Thursday, May 19, 2005

Dodged another bullet

Nothing seems to go smoothly for us anymore. Maybe that's not true, but it seems like everything that happens has to be complicated in one way or another.

I called the surgeon for an appointment last Friday, and the person I talked to in his office said she would call both my regular doctor and the imaging center, and get all of the various files and x-rays and have them for the doctor when I came for my appointment yesterday. But when we got there, not only did they not have the x-rays, but no one had requested them. Maybe it was because I hadn't signed a release--she had me sign one when I got there, which she faxed to the imaging center--but if that was the case, they should have known that ahead of time, and they could have faxed it to me and I would have faxed it back.

But whatever, be that as it may, they didn't have them. We talked to the doctor, and he had a file which included the radiologist's report, which must have been sent over from my doctor's office. The report basically said that the mass that they saw "wasn't significantly different" from the one that they had seen before, which begs the question, so why am I here? And the second question, so why has no one been worried about it in the four years since it first appeared?

The answer to the first question was what Bob had predicted: ob-gyns aren't breast cancer specialists, and they get sued a lot for failing to diagnose breast cancer, so if there's any possibility of being wrong, they err on the side of caution and get a second opinion. Which I am totally in favor of, of course.

In answer to my second question, the doctor just shrugged and said it depends on the radiologist, probably, and maybe we just got an especially cautious one. Again, I have no problem with that.

The doctor said there was probably nothing to worry about, that it was probably the same mass that we saw, and had biopsied, in 2001, but of course, without the x-rays, he was just guessing. He said he would wait until he got them, which would probably be the next day (today), he would look at them, and call me. There didn't seem to be anything else that we could do, so we thanked him and left, but then when we got back down to the car, Bob said, "Didn't we hear someone say that he wasn't going to be there tomorrow?" and I realized that he was right.

So once I got in the car, I called back up there and asked, and they said, yes, the doctor was going to be gone tomorrow. I asked when he was going to be back, and he wasn't going to be back until the following Wednesday! So we would be waiting ANOTHER week, and I didn't think I could take that. I asked her if she thought I could go over to the imaging center and pick up my file myself, and bring it back, and she said I could try, and she suggested I call first.

So I called the imaging center, told them that I wanted to come over and pick up my file and bring it back to the doctor's office, and she said, "Right now?" I said yes, that the doctor was leaving the office for a week, and I couldn't wait another week to find out. She asked if I could give her a half hour to get the file together, and I said no, that the doctor's office would be closed by then, so I would really appreciate it if she could get it together in the new few minutes. I waited until I had hung up the phone to yell, "Why the hell would it take her 30 minutes to get my file together?? Why would it take any longer than about two minutes to pull it out of the drawer???!!!"

I called the doctor's office back and said I was going to drive over to the imaging center and hopefully pick up the file and bring it back, but that they had asked for a half hour to get it ready, so I wasn't sure if I'd be successful. The woman in the doctor's office said, "Are you kidding me? They should be getting it ready anyway, to courier it over here!" She told me not to worry, just to get over there, and once I was standing in front of them, they'd get it for me, and she would stay until I got back, and leave the door unlocked.

I guess we had to wait about 15 minutes at the imaging center until the woman from the records department came out with the file. Bob paced out in the courtyard for about ten of those minutes, then came in and stewed, and threatened to explode, and if it had taken another five minutes he probably would have, but fortunately she came out with the file before that happened. I had to show her a photo i.d. and sign a release before she would let me have them, but once they were in my hand, we raced back out to the car and drove back to the doctor's office, where I parked in a no-parking zone, put the car in park, and jumped out of the car with the file, leaving Bob to re-park it.

As I was getting out of the car, he said, "Don't wait for the elevator, take the stairs!" but I didn't. I took the elevator. The receptionist met me at the door, took me back to the doctor's office, and practically before she shut the door, Bob was there. He did take the stairs.

A few minutes later, the doctor came in. He took the x-rays from 2001, and the x-rays from last week, stuck them up in the lightbox, got out his little magnifying/measuring viewer thing (no idea what it was, really), looked at them both, and pronounced them the same--same spot, same size ("about the size of an M&M Peanut" was how he put it) (the mass, not the breast).

He said there was no reason to do anything about it, that they (fibroadenomas, which is what the biopsy showed that it was) do sometimes get larger, but that I don't "have enough estrogen running around in there" to make that happen, and in any event, the biopsy showed that it was benign, so as long as it wasn't causing me any problems, it didn't need to come out.

We were practically giddy with relief when we left, Bob probably more so than me, actually. I think so many times it's harder on other people than it is on the person experiencing the problem--just like it's easier to be an advocate for someone other than yourself, it's harder, sometimes, to worry about someone else than it is to worry about yourself. You really just want to take the worry and pain away from them, but there's no way to do that, so you internalize it, and it seems larger, as a result.

When we left the doctor's office the first time, Bob had said, "Well, we can't go to Joe's Crab Shack, because we don't know it's okay yet. And I was really looking forward to it!" So after we got the all-clear the second time, that's where we headed. We had appetizers and shrimp and crab, and dessert--a huge piece of chocolate cake for him, and an ice cream-and-bananas dessert for me, and I had two of the drink special--something with Strawberry Daquiri and Frozen Margarita swirled together--and as we got up from the table, I handed Bob my keys, because I was in no shape to drive home.

When we got home, I basically passed out. Most of it was the drinks, of course, but some of it was, I'm sure, relief at dodging another bullet.

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