Hey honey bunnies!
Today’s featured friend post comes from one of my very best friends,*Noelle.
*I’m going to be changing most of my friends’ names in my posts, but each friend will maintain same alias whenever they are discussed.
Noelle and I met in undergrad and like my other close friends from college, we clicked instantly. I love her because she is caring, supportive, smart and beautiful inside and out. We live on opposite sides of the country now, but we remain close.
Noelle is a great writer and storyteller and has an awesome idea for blog, but I can’t convince her to do it. To get me to stop badgering her she agreed to write a featured friend post from time to time.
Her 1st post is about a very serious topic, breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, however this is something that should be discussed and emphasized all year long.
But this time, as she is feeling for irregularities, her face grows concerned. She asks more questions. Takes a step back riddled in thought. She scribbles in my file and the next thing I know I’m making an appointment with a breast specialist. I felt the lump she felt but, I hadn’t assumed it was all over either. But there were concerns.
Several years ago my mother had breast cancer. I had just recently moved back home after graduating from college. My mom cooked dinner and invited all of my siblings to come eat. This wasn’t particularly all that unusual… except it was the middle of the week. We laughed and talked, as usual. The kids played loudly, as usual. And then she wanted our attention. During a self examination she felt a lump the size of a pea in her left breast. It was imperative to get it biopsied and for treatment to begin.
This sobering announcement made us all look at each other in disbelief. But, it was real. Then came the barrage of questions: When did she find out? Did she know for sure it was cancerous? What were the next steps? Had she already gone for a second opinion? We all saw what she felt on sonograms, in diagrams and the day they wheeled her into surgery for the biopsy.
That was 2005. Now in 2009 I have my own battle to face, a mammogram, sonogram and biopsy to undergo. I walked into The Breast Center and St. Jude hospital I noticed all the silver haired women sitting patiently in the lobby for the doctor.
They tried to make the waiting rooms as homey as possible: Women’s Home Journal adorns the large round table along with a pot of cute pansies in the middle of the table.
The dressing rooms are not unlike the ones you’d find at a major department store except the come with hip length changing gowns with brightly colored flowers and an open front. Deodorants of all kinds, in several different scents fit neatly in a basket on the plush changing benches.
The waiting room also has lockers. The wrist coil key holder is decorated in a festive bright color. On this particular visit the ladies from The View are chatting about the latest “Dish”, as I wait for my mammogram. Once the mammogram is complete I am informed that the test was not readable. Apparently young, non-lactating breast are too dense for the mammogram machine to show the lump. But, since insurance companies mainly run the show and determine who gets what treatment and in what order, its part for the normal procedure. A sonogram has to be conducted before the doctor recommended MRI can be considered by the insurance company.
The MRI machine is a loud, clicking box that takes photos of human tissue. In this case it my breast tissue it will need to take photos of. But, I won’t know about how noisy the machine is for another 5 weeks. My insurance company has decided that the MRI is unnecessary for a woman my age and approval for this procedure will require proof and the doctor’s written recommendation… Now I’m officially on pins and needles. I work every day. Pay my PPO insurance and sure enough when I need it they block the testing. I’m sure this is an expensive test. But, don’t I have the right to be tested properly?
5 weeks later they grant me that right and 4 weeks after that I’m at my biopsy appointment. The nurse escorts me to a small room with a sonogram and a small table covered with a thin sheet with what I assume to be the instruments that will be used for my biopsy. When the doctor comes in the sheet was covering several long, thick biopsy needles that almost made me faint. The nurse is a kind lady that spread clear warm goop all over the side of my left breast and gently presses the sonogram over the skin. The area is numbed and the thick needle disappears into my skin. They both press down as hard as they can to make my breast flat. Then I feel a sharp pain and hear a clicking sound that lets me know part of my lump has been cut to be placed in a bottle for further review.
I go home bandaged and feeling heavy. For the next two days I sleep, ice my breast, sleep some more and take aspirin for the pain. Repeat: sleep, ice, sleep, aspirin, repeat… A week has passed and still the results aren’t in. I have time to panic and research my options in case the results are positive. I come across the Susan G. Komen foundation website and it tells me this: the federal government allocates more than $900 million each year to breast cancer research, treatments and prevention and the five- year survival rate for a breast cancer patient has been extended to 98% compared to 74% in 1982. We live in a time where it’s possible to have options. Treatments and breakthroughs allow us to still live life to the fullest.
The day I go back to the doctor for my appointments an older lady is standing in the hall. Several other women are with her but I don’t know their relation to her. I can see the top of her curly red hair, her face is buried in her hands and her body visibly shakes. A girl about my age emerges from the examination room I assume this lady was once in. She and the other two ladies envelope the red-hair women in their arms. Even the nurse is moved to tears and joins the hug. The lady’s eyes are full with tears and her face is as red as a tomato. I witness all of this as I slip out the front door to the lobby. But, I wanted to turn and remind her that she has options and it’s possible to survive.
It’s possible to survive…