Thursday, August 12, 2010

Once A Reporter, Always A Reporter

If you don't want to read about a needle biopsy of my left breast, stop here. I told myself I wasn't going to write about it, but dammit, I can't stop being a reporter. I'll try to get you to laugh. I promise no gory details. It was painless.

I've known for about a week that this was coming. I had a microcalcification, which is rarely cancerous, but the radiologist said let's do a biopsy just to be sure. I happily agreed and then went about my week.

Well last night about 1 a.m. I hit the wall of fear and anxiety. I started to wonder what position they would have me in to do the biopsy. I turned a bit in bed to see what might be best from my non-medical perspective. That turned into a sleepless night with dreams about all sorts of positions. A dream earlier in the week had me lying at the entrance to the doctors office for the procedure. That was just a dream.

By the time we drove to the hospital I was a wreck. If I'd had a xanax, I would have taken it. Kerry and I had a consultation with the doctor where he explained everything. It took forever to get me checked in; the machine that was supposed to print something ran out of paper, then the clerk couldn't figure out how to load it so she had to wait for help. Meanwhile, I thought I was going to faint. Finally she put the paper tag around my wrist; that way I could be identified if they lost me.

Dr. Khine told Kerry and me all about the procedure. He said he had done 3,400 needle biopsies. He didn't look old enough for that number, but I let it pass. He said he would numb up my breast really well. I said that my brain needed numbing too. He smiled, and said he couldn't help me with that.

My question about what position I would be in for the biopsy was answered as soon as I entered the room. No I did not take this with my iPhone. Kerry had my purse with iPhone in the waiting room. I found it on Google Images. You got it, that hole in the middle was for my breast. Now it isn't that big so there is a little plate that slides over to support the good breast that has not gone off and gotten microcalcifications. Then they use an x-ray device to accurately position the breast so the biopsy needle will go in the exact spot of the microcalcification. At this point I sort of gave my breast over to the female technicians who were wonderful. My head started to sweat so I had to ask someone to wipe my face and neck. You are told to be absolutely still once they are positioning the pendulum hanging from your chest through the hole in the table.

I had to look to the right and keep my left ear flat to the table. My neck started to cramp up so one of the technicians gave me a little massage. Both technicians were always touching my arm or back in a very comforting way. I had given up my glasses so I couldn't see a damn thing.

Once they got my breast into the right position, they discovered that the needle would go through a sizeable vein. Not good. So they twisted, turned, compressed and generally treated my breast like bread being kneaded. Finally they got the vein to move; the doctor came in. This is when I was glad I had given up my glasses. He pulled out a tray where I faintly detected three syringes. I closed my eyes. The only thing I felt was the tip of the needle as he injected the first dose of lidocaine. Each dose got increasingly larger and went deeper. He warned me of a loud pop that would happen next. Sure enough, the biopsy needle shot into my breast. They took 8 samples without ever removing the biopsy needle. Then they x-rayed the biopsy material to make sure they got it. Thumbs up on that procedure.

I mentioned to the doctor that I could post my mammogram on my Facebook page. He cracked up. Said no one had ever mentioned that before, but no, he wouldn't give me a copy.

You know how animals have microchips so they can be reunited with their owners. Well, I now have a tiny microchip marking the spot of the biopsy. Of course, once that was in place I had to go across the hall and have three more mammograms to make sure it was in the right place. They don't compress much for this part of the process. Thank God.

The whole procedure at Kaiser in Roseville, CA cost me $25 and took about 90 minutes. God bless medical insurance and Medicare.

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