in the house before I even consider making the effort to visit the doctor.

Of course, I’ve had to change my ways now that I have a young child but it hasn’t been all that annoying for me.  It’s a lot easier to worry about my little nerd before myself so I’m more than willing to take him where he needs to be in order to be okay.  Normally I would expect some kind of medal for being so damn selfless, but I get the feeling that the fact that I do the very minimum to keep my child alive and happy won’t be seen as favorably by other people as I feel about myself.

I only bring this part of my life story up because I kind of had an incident.  Okay, I didn’t “kind of” have an incident—I had a full on freight train hit me and I’m trying my best to deal with the entire situation.  Remember way back two paragraphs ago when I said I didn’t like to go to the doctor’s office?  Well, I made the decision a while back that I needed to get to my doctor and I needed to get there soon.  I wasn’t feeling ill in any way, but I was imagining all of the phantom peer pressure vibes I was receiving from several other people I know that are about my same age.  They were going to their doctors to get mammograms and pap smears, and checking their thyroid levels and having discussions about bouts of depression.  I had spent so many years feeling superior in the fact that I was so healthy (aside from my weight issues) that I found it easy to relish the fact that I hadn’t had to go to the doctor for years—AND I WAS JUST FINE!

But the little voice inside of me kept telling me to get off my ass and get my check-ups done.  My weight had gone up significantly over the last year (thanks a lot, blog writing and Americone Dream ice cream) and I was getting desperate for someone to help me get back on track.  I figured that once I was there I could kill three birds with one stone, and also get the other “woman” tests done.  The weight issue fell by the wayside immediately when I was faced with the reality of stirrups.  I don’t care who you are, once those stirrups come out, there ain’t nothing else that you’re thinking of.  Thank goodness I had a woman who was really great in the art of talking and distraction, so the incident only took a couple of minutes and I felt only minimally violated.  Hooray!

I eventually worked my way to the blood testing and medical imaging departments to take care of the thyroid test and then try to sneak in for an, oh so quick, mammogram.  I was kind of hoping they didn’t have time for me that day and that I could bypass the yuckiness that is having your breasts squished every which direction, but it wasn’t meant to be.  They got me in there in what must have been record time and before I knew it I had a new best friend named Jennifer who ended up touching me more than I’ve touched myself over the last three years.  It was such an amazing experience that I ended up asking her out to lunch.  But not really.

There’s no more helpless feeling (or so I thought) than having someone manipulate your breasts to the point that you don’t feel that they belong to you anymore.  And then when you’re holding your breath while the image is taken you feel suspended in time, completely at the mercy of the demon that has you trapped between the pieces of plastic from hell.  I was ready to hit Jennifer when I had to go back and retake some photos, but eventually I got through the entire freaking process.  I grabbed my clothes, wrangled on my bra and hightailed it to Dairy Queen for some ice cream therapy.

My ordeal was over. I started getting letters and emails letting me know that I was perfectly healthy (so much for blaming my weight gain on my thyroid) and I was extremely self-satisfied that I had given up an hour of my life to assure that I would be around a good long time to play and love and hug on my husband and my son.  Life went on and it was all good…

But then I got a small letter from my doctor saying that they spotted something in my mammogram.  They wanted me to come in again.  I definitely wasn’t prepared to face the machine from hell again but it needed to be looked at, right?  I mean, I was convinced that it wasn’t a big deal because Jennifer seemed to be struggling taking some of my pictures that day and I knew that this whole event was going to be an exercise in double checking that Jennifer wasn’t an idiot that probably needed to get a new job if she couldn’t take a decent mammogram photo.

I finally got up the courage to make my appointment when other thoughts started pouring through my brain: How much is this going to cost? Are we just going to do another mammogram?  What other tests might they do?  How much is this going to cost?  Will I have to take a whole day off from work? That sucks.  How much is this going to cost?  I made the call and got myself set up for another mammogram the following week.  It was only going to take an hour, but I was going to have to go across town to the other facility.  Okay, I can do this. I don’t have to be into work until later, I don’t have to take time off for this.  It will be good.

It didn’t occur to me to have someone hold my hand because it was just a mammogram.  I was feeling extremely copacetic (and not at all freaked out by the amount of people entering and exiting the building with all of their various ailments) until I made my way to the check in line.  I decided to talk to a human being instead of check in at the computer screens so that I could ask a couple of questions while I was there.  Oh, I got a human alright, who then promptly escorted me to the nearest computer screen—and then proceeded to talk to me like a five year old that may not have reading skills or the ability to push buttons.  Before I even had a chance to be overly frustrated, she had my health record number submitted and had already been notified that I was going to have to cough up over three hundred dollars before I even got into the appointment.  I cussed up a storm, but under my breath, you know. I’m classy that way.

But what the what?  I thought this shit was covered under preventative care?  What is going on?  Should I still go? Screw this, I could go for a long walk before work instead.  This sucks.  On and on and on.  But there was still a little nagging voice in my head that told me I had to take care of my health and see what the hell was going on with my breasts.  I paid the money and vowed to track down why it was already going to cost me so much money.  I guess the upside is that it gave me something new to think about!  I suppose I could write an entire post about why I was paying so much (I made a few calls immediately after I got to work) but I think it can be summed up in two words: high deductible.  God, I hate being an adult.

Since it was so early in the morning I was immediately taken to the back of the medical imaging department where I could strip in front of my new, new best friend Mary.  She kind of looked like a human version of a Muppet and didn’t really like to smile.  She escorted me to my own little hell room and quickly had me stripped and chummy with the machine.  I never know what I’m supposed to do with my arms or legs or, let’s face it, my breasts and it’s very, very awkward not knowing what’s supposed to go where.  You’d think it would be the same every time, but it’s not.  These women get me to twist my body in ways I wouldn’t think I would be able to accomplish even if I were a performer for Cirque.  She showed me photos from my last mammogram and told me which areas they would be concentrating on this day.  There were issues with each breast, so I was in for the whole smash (pun intended).

She said we were going to start with my left breast and as I started to lift myself onto the plate she barked, “No helping!” which immediately made me hate her.  She started to maneuver me and I was happy to find out that she had warm hands.  I started to like her again. Nothing more uncomfortable than stripping in front of someone you don’t know, being told not to help, and then being assaulted with frozen hands.  My eyes found the little sticker on the machine that told me where it was made and that became my life line.  I tried my best to ignore what my poor girls were going through so that I could just get on with my day.  When we had to take more specific photos of the areas that the doctor was concerned with things took a very painful turn.  Let’s just say that Mary is lucky I didn’t punch her in her left breast.  Fuck this mammogram stuff.  I was done.  Let me go, damnit!

Well, it wasn’t meant to be and she put me in a small waiting room across from another woman draped in a hospital gown.  I tried to give her one of those “yeah, this sucks, but we’re all in this together” looks when she decided she’d rather look at the ceiling.  Whatever, dude.  Whatever.  I nonchalantly thumbed through magazines six months old and just waited for someone to tell me that I could go home.  Apparently, they were sending the photos to head of radiology and that person had the ultimate power over the rest of my day.  I was already planning on where I would pick up some lunch when Mary came back and told me that they weren’t done with me.  They found a spot in my left breast that they needed to look at with an ultrasound.  Are you fucking kidding me?!

Next thing I know, I’m in this room laying down on my back in front of the ultrasound machine.  I hadn’t been near one of those things in over nine years and it was for a decidedly more happy time.  My new, new, new best friend was Katy and she was in charge of the machine.  Katy wasn’t a talker which pissed me off at first but then I was only grateful for.  I was finally starting to get a little freaked out and little irritated that it was taking so long to find this “spot” in my left breast when she finally started taking pictures.  She told me to relax, that she was going to bring someone in to have a look at the photos and left me in that dark room with my thoughts.

What was going on?  Is this real?  There’s no way that I have anything wrong.  I’m waaaay to healthy for this shit.  On and on and on.  Until someone knocked on the door and entered the room.  I thought it was just Katy but it wasn’t.  It was also a guy.  A doctor guy, but a guy.  I don’t really do guy doctors.  I mean, I trust them alright but I don’t need to be stressing about a guy seeing my body when other things are going on.  I felt the same way when I had my son and feel the same way today.  I just don’t need to be thinking about guys looking at my body.  I don’t have the personality that can handle that kind of situation.  But there was.  Damnit.

He ended up being very nice and made me feel very comfortable.  Well, as comfortable as you can be laying on a table with your breast hanging out, your arm over your head and two people staring at you.  My breast was starting to ache a lot and I desperately needed something to keep my mind off of what was going on.  I looked over to the desk in the room and saw a calendar with a picture of a cow.  The cow was staring right at me as if to say, “Damn girl, whatchu doing?” I stared back at that cow and mentally told her that she needed to stay with me and get me through this uncomfortable situation.  That cow was a goddamned diva.  I will love her until the day I die.

The ordeal finally ended with the doctor telling me that I had a lump at the very back of my left breast and that it needed to be aspirated.  The shape of the growth suggested that it was probably just a cyst that needed to be drained.  I was going to have to make another appointment to have it taken care of.  It was probably going to be okay and it was probably not going to be big deal, but they needed me back soon.  There was an appointment later that day and for the following week.  I panicked about work and decided I couldn’t miss work that day but I could definitely miss work the next week.  Sign me up.

I was dismissed from medical imaging and allowed to carry on with my day.  I didn’t know what to think, really.  I was still convinced that everything was going to come out great and that life would just go on as before.  But as I started to drive home (and made calls to my mom and the hubby to let them know what was going on) I realized that I needed to have answers sooner than later.  I walked into the library, grabbed my insurance card and started making calls.  This is where I was bombarded with the whole “high deductible” issue and I realized that this whole process was going to cost me a fortune.  I almost backed out.  I don’t like doctors.  I’m perfectly healthy.  It’s all good.  This is just bullshit.  Oh yeah, and I found out that the procedure was going to cost me over a thousand dollars.  Mother Fu…

My mom was the one who convinced me that I needed to take care of this issue because it’s my health and it’s very important.  I knew she was right but I really didn’t want to listen.  But I did—because she’s my mom and I know she was worried.  I told her I was going to change the appointment for later that day and I asked her if she would go with me.  I needed her to hold my 43 year old hand.  I’m not ashamed.  She stepped up and said that she would.  I almost cried.  I got the appointment rescheduled for that day and left my (very patient and understanding) co-workers back at the library.  My mom and I drove back across country and checked me into the hospital (?) office again.  I was feeling pretty damned tired.  I also wasn’t looking forward to swiping my credit card again.  But, they let me off the hook this time.  I figure they were saving the payment discussion for later when I could talk to human being that could set me up on a payment plan.  Damnit.

My mom had the patient of a saint.  Through some grumbling going on at the medical imaging desk I heard that everyone was behind and that there would be a wait.  I was afraid that the power in my mom’s phone (and afternoon entertainment) would be drained before I even got into the back room.  Eventually I was called back and my mom was forced to stay in the waiting area.  I wanted her with me, but I guess they take it pretty seriously when women are walking around in thin robes (with the opening in the front).  I was on my own again.

This time they opened with a mini-speech of what I could expect with the aspiration process and what the healing time would be.  I had to listen to them tell me side effects and possible bad things that could happen (punctured lung, anyone?) and then hop back on the table.  I bonded with the ultrasound machine again and waited for my favorite guy doctor to make his appearance.  He explained what was going to happen and had me put my arm above my head again.  By this time my arm was in complete pain and I wasn’t sure I was going to stay in the exact position for very long.  Until I found my cow.  She had my back and I was grateful.  She helped me get through part one.

They stuck me with a long needle to get the local anesthetic down near where the cyst was.  The spot they were looking at was so far back behind my breast that it was right next to my chest cavity and ribs.  They moved the wand around and around until they found the exact spot.  They put in another needle (that I couldn’t feel this time because of the anesthetic) and began to aspirate.  Or at least they tried to.  It was a completely solid cyst.  My worst fear was coming true:  I was going to have a biopsy.  Again and again they told me that it was probably nothing and that it’s not very likely that the cyst has any cancer and that it’s probably just a solid mass, but I was starting to not believe them.  It had already been a day of “it’s probably okay” and it wasn’t.  There was always something more.  Let’s face it—I was good and scared.

They added more anesthetic to the area and they prepped me for the procedure.  The doctor told me there would be a loud snapping sound each time they took a sample and to let him know if it hurt.  Oh, hell yeah, he was going to know if it hurt.  I bonded with my cow and waited for them to proceed.  I can tell you now that it didn’t hurt.  Not at all.  It was perfectly fine and I was kind of amazed at how easy the procedure was.  The tough part to get over, though, was the sound.  When I was younger, and my mom was a teacher, she used to bring home piles and piles of paper that I would have to gather into a booklet and then staple together.  When I would have to use my muscles to get the staple through the paper I would have to pretty much slam my fist on the stapler to get enough force to get it through.  It created a muffled but loud “cachunk” sound that was pretty impressive.  That was the same sound that was coming from my breast.

One. Two. Three. Four samples.  My arm was ready to fall off and I think my cow was tired of the drama.  The doctor’s assistant wiped me down, taped me up and had me sit in the little waiting area again.  This time it was to wait for ANOTHER FREAKING MAMMOGRAM.  Seriously you guys, I didn’t think I was going to make it.  My breasts were sore and I was tired of people poking and prodding them.  It wasn’t Mary this time, although she did see me in the hallway and gave me a rub on my back as I passed her.  She gave me such a chagrined look that I was afraid of what was going to happen to me next.  The new lady was all business and got me through with no major pain.  I was concerned when I heard her mutter, “well, we’ll have to see if he thinks that one is good,” but I was holding out hope.  I got escorted back to the waiting room.  Then the technician came back and made me take another freaking picture.  God, I hated that place.

Back to the waiting room and my all too depressing thoughts.  Do I have cancer?  When am I going to find out?  How much is this going to cost?  What am I going to tell the hubby?  How am I going to tell my kid?  How did I get here?  Where’s my mom?  I bet she took off without me.  What a nightmare!  The doctor finally came in and told me that I could go.  He assured me that I would know the results in 3-5 working days (and this was a Thursday, damnit) and not to worry.  Oh, okay.  I ran to the dressing room, flung on my clothes and searched for my mommy.  Not my mom—my mommy.  I came out of the imaging apartment just as she had been sneaking out of her waiting room.  I let her know the drill and we both got sad together.

We drove back to work but I didn’t have the emotional strength to make it through the rest of the day and my friends sent me home.  I played word games on my computer and tried to cry but I couldn’t quite do it.  I was numb.  Just numb.  The boys came home and we had a talk and we pushed it out of our heads buy going out for Mexican food.  My personal motto: Ain’t nothing can’t be fixed with a good chile relleno!  It was a good way to end what had become a very bad day.

I’d like to tell you what the results were, but I still don’t know.  This was last week and I am still living with the not knowing  I know that chances are good that nothing is going on, but there is still a chance that something is.  Either way, I’m ready to do whatever it takes to make this just a passing chapter in my all too awesome life.  Thank you for listening to the ramblings of an all too human person that feels the need to share every thought that is inside her head.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

©DRB 2016

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