One day, unaware of cancer; the next day, in the middle of a 'scare', enroute to a potential crisis. How to manage these early days?
The First News: Suspicious Mammogram or UltraSound
If you’re concerned going into your mammogram or ultrasound (as I was actually), take someone with you. If the radiologist sees a problem, he or she will likely talk to you on the spot. This is the moment, you will begin to go into shock no matter how 'together' you think you are being.
Bring someone with you. Having another set of ears will be helpful later, as will having a set of arms to hug you and to drive you home in the moment.
Get a copy of the scans on a CD before you leave in case you do a biopsy at a different hospital or clinic.
Ask about getting a biopsy scheduled as soon as possible. Confirm what kind of biopsy you will need.
Get in touch with your GP as soon as possible to help quarterback your next steps.
The Real News: Biopsy and Pathology
I went to a private clinic in Montreal (VM Medical) for my biopsy after having difficulty getting a biopsy organized in Ottawa (as a Quebec resident). I was very anxious to get my biopsy to prevent delay in shaping a treatment plan when I met with the surgeon. There were several advantages to the private clinic option: it was fast; I was able to talk directly with the oncological surgeon who performed the biopsy - he rang me with the results and discussed them with me. I received a copy of the pathology report.
Ideally have someone with you when you get the results of your biopsy. If it confirms cancer, this is when your life changes and the faint hope remaining from the mammogram result fades. If it’s not cancer, you’ll have someone to celebrate with. I was alone at work when the call came but a colleague dropped by my office and asked what had happened after one look at my face. Her hug, when I told her it was breast cancer, was heart-healing, grounding and calming.
Ask for a copy of the pathology report.
For help reading it go to http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/getting_path_report, on reading your pathology report. You can download the PDF here.
In fact, ask for all of your reports. You’ll begin to undergo a lot of them (eg., CT-Scan or MRI, Ultrasound, bone scan).
You can read the reports for yourself, and seek further clarification if anything isn’t clear or causes concern. I also sent them to a friend who is a specialized breast cancer pathologist. I learned early to become informed, to identify resources and to be my own advocate in decision-making.
You will also begin to learn a new language – the language of cancer and its treatment. A good resource site is: http://bfflco.com/the-language-of-breast-cancer/