Friday, November 18, 2011

Yes, I Am Sleeping

Yesterday I went back to SFMC (Super Fantastic Medical Center; not its real name) for my mammogram recheck. It would have been sooner, but I had to wait until I’d recuperated a bit from the hysterectomy. The original mammogram was my first at this place and by far the most painful I’ve ever had, so you can imagine my pleasure when I saw the same technician coming for me yesterday. Nice woman, but what a grip on the controls!

The recheck did prove to be quite a trying experience, in terms of pain and emotional upset. I also became nauseous partway through and had to lie down. The recheck involved a variety of mammograms and an ultrasound, and before I left, I was told that two geographical features had been determined by ultrasound to be benign fluid-filled cysts, but that I had a cluster of calcifications in my left breast and would need a biopsy.

Calcifications can form in many places in our bodies and typically are perfectly harmless, but certain configurations are cause for concern. I was told that there was a 22 percent chance my personal cluster of calcifications would prove to be cancer. It was also explained that the biopsy would involve lying face down for 40 minutes or so on a special table—“special table” sounds better than “weird table”—with the afflicted part dangling through a hole.

However, I can’t schedule this quite yet, because post hysterectomy, the only position I can sleep in is flat on my back. It seems to me that lying on my stomach is out, with or without anything dangling through a hole, but I will consult Dr. M. on that point.

Googling has of course ensued, by me and my mother. She sent me a page on calcifications I couldn’t quite make sense of.

She forebore to call me an idiot, under the circumstances—in case I’m about to die—but sent an email saying:

I thought the radiology page explained the calcification patterns clearly, since I had no idea what they were an hour ago.

Pat on head,


I wrote back that part of the problem was that I didn’t know which particular pattern of calcifications I had.

She replied:

Maybe they don't either, exactly, hence the biopsy. 

A friendly tickle in the ribs,



Ha—my pamphlet here says that calcifications can be a “very early” sign of breast cancer. OK, good.

A manly cuff on the shoulder,


When one has calcifications, it helps to have a funny mother.

It also helps to have an overly simple philosophy of life and death.

A few months ago, I was at my Sunday night meditation group and had occasion to mention on a group level that I was feeling worried, though it was embarrassing to say so, about my money: would there be enough to last the rest of my life? What if I ran out? The guest teacher that night, Anna Douglas, asked me, “Do you have everything you need right now?”

I could readily say I did, which was actually comforting, and then I got to thinking that, by definition, we always have what we need to sustain our lives—because when we don’t, we die. 

However, we (at least I think this is true) will never know we are dead, because we won’t be there to know it. I don’t think there will be a moment where I can accurately say, “Dad blast it, I’m dead as a doornail.” Ergo, we’re always alive, at least from our own point of view, and we always have everything we need.


J at said...

Ugh. Scary. I sure as hell hope that your exam comes out fine and with no sign of cancer.

Your mom is a hoot. Cherish her.

I found out today that I have skin cancer, though it's a really simple easy kind to treat, with no danger or anything. Still, startling news, and not fun to hear. I'm not writing about it on my blog or FB or anything, because I don't know who sees what. I assume a comment on someone else's blog post would keep some future life insurance from denying me coverage, right? ugh.

LWA said...

Hi, J. Thanks for visiting!

I'm sorry about the skin cancer. It's not fun to have anything, let alone something that counts as a form of cancer. I'm glad it's an easy kind to treat.

I have thought the about the wisdom of writing about health conditions online, or lack of wisdom thereof. I certainly would not put it past insurance companies to comb FB or blogs looking for reasons to withhold coverage.

On the other hand, we read all the time, online and in books, about people's serious health conditions--can all those people be living without insurance?

I just hastened to the big health insurance website to read about pre-existing conditions, and sure enough, it said that some conditions are grounds for automatic denial, including insulin-dependent diabetes and "cancer." Which is pretty general.

Seems like more research will be needed here, but I definitely share your concern!