Awareness after breast cancer scare
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Awareness

Breast cancer awareness became personal

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Awareness

The day after my 51st birthday at 6:19 pm, I was sitting at my dining room table contemplating what I should make for dinner. I nearly jumped out of my skin when the antique telephone ringer that signifies someone is calling my cellphone broke the silence of the small apartment. I looked at the number, it wasn't saved in my contacts and it was from an area code a few miles north... probably a telemarketer or bill collector I surmised and decided to answer it just to make sure I knew which before saving and blocking the number.

"Hello?"

"Hello, is this Margaret ...?"

"Yes, who is this?"

"Hi Margaret, this is the Mammography Center at Virginia Mason in Federal Way. I'm calling to ..."

Her words faded into the ether as my mind raced. I had my mammogram like always just before my birthday. It was an easy way to remember. Now, only two days later, they were calling me about something?!

The sweet young lady from the radiologist office was impervious to my reaction on the other end of the line. She proceeded to inform me that I didn't have anything to be concerned about, they just needed a few more images and an ultrasound to clear up an area on my mammogram. It was scheduled for 7:30 am on the next Thursday.

I would have almost a week to think about it.

The days went by at a snails-pace while thoughts flooded my mind. I didn't tell many people for a few days. I didn't want the people who loved me to have the same racing thoughts that I was having; I didn't want anyone to worry.

Thoughts about the cancers that run so rampant throughout my mother's family. Thoughts about my mother's cousin who just fought breast cancer last year... and not to be forgotten, thoughts of my dear friend Maria Mills Greenfield who lost her fight with metastatic breast cancer on January 19th of this year.

I sought relief of my racing thoughts. I needed comfort. I prayed to my Heavenly Father and He filled me with peace. Divine peace. I knew at that point that all was okay; it was just a scare.

Once I received that comfort from the Holy Spirit, I shared the information with a few people that I would be having a "re-mammo." A few days later, right before my appointment, I decided to share some of my activities and my reaction through twitter:

After getting notice of an abnormality on a mammogram, is it normal to take that breast out and examine it with a fine tooth comb?! #Where?
— Maggie Slighte (@MaggieSlighte) October 24, 2017

I was finally ready to talk about what I was going through.

My friends responded on the post that was echoed on my Facebook account, concerned. I tried to reassure those I could by telling them I felt it would be okay. But I just wanted the re-mammo to be over.

Thursday finally arrived and I awoke at 4:14 in the morning, six minutes before my alarm. My dogs were surprised when I turned on the light in the bedroom and began getting ready.

We were loaded into the van before 6. I nervously adjusted the radio to a station that would include a traffic report about the highly congested area of Joint Base Lewis McChord that I would have to travel through to get to my Federal Way radiologist. Singing along to the country song they were playing, I pulled out and headed into the darkness of the morning.

Thanks to an absence of collisions, we got to Federal Way about a half hour early. I poured some water for the dogs in their van-dish and assured them I would be 'right back' and headed into the clinic.

There was no line at the radiology check-in counter and the receptionist told me to have a seat, they would be "right with me."

I scrolled through Facebook and read email for the longest half hour wait I had in a long time. Finally, at 7:34 am, I was called back to the exam area.

The young lady who was in charge of taking the extra views of the mammogram was very soft-spoken and gentle. I wondered to myself how many times she has to do extra views and if it is difficult on her when there is more obvious issues. She left the room as I undressed from the waist up and put on the gown open in the front.

I could see from the displayed previous image of my mammogram displayed on the monitor that they were focusing on a tiny area that just looked like a blur to me. The young lady was gentle as she manipulated my right breast into the correct position for each image.

After changing out the supports a few times and taking several additional images, she asked me to wait while she delivered the images to the radiologist for her to look over. Another long wait, so I took a few photos around the room.

She came back and informed me she needed more views and changed the supports again on the mammogram machine. After she was done, I waited once more. Finally, she returned and asked me to follow her into another room where she passed me off to another young lady for the ultrasound.

I was quietly thankful that everyone I was dealing with was female. Apparently, the radiologist was female as well. At least that fact was reassuring. I lay down on the table and put my right arm over my head as she squeezed the cold gel onto my right breast and began the exam.

The ultrasound tech explained that she would be taking a few images and measurements, then she would be going out to get the radiologist who wanted to take a look herself. The exam didn't take long at all. Before I knew it, the tech stepped out and almost immediately back in with the young radiologist with long dark hair. Her words were also quiet and kind, making me think that she had to tell much harder news to other women often.

The radiologist's words were reassuring as she informed me the spot they needed more information about was just a tiny little tangle of blood vessels that wasn't very clear in the mammogram. She reminded me that I have fibrous breasts and told me it would be a good idea for me to continue getting the 3D mammograms, my next being needed in a year.

As I was leaving, I saw a sign reminding me it is breast cancer awareness month in October. This October I am feeling VERY aware. Very aware and very thankful that breast cancer is not currently one of my challenges. My heart and prayers are with all of those who do have and have had breast cancer. I am also much more empathetic now about the scares that many of us go through.



(Previously published on Maggie Slighte's website.)

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