I started with Mammograms in 2017 just after Turning 40. For my 4th in January 2021, The clinic I use had upgraded the equipment. It showed something. Many cysts. I have dense breast tissue. I was referred to an ultrasound where there were 2 areas that did not change shape or show signs of being fluid-filled like the other cysts. So, I Was offered to repeat in 6 months or have a biopsy. When you've lived through learning that your own immune system is attacking your own neurological system, you don't feel like waiting for answers.
No photos from the biopsy, but here's my journal entry which is barely edited for context:
Mindfulness has its down side. I was fully present and aware that my body was secreting fight or flight hormones begging my muscles to move. The pain and fear were stuck in my throat, while I was quite still. I cried continuously, looking at Bobby, silent and still as the tears slid across my nose, in my ear. Probably red faced and snotty. There he was. I'll never understand how I lucked out with this life partner. It was exhausting. I think I need something for anxiety the next time I need a biopsy. This was bad. Getting the follow up "gentle" mammogram felt like ultimate humiliation. It's just what I felt. Being told how well I did. I think someone called me a "model patient" meanwhile, I felt like they were barbarians. It felt violent, my breast being yanked and my heart rate pounding. Once the needle hit the cyst and it deflated, Bobby's face relaxed and he slapped his knee. This wasn't going to be like that time in the MRI suite. Everyone else in the room was at ease. They went for the other one. Same thing. Left the clip. Then told me to get dressed for the mammogram.
For at least 3 days, my breast ached with every step I took. The bruising took more than a week to resolve. The intermittent tingling in the nipple showed up for at least a month. Back to yearly mammogram screening.
The next mammogram was in July 2022. Bobby got the call that there were many cysts and I would be referred to ultrasound for a more suspicious looking spot. I booked it. The cyst acted the same way- looking more solid than they were willing to call a cyst. Same choice, except this time, the plan was for an aspiration with no biopsy unless it did not deflate. I didn't realize that a biopsy required a cut to open your skin wide enough for a biopsy needle, plus the clip. This time, the attending physician is a female I know well. She shared that she had a procedure earlier in the week which made her rethink the absence of medication to ease stress an anxiety. I hadn't asked for any meds for anxiety.
I had also learned from Kristen Neff to be compassionate with myself about how hard this situation is, and a trick to focus your mind on the feeling of your left big toe when enduring pain. I actually focused on the screen. Watching the cyst deflate was interesting. Needle aspiration was much like any other procdure that needs numbing first. The stick and burn until it's numb, then all you feel is tugging and pressure. Now I have an idea of what an abscess or galactocele aspiration feels like.
I hope this helps anyone reading. I delayed booking the follow up ultrasound, because it was hard to face another biopsy. Then I heard myself tell a friend to book the appointment for something she needed "it's highly treatable" I said. I held myself accountable by telling her that I need to book an ultrasound to screen for something highly treatable. Accountability partners save lives.