Friday, September 25, 2015

dancing the limbo

So I had a mammogram recently, the first one I'd had in a long time.  I had intended to have one a couple of years ago, but I ran into problems trying to get one.  First we had insurance that viewed it as optional, and I couldn't afford to get one.  Then we got new, fancier insurance, but I ran into a procedural wall.  When I asked my then physician to order me one, she stared at me blankly and said, "You can do that on the website."  When I went home and tried to order one via my healthcare provider's website, I failed.  I am a reasonably intelligent person who has been using the internet since the internet was a baby, but I could not find any way to request a mammogram on that website.  When I asked the person at the desk at my next appointment, they were likewise dismissive and flat out refused to help me.  Yes, a grownup, a grownup with a graduate degree at that, should not be so easily thwarted, but I had a lot of other things going on at the time and this procedural barrier stopped me from getting a mammogram.

So what with one thing and another and my not thinking I was at high risk, I didn't get one.  And then a few years went by, and I saw a different doctor, who finally didn't seem to think it was my job to go out in the world and make someone give me a mammogram but who sent an order through the ether to a breast clinic to give me one.  I went, had the procedure done, and went home with an air of having taken care of business.

Next I got a call at 5:05 p.m. on a Friday from the hospital who had done the mammogram, asking me in urgent tones to return their call.  I did promptly, but they didn't call me back but instead closed up shop for the weekend at 6:00 p.m.  "Who does that?" I fumed.  "Who calls someone after five on a Friday and ruins their weekend?"  Anyone I told I was worried told me I was being ridiculous and stupid both, as no way on earth would anyone call someone about a bad mammogram and leave a cryptic message after five on a Friday.  What an idiot the DH is, hahaha so very stupid.

With no support whatsoever I got through the weekend rather gracelessly.  On Monday the hospital called me again and let me know that there was a problem with my mammogram and I needed to come back as soon as possible.  The very next day I returned for a diagnostic mammogram, and the tech showed me that there is an 11 millimeter growth in my left breast.  "It could be a lymph node," she said optimistically.  "Have you been sick?"

"I did have a really awful respiratory infection, " I said.  

"That's it, then!" she said perkily.

But then I stopped and thought.  It felt like just yesterday, but... "It was really in July," I said.  "I was sick in July."  The radiation tech didn't have a good way to spin this, and her cheer wound down.

After the diagnostic mammogram results were sent to some mystical doctor off-site, I was sent for an ultrasound.  These images were also sent off-site to the Oz-like being, who said that I needed to go for a fine tissue biopsy.

Here is where I ran into trouble.  The first vacancy was for two weeks away.  The person at the clinic doing the schedule visibly freaked out and asked me to wait, and she scurried off.  I could hear her in the next room urgently asking for something to be done to get me in sooner.  This did not add to my confidence level.  But nothing evidently could be done.

At this point I became stressed... and the stress continues and continues.  If I act like I have cancer, I am being a drama queen.  If I act like I don't have cancer, I'm in denial.  It's a no win situation.  And no one is helping.  Absolutely everyone I talk to about this seems to think I am an idiot for not getting the biopsy done sooner.  Never mind that the only way I could get it done sooner would be if I could change my growth and move it up near the surface, where it could be reached without ultrasound (the actual growth is waaaaay back by my ribcage and will supposedly take approximately one and a half hours, with me under sedation, for a physician to reach with ultrasound to let them know what the hell they are doing).  A friend tipped me off that I have access to a fancy sounding "health care concierge" thanks to the Sober Husband's glamorous new job, and I was relieved and excited... but the health care concierge got back to me in a couple of days to tell me that there was no possibility of a fine needle biopsy anywhere near San Francisco on less than two weeks notice.  

 "If it were me," someone said to me approximately nine times today, "I would get the biopsy done sooner."  Well, if it were you, bitch, you'd soon realize that like King Canute you cannot order the tides to go out and you cannot order a radiologist to do your bidding.  Perhaps if I hacked off large amounts of my torso myself I could get this done sooner, but if I want it done by someone skilled, I am going to be waiting two weeks.

Meanwhile there is not a lot of support at home.  "Be nice to me; I may have cancer," I said to a rather crabby family member.  This family member tossed their hair and said snappily, "You told me not to worry."  

Postscript:  After an agonizing biopsy, it turns out that I have a benign tumor.  Yay!  Benign!

2 comments:

Claire M. Johnson said...

I cannot believe people. ANYONE who has lived the threat of cancer understands how you feel and how helpless we are in the face of medical bureaucracy. You be as dramatic as you want, honey. These know-it-all jerks can suck rocks.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Thank you, Claire, I love and appreciate you.