does the story end? are we actually in the beginning? or the middle?
we don’t know. now, maybe ever.
as part of my ATM gene mutation, i started getting MRIs twice a year. my first one was a friday ago, before the president’s day weekend. it was a standard medical system smorgasbord–a scheduling snafu, woozy IV process, uptight receptionist who lectured me for being late (even though i was early), and half a medical marijuana gummy for relaxation.
the MRI is an hour where i am topless and face down, being shot in and out of the noisy tube.
in the cancer world, there’s a real term, scanxiety. it describes the state of mind in anticipating the scan, enduring the scan, and waiting for the scan results. while life seemingly moves forward once a patient gets dressed and walks out of the exam room, the scanxiety walks out with us too. to you, i look normal. to mike and any close partners, they sniff it out and we imbue it onto them. the household bumbles with apprehension.
i messaged my oncologist’s office this past wednesday, asking for the results. four days is a long time to wait, and we were going on five. i got a message back immediately from the nurse with a “dr. rugo will call you later.” pretty transparent what was about to come.
my left healthy breast has a clump non-mass enhancement. and just reading the actual test results this morning, there is some activity in my central mammary lymph nodes. neither of these things were present in my last MRI in winter 2013 or my left-breast mammograms in 2014 and 2015. these things that lit up could be a variety of things, including cancer and/or pre-cancer. they could also be absolutely nothing. but dr. rugo and the rest of the team does not want to take any chances. there is no “wait and see” approach here.
they scheduled me for the first available MRI-guided core biopsy, tuesday morning. after a game of HMO football, we got the procedure approved. the UCSF scheduler brent complimented me on my good work and wondered if i threatened my HMO with a baseball bat. not that, brent, just pulled the cancer card.
if you would indulge me in revisiting the past, i had a core biopsy before, in ~january 2013, to help inform my surgical decisions. as i explained to friends, it may have been the most difficult treatment and procedure to endure in this whole mess. being awake on an elevated table, face down, under mammogram compression, while they insert lidocaine and epineprhine to numb my breast (and make my heart race), and pull tissue–not just a few cells, but pieces of tissue–back through the needle, all while a vacuum-like machine is sucking and popping discordantly in the foreground. the techs then led me to have a mammogram immediately afterwards, to make sure that any titanium clips they placed to note the biopsy site are situated properly. if the clips are amiss, the procedure starts all over again. which happened to me.
my breast bled so much afterwards. i remember the drips of blood on the clear reflective mammogram plates. i must have looked aghast, because the technician tried to encourage me by suggesting i had “really good circulation to have lost this much blood.” my breast turned blue then black over the next few days.
so my procedure is this procedure. only add in the MRI part, being shuttled in and out of that damn noisy tube.
someone explained to me that scanxiety isn’t necessarily about what might happen; it’s about what did happen. it’s not so much about worrying, it’s about remembering. for me, today, it’s all of those things.
on tuesday, i think i’ll eat the full medical marijuana gummy and hope that i’ll find my place in the story.