Beyond Words: Surviving Breast Cancer Mistakes and All
After more discussion, I reluctantly agreed to additional checkups, but I would put any
thoughts of cancer and death out of my mind. I would get on with my life as normal and
not look back. This thought process was proven correct when my next two mammograms
over a twelve-month period showed no change in the cyst. There was no reason to worry.
On May 17, 1999, I went for my next annual checkup which included the mammogram.
As my last mammogram had only been eleven months earlier, I wasn’t too concerned.
This was a routine procedure and would soon be behind me for another year. However,
that thought quickly changed when I received a telephone call later that same day from
my doctor’s office. I was asked to make an appointment as soon as possible with a
surgeon to go over the results.
Somehow, I had missed a step. Wasn’t I supposed to go in and see the doctor first?
Wasn’t he supposed to inform me of the findings and offer suggestions? Why was seeing
a surgeon suddenly so urgent? As these thoughts ran through my mind, I started
questioning the nurse and asked her if the cyst had grown or changed in any way. She
explained that she could not give me any information over the phone and I was left with
no choice but to make an appointment for my surgeon’s earliest availability—two weeks
away. As I hung up the phone, the fear started to build and spread like wildfire
throughout my body. It was a different feeling from before, more desperate and real.
What if something was really wrong and this wasn’t another false alarm?
May 17 is also my husband’s birthday and we always celebrated with family. Michael
and I discussed the doctor’s phone call and decided there was no reason for anyone else
to worry. Best case scenario, it was another false alarm; at the worst, we would have
plenty of time to tell people. Ignoring reality, we agreed to believe that this would be
another benign cyst and nothing in our lives would change. In fact, we convinced
ourselves that it couldn’t be anything else. How could there be a more serious problem
when everything was fine just eleven months ago? There was no family history of cancer
and I always took care of myself. I was too young and too healthy for cancer.
June 1 found Michael and me at our first meeting with the surgeon. As she explained the
need for a biopsy, I questioned why she kept referring to my right breast as the problem.
The left breast had the cyst. The surgeon explained that the right breast was the area of
concern and the cyst in the left breast was unchanged. This couldn’t be, I thought,
because cysts don’t jump around or grow that quick. I tried to tell her that she had the
wrong film and that she needed to talk with someone else about having cancer, not me.
But she continued to explain the test results and realization finally sank in. I needed a
I fluctuated from thoughts of the biopsy being a waste of time to thoughts of it couldn’t
be done soon enough. I found it hard to contain the fear that consumed me or the panic
that was gaining control of my emotions. Every breath I took was one of desperation.
How could anyone possibly understand what I was going through?
On June 15, the biopsy was performed. We arrived early and checked in with the hospital
outpatient area. Michael was asked to wait while the staff directed me to a small
curtained-off room filled with shiny equipment and unfamiliar faces. I was told to lie on
my stomach upon a long, cold metal table. Designed into this table was an open area
where I placed my right breast. This hole made it easier for the pathologist and/or his