Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Day at the Beach No Longer a Day at the Beach

Did I mention I went to the beach recently and that I came back with an unusual reddening of my skin along the scar of my mastectomy, along with a raging outbreak of what I presumed was the onset of adult acne on my face? Because they occurred at the exact same time, I put the two symptoms together and thought they might be related. The only thing that came to mind was that they were reactions to something internal - like a leak in my implant? So off I went for yet another round of medical appointments.

First stop, my plastics doc. She determined the implant was intact and there were no issues with it. She suggested the redness might be "radiation recall," but because the skin had actually turned into very thin scabs in some places, she said it could be a staph infection, especially considering the rash on my face, too. Thus, I was sent on my way for a consult with a dermatologist.

By the time I was able to get an appointment with the skin doc, much of the rash and redness/scabbing was clearing up already. Nonetheless the dermatologist took a small chunk of skin off my breast for a biopsy and then scraped a few skin cells off my face for testing, too. And that was that. Should have results soon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What is it This Time?

Went for my mammo as prescribed. When I finished checking-in, I was led to a dimly lit room where the machine was waiting for me. After the first couple of pictures were taken, I took a seat, covered myself with the hospital gown... and waited. I passed the time by mentally chanting to myself, "it's going to be fine. It's going to be fine. It's just the implant valve. I'll be fine."

Then the devil on my shoulder would ask, "but what if it's not okay? What are you gonna to do then? How are you going to handle it?" ...And then I'd think back about all the crap I've been through. So I answered myself firmly, "well, I'll just have to soldier on and live through it again. What else would I do?"

And then I'd start thinking, "it's going to be fine. It's going to be fine. I'll be alright..." And the conversation in my head would repeat like a broken record. (For you kids out there who may be reading this and don't know what a record is, it's the device used by your parents' generation to listen to music. We didn't have CDs and iPods and streaming webcasts "in the old days.")

As if I wasn't nervous enough already, the nurse came back to the room and announced, "the doctor wants a few more images." Bummer. I went along with the plan and as I ignored the compression of the machine plates bearing down on me, the voice in my head grew more determined. "I'll be okay. I'll be okay." I was intent on being okay.

You can imagine how alarming it was when the nurse returned a second time and told me the doctor wanted me to have an ultrasound. I thought, "damn, why does he need to see an ultrasound?"

"An ultrasound? You mean right now?", I said. "Yes," she said, "but don't worry, we can do it here. We have a room right down the hall." She pressed her back against the door to hold it open for me as she gestured for me to walk out in the direction of the appropriate hallway.

In a somewhat detached and bewildered state of mind, I was led to an examination room a few doors down. Before I could get my head around what was going on, I said hello to the sonogram lady and crinkled the paper covering the exam table as I took my place on top of it.

She began, "this is just a gel I'm going to put on you. It might be a little cold..." Her voice fell away while I listened to my own thoughts pinging around my brain, trying to reassure myself: "yadda yadda...whatever" "...been there done that." [pause] I looked over to the screen. I thought to myself, "What the heck are we looking at? I don't see anything. I squinted and looked closer. I continued my inner conversation, "What angle are we looking at? I don't see anything but squiggles of black, white and gray." I suddenly snapped-back to the outside world when the lady put down the wand or mouse or whatever that thing is and stood up from her chair. "Okay I'll be right back with the doctor so he can take a look for himself." Huh? Take a look at what?

So in comes the doc, shakes my hand and takes a seat at the helm. He rolls the wand back and forth a few times and stops. Oh... finally I can make out an image on the screen, and it sure looks like the valve to me. "Well we don't see anything suspicious," the doc said. "But obviously with your history we wanted to be thorough." Thank goodness. I'm grateful for the extra care. I was relieved, but I was also a little mad. Mad because I was scared for nothing and because I know it won't be the last time I question my health. I'm annoyed by this whole cancer thing. It's a royal pain and it will always be hanging over me until we find a cure. Remission is great, but a cure would be awesome. Thank you to everyone out there trying to make it happen.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mammogram Time

It’s been months since I’ve updated this blog with all of the fascinating goings-on in my life. Why haven't I written you ask? Well, don’t get me wrong - I don’t mean to sound unappreciative - but it's because I really didn’t think people actually “followed” my blog, or even if they did, I thought certainly they wouldn’t care much about it after my treatment was done. Boy was I wrong. I can’t believe how many times I’ve been asked about it, or how recently I’ve been told by someone that they had been to my site only to be disappointed that I hadn’t written anything lately.   I'm flattered. Thank you. It just so happens that the time is right to insert a couple of new comments for your reading pleasure. I had an appointment with my oncologist this week. And I cried. I cried because not more than a day before my appointment, I learned that an acquaintance’s mother died from breast cancer. News like that brings it home and all of the emotion comes crashing down again. I get distressed about the very thought of dying, despite my aspirations to be an old woman when I grow up (citation needed). The outcome of my doc’s appointment was a recommendation for genetic testing and an order for a new mammogram. There’s a palpable spot on my "good" boob. I think it’s just the valve from my implant. . . maybe the implant shifted. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I thought about the lump I felt on my other originally-cancerous-boob, which as we all know, turned out NOT to be the valve, but rather the recurrence of breast cancer that led to this blog. Surely lightning won’t strike three times, but better to be safe than sorry. So I’m trying to get myself scheduled for new pictures. Apparently there’s a catch to it now. I was told today that the Women’s Imaging Center that I’ve been going to for the last six or seven years isn’t part of my insurance network. Here's the twist: it’s the same insurance I’ve had for the last four or five years that used to cover my screenings! I have to scramble now to obtain pre-authorization before the procedure will be covered. Is this an ominous sign of things to come in our health care system?