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Pre-Diagnosis: February 2014

ejourneys's picture

Well, This is Different (copied from a blog entry dated Feb. 21, 2014)

A tech said to me yesterday, "You're such a skinny thing!" As I reported on MyFitnessPal, that was the NSV part. (NSV = Non-Scale Victory.) But I had framed this as an NSV plus cautionary tale.

The cautionary tale part is that the tech worked an ultrasound that followed a diagnostic mammo that followed my regular screening mammo, with the upshot that I go in for a biopsy next week, schedule TBD. My left breast has a nodule of the type that has gone either way -- radiologist said it looks like stuff that's been benign and it also looks like stuff that's been cancerous.

The ultrasound tech said she could feel where it is. With all the changes my body has undergone with weight loss (including feeling my bones closer to the surface), I had no idea that I wasn't feeling bone, especially since the nodule itself is hard. I think I found it for myself last night, now that I know what to pay attention to and where.

The take-away message (as I said on MFP): In addition to doing breast self-exams and getting mammograms, pay extra attention during self-exams when the rest of your body is changing. The nodule had gotten lost amidst everything else.

I'll get a call to let me know when the biopsy will occur; all I know at this point is that it's next week at the hospital. Positive vibes gratefully accepted!

I've downloaded a very informative article on breast biopsy from the American Cancer Society and have a good set of questions to ask, since there are several different kinds of biopsy that could be done. In case the nodule is malignant, I've also gotten info about a breast cancer support group at the hospital.

According to the material from the American Cancer Society, 80 percent of biopsies turn out to be non-cancerous. I keep my fingers crossed that the odds remain in my favor.

Day 1 Post-Biopsy (copied from a blog entry dated Feb. 28, 2014)

I posted this on a forum yesterday:

Back from biopsy! Had a great team that took very good care of me, including when my BP and pulse took a bit of a dive. (We were having a great conversation until I commented that I felt a bit faint; seems my face had lost all color, too.) They made sure I was back up to snuff before they let me out of their sight. I gave them a good laugh by showing up wearing this accessory:

"You Are Here" tag for breast biopsy

I had rounded its corners before I left the house; the team has kept it as a souvenir. Kudos to my partner for toughing it out in the waiting room, especially since we went a little -- *cough* -- long. I should get the results next week.

(end of excerpt)

My BP swan dive was remedied with IV fluids and angling my head toward the floor, plus orange juice when I could sit upright again. The only other glitch yesterday had to do with parking. I had never seen the lot so crammed. I called in to say that I was on the hospital campus but might be late because I was still looking for a parking spot. M can't walk that fast, so it took some time to cover the distance once I did find a spot in the lot of a distant hospital building. But we made it!

After the biopsy the staff tried to get us a shuttle going back to the car, but the shuttle driver was off-duty for the next 45 minutes. M and I decided to take our slow hike back, since I also had to do 20 minutes on/20-minutes off ice pack swaps for the next eight hours, and it would take at least 20 minutes to get home. (I had brought a cooler with freezer packs, but the cooler is big and was back in the car!) The walk to the car also confirmed for me that I wasn't going to faint. :-) M had also taken extra food with her, since when she needs to eat she needs to eat! Normally no eating is allowed in the waiting room, but M cleared it with staff.

M really did very well yesterday, all things considered. She had been pissy the other day and I warned her that I would go to the biopsy without her if I felt I had to, because I had to take care of me.

The hospital had used a relatively new procedure called a vacuum-assisted breast biopsy, described this way by the American Cancer Society:


For these procedures the skin is numbed and a small cut (less than ¼ inch) is made. A hollow probe is put in through the cut and guided into the abnormal area of breast tissue using x-rays, ultrasound, or MRI. A cylinder of tissue is then pulled into the probe through a hole in its side, and a rotating knife inside the probe cuts the tissue sample from the rest of the breast.

These methods allow multiple tissue samples to be removed through one small opening. They are also able to remove more tissue than a standard core biopsy. Vacuum-assisted core biopsies are done in outpatient settings. No stitches are needed, and there is usually very little scarring.


Mine had been done with ultrasound. I was also given extra lidocaine because the nodule I have rests right on muscle and had to be "floated" off of it.

So far I've experienced only a little discomfort and no pain to speak of. Prior to the procedure I had read up on other women's biopsy experiences (which had been all over the map); markers (which led me to ask at the pre-op if the one I'd be getting was 100% titanium, because not all are; the RN called and confirmed it); and various other resources.

The pre-op on Tuesday had also gone well. The RN who briefed me had also undergone a biopsy, which was very helpful.

Turns out that her own nodule had been discovered after she had lost 60 pounds over the course of a year. And here I am with a nodule discovered after I've lost 51 pounds over the course of 15 months. She said that an abnormality can lie undetected until enough surrounding tissue is gone for it to become visible. A connection on MyFitnessPal wrote that she had been carrying a hernia that had remained undiscovered until after she had lost 100 pounds.

The RN also confirmed for me that residual sensations can last even years after a procedure just because of what gets pushed around. Ever since my diagnostic mammo and ultrasound on the 19th I've had enough of a "presence" (a little discomfort at most, sometimes enough to wake me up) to wonder what was going on.

I was patting myself on the back on Tuesday, because after my GP's faxed order didn't make it to the hospital last week and her assistant told me it had been faxed again (and supposedly confirmed), I said that since the doc's office was en route to the hospital, they should leave a copy for me to pick up at the desk and have on hand, just in case. Sure enough, the hospital staff hadn't seen a fax. Also, I had a bill to pay for earlier blood work, so rather than mail it in I stopped by the cashier's office in person because the charge for the blood work seemed to have doubled. Cashier said that their billing service had been switched and the ball got dropped somewhere, and that under the ACA my bill should have been reduced, not increased! Rather than have a refund check cut, I arranged for the money to be applied to the biopsy. Sometimes it really pays to show up in person and have a face-to-face conversation where bureaucracy is concerned.

Had a surprise dinner out on Wednesday -- the weekly support group M and I attend had some visitors, and we made it a social outing. Between the food and the camaraderie, the timing couldn't have been better.

I'm much more relaxed waiting to hear about the biopsy results than I was waiting for the biopsy itself -- I think because the biopsy was a "this is definitely happening" thing, versus "we don't know whether something will be happening" for the results. One stress reaction has been a TMJ flare-up; I haven't had those in about 25 years.

Normally I watch lectures (from the online courses I'm taking ) while I work out, but leading up to the biopsy I was watching Pharrell Williams' "Happy."

But I watched the 24-hour version, which is terrific, especially since I can get in a groove where I listen to the same song ad infinitum. The dancing and the upbeat tune and message were exactly what I needed, and in this case it was a helpful earworm.

I also managed to do a full four-minute plank on Wednesday night. Rather than watch the clock, I recently switched to listening to timed excerpts of Brazilian birds on my MP3 player. Once the birds stop singing on my playlist, Eric Whitacre's gorgeous "Winter" comes on. By the end of one of those planks I'm sweating, my heart rate is aerobic, and my body is quaking, but I love what they do to my core and abs. I get a feeling of "coming into my power" that is hard to describe, only that physically and spiritually it's a good thing. :-)

That said, my workouts are on hiatus until my body tells me it's ready to resume them. I'm stocked up on groceries and have no intention of leaving the house today. Takin' it nice and easy.

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