This spring I began experiencing the pain on a regular basis. Several times a day I was nearly jolted to my knees with a pain that shot from my breastbone outward, lingering with an ache through the front of my ribcage. I decided this might not be normal and visited the doctor. She assessed me, taking into account a history of multiple heart tests that proved negative (reminder for the medically illiterate - "negative" is a positive thing when it comes to testing for stuff). Her diagnosis? Costochondritis, an inflammation of the joint between the breastbone and ribcage. It's non-threatening, though obviously painful, and treated with anti-inflammatories and ice.
Such a diagnosis was reassuring. It's good to know I'm not going to keel over with a heart attack at age 36. I mean, who would make sure that the husband's and 8-year-old's lunches included protein, fruit AND vegetable?
A week after the diagnosis I visited my doctor again, this time for my annual exam. In the course of it she performed a manual breast exam (sorry boys, but it's not the exciting activity you might imagine) and... located a small mass in the area from which my chest pain seems to stem. Given my age and a history of paternal aunts with breast cancer, this sort of finding suggests I hurry myself over to a mammogram center.
For an odds-maker, it's still a preventative measure and not necessarily a worry. A lump can be a great many things, though Susan Koman might have you think otherwise. Being the reasoning sort of person that I am, I left the doc's office, scheduled my appointment at the Milgard Center, and decided I wasn't going to mention it to family or friends since it was certainly no big deal.
Several hours later, my nerves crashed and I changed my mind.
Perhaps, as my beloved, my husband might like to know that I'm mentally spazzing and envisioning my ultimate demise. Sure, I'm a fatalist on these things (when I die, I die, and that is that), but there's such a great deal to organize with husband, family, friends and home. The possibilities overwhelmed. Given all this, the stretch from Thursday to Monday is a very, very long time. I highly recommend keeping a store of Valium on hand for just such a wait. I wish I had.
With Monday finally at-hand, my husband picked me up from work (he offered!) and waited for me to have my tests. First we waited in the waiting room (go figure - great name!), then I (women-only) waited in the nothing-but-a-bathrobe room, and then a technician took me in and guided me in a series of hugs and squeezes with a tree-sized machine. I'm not entirely certain the large-scale tortilla press did anything - there were no ray blasts, no loud zapping sounds, and no sizzling flesh scent. Nuttin' but the technician and me-n-my nerves... definitely nerves pinging.
I'd originally thought the nerves would subside after the mammogram. Granted, I was relieved that "The Big Squeeze" didn't hurt so much as I feared, I was still hunting wild butterflies in my stomach as I waited in [another] nothing-but-a-bathrobe room.
Let me interject here with an observation about the NBAB. Thanks for the reading material, but we're all too nervous to hold our attention on a printed page. And while there's something a little off-the-wall about our choices of dressing (breezy!), we're really not in a frame of mind to make small chat. I appreciate the soothing "spa" music, but we could really use some brain-rotting television as a diversion at this point. Just a thought.
Anyway, the wait was for my appointment with a sonogram technician. Since I was referred for a lump, they prepared to run the full slate of tests. The preliminary assessment of the mammogram was negative (reminder: that's good!), so this was to check and make absolutely-for-really-sure that there were no miniature burrowing gnomes in my flesh. Or something.
The sono tech (by now I'm ensconced in lab-speak, afterall) set me up in a fashion not dissimilar to that of having my baby ultrasounds many years ago. With similar baby-doc thoroughness, she "wanded" the bump area up, over, around, under, and nearly through. Impressive when one considers how tiny the suspect area was (the lump, not the breast).
Preliminary assessment was, again, negative. OK, finally my nerves can take a much-needed vacation.
The rest is uneventful. I dressed, I rejoined my husband in the fully-clothed-waiting room, and went back to work. A few days later my doctor sent me the test results with a summary of the radiology readings - everything is normal. We'll continue to monitor the area and the pains, but for now, it looks like I'm not going to have an ABC after-school special written about me.
Oh, and as for the title of this post? It's true. Really. We estimate I have about 49 years to live.