Are we sick of talking about my breasts yet? It’s an epidemic, spreading like wildfire. My rack is the new bird flu. Seriously. My father called me on the phone this evening and we had an entire discussion about my boobs, including–as Dave Barry would say, I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP–his detailing for me a specialized kind of 3-D mammography machine that can perform tissue sampling without a doctor present.
Yes. A boob biopsy robot. Thanks, Dad! Guess who I’ll be calling tonight when I wake up screaming with nightmares about C-3PO coming at me with a hollow needle?
I would like one for the family room, I think, just to keep things festive around here. Unfortunately, they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so I will not be getting one. But I will be sure to tell the surgeon I’m seeing next week that MY DADDY SAID they should get me into one of those machines where you walk out 15 minutes later with a band-aid instead of getting knocked out and having day surgery.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s recap: I found a lump, I had some discharge (or boob pus, as those of us who are hip and, um, oozing, like to call it), I saw the backup doctor, I got some antibiotics for an infection, I continued to have problems, I saw my regular doctor, she found a different lump, she made me an appointment for an ultrasound this morning.
We join the continuing saga of my boob at the breakfast table… when the phone rings. Apparently school is delayed for two hours. Why? Well, it snowed. Half an inch. And our superintendant is on crack. And would like school to be in session until August. Hmmm. What to do? Monkey can go to daycare, but Chickadee… the friend who is willing to take her lives across town in the wrong direction. I wouldn’t have time to run her over there and make my appointment. She’ll have to come with me.
“No fair!” complains Monkey. “I want to come, too!” I am still trying to stop rolling my eyes when Chickadee takes matters into her own hands.
“It’s going to be VERY BORING, Monkey,” she assures him. “I am just going to sit in the waiting room and read a book, and you can barely even read yet.” He offered to bring his Gameboy. Then he changed his mind and said no, he’d rather come watch my boob!
I took him to school.
Chickadee and I had to park on the tip-top of the parking garage and wind our way back down to street level, then leap over puddles to cross the street to the hospital. The radiology waiting room had the advantage of holding several babies… so in addition to her stack of books, Chickadee had plenty to keep her attention. We admired the babies together until I was called.
A young (female, thank God) tech led me back to a small, dim room where air was being pumped through the vents so vigorously, it sounded like the cabin of a plane. WOOSH WOOSH WOOSH. It was cold in there. She asked me a million questions. How long had this been going on? What did the discharge look like? What color was it? Did I have pain? What antibiotics was I on? Had I ever had a mammogram? Any family history of breast cancer? Mustard or mayonnaise?
She played with the machine and told me to go ahead and undress from the waist up as soon as she left. She was showing no signs of leaving, however. She also hadn’t put out a gown or anything for me. I asked if she was going to give me a gown, and she rummaged around in a cabinet and chucked a sheet at me. “Drape yourself with that,” she said. Then she left.
I stripped down quickly, and arranged myself on the table under the sheet. WOOSH WOOSH WOOSH. The ceiling was uninteresting. I wondered how long this would take, because Chickadee would behave in the waiting room for a little while but not forever.
The tech came back, settled herself on her stool, adjusted her glasses, gooped up the probe, and–in one swift motion–pulled the sheet down to my waist. No foreplay, nothing. I’m thinking she should’ve bought me a cup of coffee at the very least.
I had little time to contemplate the unnecessary exposure of my right breast, because now she was ramming the probe into my left breast, back and forth, up and down. I craned to look at the screen and saw… a lot of grey stuff. Reading ultrasounds isn’t my strong suit. I’m pretty sure I saw my spleen, though. She was pressing pretty hard.
“Who found the lump?” she asked, not taking her eyes from the screen.
“Ummm… my doctor did,” I answered. It seemed like an odd question. She scanned and rescanned in the general area of the lump. Suddenly with a sigh of exasperation she put the probe down on the machine and started feeling around on my breast with her gloved hand. Hey, why not. Everyone else has had a feel. Knock yourself out, lady! Was it good for you?
She scanned the area yet again and took some stills and then moved on to a different area. Now she touched a button on the machine that zoomed in the picture and added color in little blobs. Ooooh! Pretty! More stills, more angling with the probe.
At long last she pushed back from the console and tossed me a towel. “You can clean up with this, but don’t get dressed yet. I need to show this to the radiologist and he may want to look some more, so just stay there under the sheet until I come back.”
“Can you… tell me anything?” I ventured.
“No. No, I’m just a tech.” Standard answer.
“Not even ‘looks good’ or ‘I dunno?'” I pressed.
She looked at me like I had two heads. “No. I’ll be right back.” And she left.
As I wiped gel off my poor beleaguered mammary I noticed that even my ARMPIT was full of the stuff. Hey, at least I remembered to shave today. Because there’s nothing more embarrassing than a STUBBLY armpit full of gel. Unless it’s an ultrasound tech who actually interrupts a scan to feel you up.
And then I waited, and I may have freaked out just a little bit, because the WOOSH WOOSH WOOSH is unnerving and waiting for the radiologist means that something wasn’t straightforward, right?
I noticed that there was a computer around back from the ultrasound console. From where I lay, I could see that it housed report files. I wondered if I could run over there and figure out how to look at my report, ascertain anything useful, and get back to the table and under the sheet, without getting caught. I decided that–given my topless state–it would be too risky.
The tech returned with a (male, dammit) radiologist in tow. She introduced him, we exchanged hellos, he directed her to scan me again, and then as she resumed grinding my breast into my ribcage, they commenced murmuring to each other. Murmur murmur see over here murmur murmur? Yes, murmur murmur.
“HI!” I exclaimed brightly. They turned to me as if they were surprised to discover that I was still there. “Now would be a good time to tell your EXTREMELY NERVOUS patient what you’re doing! Just a suggestion!”
The radiologist chuckled. “Well here’s the thing,” he said. “That lump your doctor found? We can’t see it.”
“It’s right here!” said the tech, palpating me again and making me want to tell her to PLEASE TAKE HER FINGERS OUT OF MY BREAST NOW. They exchanged glances. Perhaps the radiologist shared my view that perhaps she should not be fondling me. Who knows. “Well, we can’t see it on the scan, though,” she admitted.
“But that’s… good? Right?” I looked back and forth between them. What was I missing?
“Well… sure,” said the radiologist. “It means that lump probably isn’t anything.” He murmured to the tech again, and she moved the probe up and switched to the blobby color view on the screen again. “But,” he continued, “you do have a tubular structure right up here.”
Tubular structure. Like a… jungle gym? Or tubular as in totally tubular, i.e., super cool? I don’t want to brag or anything, but I have received a fair amount of commentary on my breasts over the years. Never has the word “tubular” been used in conjunction with them, before. Then again, I’ve never dated a valley girl.
“A… what?” They were murmuring again. A fantasy of taking the ultrasound probe and jamming it firmly up the technician’s nose was starting to take shape in my mind.
“Well, there’s… something there. It’s not alarming. I think it’s probably a papilloma, which is a benign growth. What you need to do is see a surgeon and discuss what to do next. But it doesn’t look like a cancer.”
“Oh. Okay. Good.” I was trying to remember what Dr. Google had told me about papillomas. I remembered reading that they often caused nipple discharge. So, okay, that would make sense. (It wasn’t until I got home, later, that I read the words “wart-like” and got really squicked out.) “But… ummm… my doctor was concerned about there maybe being an abscess. You’re not seeing anything like that?”
“Nope,” the radiologist shook his head. “I see no signs of infection. If it was infected, you’d have pain.”
“Uhhh… I DO have pain,” I said. To myself, I added, this may be from compulsively checking for continued oozing, and/or from the entire world manipulating my breast, however.
“Oh.” Now it was his turn to blink at me. “Well. It’s not red! If it gets red, let your doctor know.” I nodded and he and the tech left before I could mess up any more of their theories with pesky facts.
I got dressed and headed back to the waiting room to collect my daughter. “That was quick, Mama. Is your boobie all better?” I stuffed her into my purse and beat a hasty retreat.
Now it’s off to see the surgeon, next week, and find out if she wants to cut me open, or if maybe I can convince her just to feel me up and call it a day. Or get one of those robots. Because I would totally submit to a biopsy done by a remote-controlled toy.