An Ounce of Prevention…Plus Anaphylaxis

Please call us at your earliest convenience to schedule additional imaging studies…no biggie…I had to get an ultrasound after my mammogram last year because I have dense tissue as well as cysts, and they wanted to be sure they saw everything. When I spoke with the woman scheduling my US, she was VERY sweet, and assured me that it wasn’t anything to be concerned about. I wasn’t concerned at all, I told her. I had to do the same thing last year! Well…turns out I was wrong.

I arrived for my appointment, and the technician doing my test stated that she just wanted to be sure I understood what they were looking at and what was going on. Here we go…dense boobs…got it. Nope. She stated, “the radiologist saw a lymph node on your mammogram that she didn’t like. She wants me to take a peak so she can make sure everything checks out.” Uh…not what I was expecting at all. The walls started closing in on me, and my mind started running at warp speed. She was again very reassuring, and I felt more at ease while she did my test. She explained everything she saw, and showed me how my nodes on the left side looked a little off. Too big. Different. “I’m sure the other side will show the same enlargement as the right. It’s probably just your body fighting off a bug.” Except the right side wasn’t the same, and my heart sank just a little bit. The radiologist came in and told me that although she wasn’t overly concerned, she felt that we needed to do a biopsy to check for malignancy and lymphoma, specifically. My heart sank a little further, and I could feel my heart rate increase a bit. She said those words so casually…kind of like when you ask your significant other what they would like for dinner. Chicken or beef? Take out? Lymphoma or metastatic breast cancer? I wanted to just run out of the room. Understanding the stressful nature of the conversation, the technician scheduled me for the very next day. I went home and got caught up in the downward spiral of google self-diagnosis. My anxiety started to rise, and I realized I was approaching this all wrong. I pulled up my Bible and started reading. Being in God’s word is calming, and I prayed, asking God for strength and courage, and surrendering my need for control. (A prayer I have had to repeat numerous times since then as anxiety and worry ebb and flow). I asked Him to show me how to honor Him through this experience, no matter the outcome.

“Let everyone who is faithful pray to you while they can still look to you. When troubles come like a flood, they certainly won’t reach those who are faithful. You are my hiding place. You will keep me safe from trouble. You will surround me with songs sung by those who praise you because you save your people.Psalm 32:6-7

I worked a couple hours in the morning before my appointment because I just didn’t want to sit around and worry until 10:30. I arrived promptly, despite road closures on the side street leading to the hospital…I realized how nervous I was when this frustrated me WAY more than it should have! The technician was again, very sweet and calming, and explained in detail the procedure for the biopsy. She even went out of her way to make sure that the numbing agent was a different type than they typically use, as I have had a vasovagal response (drop in blood pressure that makes me almost black out) to Novacaine numerous times, and so she also decided to stay away from Lidocaine, which is what they usually use. The radiologist came in and further explained the biopsy…numb the area…take multiple core samples…leave a titanium marker…apply pressure…absorptive bandaid. Don’t lift, don’t run, keep it dry… I tried to focus on her words, and not let myself get carried away by worry. The procedure was strange and felt weird, but the numbing agent did its thing, and I felt no pain at all. I was told that one set of samples would go to their lab, and I should hear something in 2-4 business days, but the other sample (the one that would be tested for lymphoma) would be sent out and would take longer. I numbly nodded understanding and went on my way, trying my best to keep my imagination in check.

Despite the fact that I was told it would be 2-4 business days, I obsessively checked my medical record self-service account to see if any results had been uploaded. I knew they would call me whenever they knew something, but I still checked multiple times. Honestly, yesterday was ok because I knew that results wouldn’t be in that soon, and I didn’t feel like I had to be attached to my phone, waiting for a call. Today was a different story…but then again, today was wild in a completely different, off-the-rails kind of way…

Side story: I have had some nasal congestion this week, and in an effort to not have a dripping nose while wearing an N95 all day, I used Afrin this morning. I hate Afrin. The last time I used it (and I cannot even remember when that was), it dried up my nose so bad that I had a terrible headache, and still couldn’t breathe through my nose because of how painful it was! In any event, almost immediately after I took it I developed a very strong tickle in the top of my nose, and I began sneezing really hard. I have an allergic reaction to a very specific brand/type of ibuprofen caplet, and this is how it starts. I developed a mild irritation in my nose, eyes and ears that I often get with that allergic reaction, but it didn’t progress and I didn’t think much of it. I got to work, and once I donned all of my PPE, I started itching. By the time I left the one unit I had been on and removed my gown, gloves and head covering, I had hives on my wrists and was starting to develop them on the back of my neck. I went on to the next unit, and it got worse. When I got back downstairs to our department, my ears were hot and throbbing. My face started to swell…first my lips, then my cheeks and forehead. I literally looked like a Hollywood Botox-gone-wrong tabloid cover story. My coworkers were more concerned as time passed and I started to get nervous. I took 50mg of Benadryl, but my throat was swelling and I was getting scared. My coworkers (comprised of medical personnel) talked me into going to the ER, and I’m really glad I did. Once there, my BP dropped and I almost blacked out. I was panicking, but the nurse at the ER was great and had an IV started before I could bat an eye. Super long story, well, long…they gave me meds, a script, and I have a follow up with my GP. BUT…the most important part of this incredibly long-winded story is that while I was sitting in the ER cubicle with Dave (my literal other half), waiting to be discharged, my phone starts ringing…

You know…just chillin’ in the ER

The number of the radiology department popped up on my phone…Dave and I looked at each other and I quickly swiped to answer the call. The technician on the other end sounded very professional…somber, even. My heart was beating in my throat, and Dave said later he was watching my heart rate on the monitor as it crept up. I have never felt so terrified, but expectant of something GOOD at the same time. I knew no matter what she said that God is in control and would bring us through…however that looked. She said, “the results of the first test are back…the samples were reactive…no malignant tissue was detected. We still have to wait for the lymphoma results, but this is exactly what we were hoping for and expecting.Expecting…yes…so very good. I looked at Dave and gave him the news. We both lost it a bit…it’s been such a stressful week on so many different fronts, and this weight being lifted was more impactful than I think either one of us realized.

A former OT friend of mine used to always joke that she would “ostrich” or stick her head in the sand when she didn’t want to face something. I am guilty of the same, and tend to ignore things sometimes that I shouldn’t (hello mole-y, skin tag-y genes that need to be checked by a dermatologist more than once every 5 years). However, I am so glad I scheduled my yearly mammogram, and didn’t make excuses (covid, work, family responsibilities, etc)…it is quick and relatively painless, and the peace of mind from these preventative tests is irreplaceable. Everyone does it. Everyone puts things off they shouldn’t. You aren’t the only one, and it’s not too late to take steps to reclaiming your health. It is October…what better time to schedule your mammogram!

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?Psalm 56:4