"Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere." The United Church Observer
No one wants to get a letter in the mail telling them that their recent mammogram is showing a questionable spot that will need further diagnostic testing.
Because of that letter, the last few days of waiting have been very tense for a close friend of mine...
The letter arrived in the middle of the week. The appointment for the tests had to be scheduled for Monday......thus, she had days, and a long weekend of waiting.
The first thing that occurred was that the time allowed her imagination to run wild. Suddenly, everything in her body began to ache. All that she could think about was "Do I have cancer?" and "Will I need more tests, biopsies, etc?" As her close friend, I shared some of her stress and immediately began to peruse the Internet looking for information on "spots on a mammogram". This only served to increase my own anxiety, but, I couldn't seem to pull myself away from the computer as I looked for hope for my friend.
Interestingly, I did find out through my "research" that a high percentage of "false positives" on mammograms turn out to be just that-"false". And, even if a spot is found, many of these are benign and nothing to worry about. They can be cysts, shadows, scar tissue, areas of harmless density, etc. etc.
So, my friend and I kept reassuring ourselves that all would be fine.
Unfortunately, all of the reassurances in the world get lost in the long spaces of waiting...Even though you, the patient, might be ready to keep moving on this...appointments and schedules have to be followed...and your patience (and sanity) are put to the test.
My friend found that she couldn't eat...her stomach was a bit upset and she found that she had no appetite. I, on the other hand, was eating everything in sight. That is how I generally deal with stress. I don't even want to think about the total number of calories consumed during this period of waiting!
The weekend was over, Monday was here, and she went back to the hospital for a compression test as well as an ultra sound. Nothing was said as far as what was seen...and, she was sent home to (yep)...wait some more.
Her doctor had hoped to have some results for her that day...but, by later that night, she exhaustedly fell asleep without any news.
Calling the doctor's office in the morning, she found out that they had faxed the hospital asking them to please send the report in to them asap. So, the waiting continued...until a phone call from the dr.'s office said that the results would not be there until later in the day.
With anxiety and stress growing, my friend tried to deal with doing errands during the day...but her tension was mounting with every minute that went by.
And, me? Well, I was at home eating out my refrigerator and starting on the pantry!
Thankfully, the call that she had been waiting for finally came this afternoon...and all was well! She could breathe again knowing that it had been determined that this spot was not a mass...and that they just wanted her to have another mammogram in 6 months.
Delirious exhilaration followed this news...only to be followed by a total loss of energy. A good night of calm sleep was well earned by my friend...and, as I sit here typing this tonight, I am sure that she is sound asleep at her home...with a relieved smile on her face.
As a post-script to all of this, I question the need to make the patient go through with this period of high anxiety. I know that many hospitals are under-staffed and over-worked...and, I imagine that this same scene as described above goes on every day all to women all over the world who have gotten "the letter" following a mammogram. If you ask, most women will say that the one thing that they fear more than anything (healthwise) is breast cancer.
So, as I sit here tonight, I have to question why something can't be done to make this all a bit less stressful...without having to go through that period of anxious worrying??
Most of us would say that we can handle the news...just not the waiting.
I wish that I had the answer...but, for now, I am just grateful that my friend is going to be okay... : )
(A post-script to my post-script: Please do get your mammograms, ladies....they are still one of the best tools for early detection of breast cancer...and, can be life saving!)