Get ready boys and girls... today is a doozy. And a long post too!
But before we begin on one of the toughest days I've ever done, let's recap.
Mon: Irritating Onc day where I was not told about suspicious fluid around lung/heart in time to get a biopsy & I got contradicting info from his NP the week before.
Tues: Spending the morning getting Immunotherapy and 2 Chemotherapies before going straight to the airport to fly to Houston and enduring long rental car lines and afternoon heavy traffic.
A few more checks off this weeks list... a few more to go:
Now back to my Wednesday... the Humpday I would like to forget!
So, after 8 hours of cancer treatment, flying, and travel in congested Houston the day before, I didn't have much rest because we had to start Wednesday early. My husband and I decided to walk to the medical center since our hotel was close. However, it was not necessarily the easiest or closest walk - tons of traffic, intersections, and some strange individuals out and about at 6am.
Here is my Original Wednesday Itinerary:
- 7am Mammogram
- 8:15am Ultrasound (possible biopsy)
- 2:00pm MRI
- An all day, 7am-4:30pm, non-stop breast prod, poke, and search that was very painful.
My medical day all started with a mammogram appointment at 7am, but since we arrive a bit early, I got called back at 6:45am. It felt crazy early, and I was still dealing with the side effects from treatment on top of knowing today was going to be pretty hectic. I was looking forward to having a slight break in the schedule to go back to the hotel where I could eat and rest (between the Ultrasound and MRI). I should know by now that nothing I do goes according to plan!
My previous June mammogram from Huntsville was never sent to MD Anderson which caused some confusion. However, I had brought a giant notebook that held all my scans and records for this cancer (and the 2013 cancer)... sort of...
At first, the nurses wanted to wait on my husband to get back before taking the mammogram images. However, I explained we walked so they decided to start the mammograms (and later compare them to my June mammogram after my husband returned - he's a fast walker). I was kind of shocked - they took so many images. I don't think I have ever had that many images taken of my breasts.
The mammogram imaging appointment ran over a bit into my ultrasound appointment time. I had at least 1.5 hours of squishing both my breasts, but the focus was primarily on the left.
At this point, I was holding up pretty well. The mammograms were uncomfortable, but not anything more than the just a longer mammogram appointment. I had a very short break, like 10 minutes in the back waiting room of the mammogram area before they moved me into an ultrasound room. I was so sick to my stomach from chemo and not having any food. I finally found a nurse and had them get a package of peanut butter crackers from my husband, who had also brought back my medical book and the nurses had already started downloading the mammogram images. What I didn't know was they also sent my husband somewhere else in the building to a department to download the rest of my CDs. So, he was sent off on his own adventure while I was still continuing on with mine...
This second appointment started closer to 8:30am. Normally, ultrasounds aren't very long. In the past, it could be 15 min to 30 min - as the ultrasound tech focuses on whatever they find in the mammogram. Not today!
The first part of this ultrasound took 2 hours of pushing (pretty hard) non-stop at every layer of my left breast tissue and lymph nodes under the arm, over the shoulder, in my neck, and around/on my port. This was the longest, most grueling ultrasound I have ever had. They tech glided and pressed over and over... it was non-stop for 2 hours on just my left side.
After 2 hours focused on my left side, they did a shorter exam on my right side. It was more like 30-45 minutes. I was in a ton of pain - all over. My breasts were tender. My back was jacked. My legs hurt. My hips hurt. I was sick from chemo the day before. I had not eaten anything or really had any water. I was exhausted.
It was now almost noon! At this point, the tech had left the room to go discuss everything with the Radiologist. I got off the table and sent a brief text message telling my husband to go ahead and check out of the hotel. We had got a late hotel check out since I was counting on going back to the hotel between the 8:15am Ultrasound and 2pm MRI appointments. I had planned on resting during that time - and I was now realizing that today was going to be tougher than I imagined.
I had already figured that a biopsy was coming the minute they added the small paddles focusing on the left nipple during the mammogram. What surprised me is the insane amount of time the Ultrasound took (especially since they were likely planning a biopsy from the minute they found a new area). I was also surprised for the amount of pain it had caused me (however, I have never had that much poking and prodding for so many consistent hours)... as well as the fact I was already pretty beat down from travel/chemo and now having no breaks between all this testing.
Ultrasound Guided Biopsy
It was after 1pm at this point and I had not taken my regular pain medications, so my pain level was insane. Not only my normal chronic pain, but the fact I had been in an awkward position on my side/back for so long - and the pushing and prodding on my breast since 6:45am.
I could see on the ultrasound images on the screen and it looked like they were having a hard time finding exactly where to go. The area they were focusing on looked more like a layers in the tissue vs a mass. The Radiologist was unsure if this this area was the primary tumor or something that came before or after the lymph nodes (or if it is cancerous). Basically, MD Anderson was trying to find that initial cancer source. However, it was coming at the cost of my body.
Right after the biopsy, I had to go back to the mammogram department to take even more Mammograms to make sure the clips, that were put in the area under my nipple during the biopsy, were done correctly. At this point, those images were pretty uncomfortable. I was so sore and tired and had just had a biopsy - so the images hurt more than normal. But, I did it!
After my medication & biopsy they took my BP which dropped a little to 145/90 – which is still high for me. But there was no time to do anything. It was 1:45pm and my MRI was scheduled for 2pm, so there was no time to eat or rest or relax or recover. I was given after care biopsy instructions, but was told I would not be able to ice my biopsy area like I am supposed to do since I was running late and had to get to the MRI department.
During the almost 8 hours I had been tortured so far - and it felt like torture at this point - my husband had done a number of things. He had walked back and forth to the hotel around 3 time (to get my medical notebook, check out of the hotel, and to get something he left). He had also been sent on multiple locations by nurses to try and get all my images uploaded, which turned out to actually harder than one would think (and the department person who said they would download it - did not do it - which is a whole other side story). He was told multiple times by staff that he could not see me or check on me, but he knew I had to be almost finished. He was concerned because he knew my MRI was scheduled in just a few minutes and located on a different floor.
I've done breast MRIs. I had one a month ago. I have had many and never really had any issues (other than the noise, IV issues, and normal dislike of scans). Generally, they are no big deal. This MRI was the hardest test I have ever done! And that is saying a lot.
First off - the IV. They did use an IV specialist – but still had trouble with my veins. It hurt. I was dehydrated which didn't help. It took multiple sticks and some digging in the vein to finally get it to work. Ouch!
Second - I spent almost 1 hour trying to get my body into the position they needed to get the images. I do have larger breasts, but they aren't insanely big. Yet, she refused to drop the table and wanted to raise me up by building upward using foam between my breasts on the sternum. The foam pieces were not attached to anything, so they weren't stable and were uncomfortable. And it took multiple, multiple, multiple attempts to find the right height.
And it wasn't just the height, she was trying to get my body in some position that she needed. Seriously, this was the majority of my prep time was spent with the tech trying to turn me in ways that my body was unable to do.
She would ask me to raise one of my knees up while holding myself in this awkward downward dog and adjust my hips at the same time. At the same time, she was trying to raise my chest off the table so she could building-up the foam cushion (not soft) between my breasts that was insanely painful. If you remember, my my port is located near the sternum – and it was still sore from all the bruising too. Double Ouch!
By the time she got me in the correct position, I was crying into the face pillow while she shoved crap (earplugs) in my ears and then tried to talk to me. Between it all I couldn’t hear her. So, I just started calling out "just do it; I can’t hear you,, but I will not move and I know contrast is going to be used - just get me in the machine now."
I spent 45 minutes completely still in excruciating pain while brutally and narrowly enclosed in a very loud MRI machine that vibrated so hard it shook my body and hurt me in ways I didn’t think I could hurt any more. I cried and endured. 45 minutes of pain feels like a very long time when you are in it. I finished with snot dripping out of my nose, a painful dry mouth, so many parts of my body in pain, and crying eyes, but I did it.
When I walked out, and I was defeated. My husband was dealing with my disks a floor away. The department he was told to go to basically sat my images aside and didn't do anything with them all day. Now, my husband was trying to get them back. He knew when he saw me, I was done. I was holding back my tears. He wanted to walk back to the hotel and get the car for me, but I wanted out of there. I would rather walk back with him then sit there one more minute.
I must have looked pretty pathetic when I ordered because the waitress gave us both free pity cookies (seriously). I was a hot mess, but still a friendly hot mess. She felt bad for us and I guess saw my medical band on my wrist. Plus, it was all over my face. I guess even at my worst, I am still kind to others and it usually makes something good work out. I am proud of that. After eating a bit, we spent 1 hour in Houston traffic to go 19 miles to our hotel.
I cannot even fully describe how today really went. It was 7am-4:30pm of being poked, pushed, prodded, and a medical guinea pig… it was honestly almost non-stop of some form of physical contact that whole day. I was rarely not having something done to me all day. Throughout that time, I only ate 1 packet of peanut butter crackers and some water. I was so sick from chemo too.
And know that despite all this – I am ok. Though not ok. But ok enough to fight another day!