Yesterday was B day. After reviewing my growing mammogram portfolio, the doctor said, “I don’t think it looks like cancer, because cancer shows up dense and black, and yours is white.”
She also shared that it’s at “8 o’clock” in my right breast, and 7 mm, or about the size of a pencil eraser. She couldn’t feel it.
Doing another ultrasound, she decided it might be a harmless lymph node and gave me 2 choices:
Stereotactic biopsy on the spot.
Wait 6 months and be tested again.
Since this ordeal has revealed my high intolerance for cancer, I opted for the biopsy. But the only way to do it without rescheduling was to have it under local anesthesia only. The doctor acted like this was no big deal, and ran off to arrange things.
The Virginia Breast Center uses the Mammotome® torture biopsy device.
Mammotome® describes how it works very matter-of-factly and, tellingly, without video. Nor could I find a depiction for you anywhere else.
Here’s how it went down for me…
I climbed onto a very high table to lie face down with my right breast hanging through a hole, sort of like a car on the lift at Jiffy Lube. A technician sat under the table.
Lying down was almost a deal-breaker because I had trouble finding a position that didn’t feel like I’d end up with broken ribs. I was under strict orders NOT to lift my head or shoulders or pull back during the procedure.
For yet more mammography, my breast was smashed on both sides so excruciatingly hard, tears began to flow. This pressure was maintained for the duration.
Next, they administered local anesthesia. I never saw any of the needles, but last night I found a Band-Aid over my right nipple. I can only assume a needle was inserted into my nipple opening, and that’s what it felt like.
I was now audibly sobbing while someone held down my back.
Whatever numbing ensued, it wasn’t enough. As the thicker biopsy needle went into the top of my breast, I felt burning.
Now I was hyperventilating and I think I screamed once, but they warned, “Don’t pull away or we’ll have to start over,” so I had to surrender to the unspeakable pain while the Mammotome® “gently vacuumed and cut” inside my breast and left behind a little present, a “safe, tiny device” of unknown composition, to mark the spot forever.
After they removed all the needles and loosened the vise, they cleaned and bandaged me, said something about a “large hematoma,” and told me it was now time for…are you ready for this?
I thought they were fucking KIDDING. But no. They needed to document my new microchip, or whatever it is. From now on, I assume if I ever get lost, I can wander to the nearest vet’s office to be scanned and reunited with my cats.
The final mammographer went easy on me because I was wobbling. They had me sit down and drink a glass of water before letting me drive home.
I could have used a fifth of vodka.
Today, gauze still covers the incision, and that Band-Aid’s on my nipple. I can see some blood. I’ll be able to more fully assess the damage and take a shower tonight.
If you’ve had any trouble following this, let me put it in a nutshell:
A stereotactic biopsy under local anesthesia is like having a large man in work boots stand firmly on your breast while he shoots it point-blank with fine-gauge nails.
They said they got a good sample for the biopsy (no doubt!), and I’m supposed to hear the results on June 23. I’ll let you know how that goes, and I hope it’s the end of this.