To get a phone call from these people, the Monday after Thanksgiving saying you need additional images (after a mammogram the previous Wednesday) is a bit unnerving.
My mammogram last year was fine. But I had a scare in the past. Right after Wild Boy was born, I found a lump and was directed to go for a breast ultrasound. A first-time, lactating mother of a newborn baby was not who you wanted to be sitting next to you in a breast center waiting room. Luckily, my lump was determined to be a benign cyst and hadn’t given me any trouble, even years later.
Now, something was different according to the experts and I was decidedly freaked out. We had just gotten back from Thanksgiving in NY (and on the plane ride home we found out a good friend’s mother had just been diagnosed with colon cancer) and I’d literally just recovered from planning and executing the “Ride For Jon” event for my neighbor recently diagnosed with cancer. It’s said that bad things happen in threes and I was doing the math.
In my panicked state, I was not fully equipped for what I had to do: I had to find a trust-worthy mammogram facility in California , wait not only for my films to be sent from New York and reviewed by new-found facility before I could be scheduled to take these new images that I now needed. The wise Tom Petty has let us all know, “the waiting is the hardest part” and the man doesn’t lie.
I was lucky (that sage Tom Petty has also said, “even the losers get lucky sometimes”) and found Huntington Hill Breast Center in Pasadena, CA:
From the first contact at the reception desk, to the spa-like waiting rooms with flat screen TV’s (“Elf” was playing), multiple check-in’s from staff to see if patients needed anything, I was definitely in surroundings to help quell my anxious nature. HHBC even gave patients some gifts:
When every technician introduced herself and told you she would be taking care of you, I believed it. Patti took care of me and my mammogram and then took me to Dulcie for my ultrasound. Here’s a picture of my ultrasound room:
10 minutes after my ultrasound, my technician, Dulcie (who saw I was a bit nervous) brought in Dr. Lakshmi Tegulapalle to tell me that I was absolutely fine. There was overlapping of breast tissue and a benign cyst but nothing to worry about – at all.
I was so relieved that I asked if I could take a picture of the two of them and they said OK. Instant results, no agonizing phone calls or letters to wait for, my husband and I were thrilled.
My story ends well right now. I will return to Huntington Hill Breast Center next year and I even sent a letter to Daina Nasir, Clinic Manager to tell her how wonderful I thought her staff were and how her facility made a very anxiety producing situation (with an extremely high strung New Yorker) so much easier. In the vein of excellent customer service, I’ll let you know that Daina responded quickly not only to thank me for the note but said she’d be letting her staff know as well.
I got lucky. Some people have not gotten the results that I received and have been willing to talk about their journey with the world. While I haven’t ever met, Wendy Nielsen, I follow her on Twitter and chronicles her bout with cancer (Cancer and Me) and educates others via her Breast Cancer 101 page. I not only admire her bravery and writing but she helped educate me even though I was lucky enough not to need such a deep education.
Ladies, why is it so difficult for us to remember that we are important?! Your partner, children, friends, family, co-workers and the like can NOT have you as part of their lives if you don’t take care of yourself!
In addition to all the things you may do to keep yourself healthy like workout and eat well, do your self-exams and get mammograms annually, at least! Don’t be afraid to get a mammogram, if you haven’t had one yet. They sound scary but they really can save your life.
There are so many resources for breast cancer questions, screenings and information that I don’t feel I list them all on this blog. I used worldwidebreastcancer.com because their graphics resonated with me (despite the fact that I HATE pink) and delivered an important message with a soft touch.
Feel free to tell me your favorite resources and perhaps I’ll start a list for the future. Thank you for reading this extremely long post. I felt it was important to document this journey and all that went along with it.
For the record, I have no affiliation with either MSKCC or Huntington Hill Breast Center. I just wanted to let others know about what one might expect (from the patient’s point of view) at both institutions.