Scanxiety, Mammograms, and Cancerversaries

This week was my yearly mammogram and also my 6 month checkup with my Oncologist.   This week marks my THREE YEAR cancerversary from diagnosis of Stage 3, Her 2 Positive Breast Cancer, very large tumor with 9 positive nodes.  So often I hear from women who wonder if there is something wrong with them that they have so much anxiety before scans, mammograms and tests!  Absolutely not!  It is all NORMAL!!

As I was driving the 70 minute drive to get the mammogram this morning, I once again realized just how normal it was. .  That anxiety never gets better, but at least it is more familiar as the years go by.  Like an old acquaintance that you have a meeting with and walk away thinking, “Oh, that’s why we were never friends!”   Today when the anxiety arrived, right on schedule, I thought, “Well, here you are again.  Okay, what if it is breast cancer?  You know what to do, you know what to expect, and you know you will either get through it or die.”  And the other thoughts also arrived on time:  “Why didn’t you just get that breast cut off – no breast is worth this much anxiety, just turn around and go home, call the Breast Cancer Center and tell them you had a flat tire, and then finally as you get closer, the hell with it, I’ll just get it over with today!”

My nerves were kind of under control as I put on the oh-so-familiar teal gown (why haven’t they gotten new gowns here yet?!?) after I stripped to the waist.  I’m much more vocal now in the waiting room than the previous years.  I start asking who the survivors are, and they are eager to talk!  It is 90% of the waiting room because we are in a Cancer Center.  It makes the reality of what we are waiting for seem less frightening and there is an instant bond without too many words.

When my name was called, the nice technician talked to me and then told me her best friend was just diagnosed.  She began asking questions, and I began giving her tips to tell her friend as she plops my breast on the machine.  Silly thoughts go through my head — like after the first squeeze I remembered to lift my breast up rather than pull it off the platform because the skin sticks!  I’m applauding myself for remembering from last year!   Soon it is over, and I try to read the tech’s face.  But all I remember is the face of the technician from 3 years ago whose mouth literally dropped when she looked at those cancer-ridden pictures, and though she tried to recover in a professional manner, her face is still is embedded in my head.

Back to the waiting room…I start talking to myself and bargaining. This time without quotation marks!  Okay, I won’t worry for 10 minutes.  They usually have the results in 10 minutes.  If it is longer than 10 minutes, then I will worry.

Kelly Ripa is on the television in the waiting room doing something ridiculous, and I wonder why anyone really likes her.  Then I chastise myself because my old and dear friend, Cathy, loves her, but I think: how can she watch this TV show?  The 10 minutes are up.  OH Lord, please help me, and His peace descends upon me.  Really.  I felt it.  The door opens and a solemn-faced woman about my age calls my name.  In my head I think, gosh, I need to smile more so I don’t get like that and then she says, “I can’t tell you the results in the hallway because of HIPPA” and I’m thinking it is BAD news because last year the woman blurted it out in the hallway.  But we get to the room and her face broke into a smile and she said, “All is well” as she handed me the “ALL CLEAR” letter signed by a real doctor.   I always grab the letter and look at the signature to make sure it says “MD” after the signature! I immediately just grabbed and hugged her and hugged everyone coming down the hallway.  Then I think, Denise, you do that every year, you need a new routine, then I think, who the heck cares – I can’t help it.  Then I tell the techs gathered in the hallway that this is the worst day and the best day of the year all before 9:45 am.

When that paper is handed to you and you hear those words, it is like God is handing you a beautifully wrapped present and in it is your life for another year as you hear a choir of angels in the background.  You think of the magnitude of that gift, look at that package, and tell God, “Thank you for my life.  I don’t want to screw it up.  Tell me what you want me to do this year, and I will do it.”

And I enter back into the waiting room.  Kelly Ripa is still on the television and this time I think:  Kelly is friendly, cute and she is kind of zany.  I understand why people watch her.


    • We are all so elated by the wonderful news!!! I don;t think you will have a hard time figuring out what God wants of you — you have certainly listened to his instructions loud and clear in the last 3 years. Keep up your compassion, education, and encouragement for all that need and read your Blog.
      Love ya,
      Auntie M
      P. S. Don’t know if you have changed my mind about Ms. Ripa!

  1. It’s not the mammogram itself that worries me, it’s the ultrasound that unnerves me. If the tech is clicking all over the place I start to panic

  2. Tomorrow – October 9 – will be my 16 year anniversary of my diagnosis. My cancer was found directly by mammogram. I had a lumpectomy the end of October and fortunately no nodes were involved. Because of the size of the tumor I had 4 rounds of chemo – the lovely Cytoxan and adriomycin (?). Made me so sick and put me into menopause (age 48). The chemo was followed by a course of radiation. I have learned to not worry about my yearly mammogram as it serves no purpose other than to upset me and my family. I’m a believer in “what is – is” and you just have to face up to whatever comes your way. I am grateful to have survived this and another bout with cancer (endometrial) about 4 years ago. I guess I’m just a really tough old bird – LOL! Anyway, I’m happy for your results and am sending out good vibes to all who have to face this disease. Keeping the good thought.

  3. Denise, you are actually one of the lucky ones. I had bilateral BC so I have nothing left to scan for a possible return. This being said, I guess the lucky part for all of us is being a SURVIVOR, and that is a daily blessing to us all.


  4. I had my yearly mammo in September. It was suppose to be in July but I called and said I had a flat tire. I didn’t want to do it. This was my first one since being diagnosed with my Stage IV breast cancer with every bone lit up on the PET scan. I feel great, though, and decided I’d better get it over with. So off I go. It’s only a 40 minute drive. I get dressed in a flowery half-gown and they call me straight back. Both boobs done in record time, only this time the left one, where they removed the tumor and a couple of lymph nodes, hurt a little bit. Technician said that’s very normal and that it will probably always be a tad sensitive. And then I wait. Only, they have us wait in the room where we had the mammo done. The technician came back and said, “Everything looks good. Have a great day.” Yay! Early the next morning I got a phone call. “After a better look they “saw” something and could I please come in for an ultrasound of the right breast (this was the one NOT affected before).” They were great and scheduled me the very next day. All the way there I envisioned what I would do and how I would react when/if it was breast cancer. Lying there during the ultrasound, I waited. The technician was silent as she looked for whatever it was that they saw before – “Ah, there it is.” I watched her measure it. Click, click, click. Then she left me there, lying on the table, in case she needed to do more. While she was with the doctor, I turned the screen towards me and look at the “something” that they had seen. It was perfectly round and very small. I’d read that cancers weren’t usually perfectly round. I breathed a little bit easier. And I waited. After what seemed like an eternity (it was about 10 minutes) the technician comes flying in the door, “Catherine, I have good news! It’s just a twisted lymph node.” Whoosh!!!! That was the air leaving my body in a very big sigh of relief. Now I have one month until my 6-month PET scan. Unfortunately, we don’t get those results in 10 minutes.

    You are so right, Denise – the anxiety will never leave us.

    • Cathy, oh my, so great to hear from you. The strange thing is last week you were on my mind big time. My fault that I didn’t write you! I could feel something was going on! I am so relieved for you…you get another small respite. But oh what you had to get through to get there once again!
      It is like living your life in 6 month increments. You only get one month this time. You get an all clear, you are good for a short time, until the anxiety starts again!
      I’ve never heard of a twisted lymph node, but leave it to you to have one – LOL! I tell so many people about you. You give so many hope!
      Sending love and a hug your way! And celebrating with you!

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