Now that I’m done chemo, I don’t feel as inclined to blog. Maybe it’s because I have less to complain about. It could also be that I’m getting back to life and I’m busy with friends and work (which is REALLY busy right now). Either way, I am happy to report that I feel fantastic and am looking forward to my upcoming surgeries in October and December, which will hopefully result in my having a beautiful rack.
Today I have two things to share. One, I’m in the New York Times feature “Picture Your Life After Cancer“! Sure… I submitted myself… but it’s still exciting. Second, the article Breast cancer: patients with mutation diagnosed earlier than previous generation. When I first saw the title of the article, I thought it would be about women getting diagnosed earlier because they start screening earlier in mutation carriers. But the article comes to a different conclusion: that women with the mutation get cancer earlier than the older generations in their family. I think my explanation is better (though who would take my word over the people at MD Anderson). It just makes sense that if women start screening earlier, they’re going to find breast cancer earlier. My mom could have been screened at my age, and perhaps they would have caught her cancer before it was so far gone that there was nothing they could do about it.
On Monday I headed into GWU hospital for my first MRI. I was totally nervous, not knowing what to expect, so I want to break down the experience here in case other people are reading this terrified of what lies ahead. I’m going to start the story at getting to the hospital, because I don’t want my blood pressure to rise recounting how difficult it was to make the appointment in the first place.
So I’m in the waiting room and they call me in and tell me to get undressed. Pretty standard – gown open in the front so there’s easy access to my boobs. Then they gave me an IV. This is the first time I’ve ever had an IV and I was not expecting it, so that kind of sucked but, whatever, it was happening. They led me into the room where the MRI machine was. It was not at ALL how I’d imagined. On shows like House and movies, MRI rooms are always pristine and bright and large, but this room was small and dingy.
The woman had my lie down on my stomach and positioned me so that my boobs hung down through two holes. It was freaking cold in the room, but she covered me with an extra sheet so that was nice. She also handed me ear plugs, and hooked up my IV to the contrast fluid pumper machine thingy (excuse my non-clinical verbiage).
She made sure I was comfortable and positioned correctly, and she gave me a little ball to squeeze in case I had an emergency. Thanks. Then she left the room and it began. The platform I was lying on (I guess it was kind of like a stretcher) moved into the machine and it kind of reminded me of being in an airplane. But MUCH louder. Damn MRI machines are really loud. I felt like I was in the middle of an intergalactic battle at times, with lots of whirring and loud, long screeching noises. I’m glad she gave me the ear plugs but they didn’t do much. My stepmom said they gave her music for her MRI – I kind of wish I had had music too.
No matter. After what felt like 15 minutes of lying there blowing out my ear drums, I heard the woman’s voice come through on a speaker. “Ok, we’re going to start the contrast IV now.”
Wait… it wasn’t going the whole time? Damn. The IV started and I started to feel kind of tingly. My mouth filled with a weird taste – kind of like dentist’s gloves when they’re in your mouth. I half expected my body to turn purple and I was at the ready to squeeze my emergency ball, but after a minute or so I started to feel normal again and I realized I was fine.
Then another 15 minutes and it was over. It definitely was not a bad experience – just new. I think it felt like it went fast because I was so fascinated by it all, and probably because I’m really good at being still (if I do say so myself).
The worst part was today, when I got a call from the hospital saying they found tissue in both my boobs that they want to ultrasound.
SUCK. I know that MRIs have a lot of false positives and that this is probably nothing. My parents told me that. My oncologist said that, too. But I still had a little moment of panic at work today where I thought, “Oh god, this is it. This is when I find out I’m one of those rare women who get breast cancer at 25.” I took a deep breath and went back to work – and now that I’m home I feel better.
Because I’m 25, and that is the age recommended for all of these baseline mammogram and MRI studies, there have been a lot of new experiences for me this year. I have to admit that there have been several times this year, today included, when I thought to myself, “This screening process sucks. Maybe I should just cut my boobs off now and not worry about doing this every year until I’m 35 or they find a cure for cancer, whatever comes first.” I don’t like this waiting – struggling to make appointments, paying for expensive procedures, risking false positives and having what might be unecessary tests – it is all a hassle that I’ll now have to go through year after year.
But then I realize that cutting my boobs off is another hassle that I’m not ready for yet.