Monday, December 19, 2016

More Like a Screw Driver

I appreciate everyone's prayers and support in regards to my needle biopsy today. I had a bit of nerves in the morning, but by the time I got there I felt remarkably calm--and oddly detached as I took in all the details of this most bizarre experience.

It started with my technician, Selena, arranging pillows and towels behind my back and neck on the chair that she called a bed. She pushed the bed very close to the mammogram machine, and then closer, and then closer still, so that my ribs were slightly compressed. She then clamped my right breast firmly between the padded tray and a clear plastic plate parallel to the tray.

Selena explained that I must remain perfectly still during the preliminary pictures, the procedure itself, and the period afterward while the radiologist reviewed the post-procedure pictures and examined the tissue samples to make sure they had what they needed. If I were to move at any point, my breast tissue could shift, and they might not get the right area, or they might have to take more samples.

I had to sit up very straight for the whole 40 minutes or so, with my head turned as far as possible from the mammogram machine. Within two minutes, before anyone had touched me, I had cramps in my left should blade from the odd position. I prayed silently that God would help me stay still and ignore the discomfort.

After reading me the risks one more time, the doctor began injecting Lidocaine while Selena held my hand. "This is usually the worst part," Selena said.

Tears sprang to my eyes because of her kindness, but I sternly admonished myself not to cry. No moving! Not even a tear duct!

The doctor apologized repeatedly for the stinging and burning as she deadened areas deeper and deeper into my breast. I kept waiting for the burning to start, but I never felt much of anything. Could it be that they were injecting the wrong kind of medicine? Why didn't it hurt?

I was afraid to move even my lips, so I tried to speak like a ventriloquist. "Is it okay that I don't really feel any pain?" I muttered through my teeth.

"Oh, that's great," the doctor said.

I took a deep breath and hoped that it really was Lidocaine.

Selena instructed me to close my eyes while the doctor got the biopsy needle into position. "You probably won't want to see that."

"No," I said through my teeth. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. "Quiet me, Lord." I thought.

About ten minutes after the Lidocaine shots, the doctor made a tiny incision that I didn't feel and inserted the needle, which I also didn't feel. "You'll hear a loud pop now," she said as she programmed the machine to direct the needle to the precise coordinates captured on the preliminary images. "Try very hard not to move. Loud pop on three... One, two, three."


I didn't move a muscle, didn't even breathe.

"You did great!" Selena said.

I smiled as I drew in a couple of deep breaths. "That wasn't bad at all!" I thought. "I can't believe it's already over."

"Now I'm going to remove the samples," the doctor said. My heart sank. So we weren't done after all.

I heard some humming, swooshy sounds but felt only a bit of pressure.

"Okay, I've got them. Now I have to examine the samples under a microscope to be sure we got some of the calcifications."

"Be very still," Selena repeated. "It should be only a couple of minutes."

I glanced at the reflection off the glass in a painting to my left. Wow. There was a foot-long needle protruding from the middle of my breast. I breathed deeply and closed my eyes. "Quiet me," I prayed again.

A few minutes later, the doctor returned. "The samples look good," she said. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Next, she removed the needle and handed it to Selena, who passed into my line of sight. I opened my eyes and got a good look at that needle.


That was no needle. That was a screw driver. I'm not kidding. The tip of that stereotactic needle was the size and shape of a Phillips head screw driver, only a little broader and more barbed.

It took about 20 minutes of direct pressure to stop the bleeding, and then I posed for a couple of final mammogram shots to verify the placement of the titanium clip.

On my way out, I hugged my mom gingerly and told her a bit about the procedure. She'd been waiting patiently for well over an hour. Although I didn't technically need my mama there, I was touched that she'd insisted on meeting me at the hospital. She's such a great mom, and I'm very blessed.

Back at home, I couldn't find my nice clay, reusable ice pack, so I had to improvise with a bag of frozen peas--complete with a long, yellow twisty tie because the bag had already been opened. No need for a fancy ice pack; the peas did the trick.

Looking rather lumpy!

I've been pretty sore, and I had to lie down all afternoon because of intermittent bleeding. I really had not expected to miss an afternoon of work. When they told me it was a needle biopsy, I pictured a hypodermic needle taking a tiny bit of tissue, rather like a blood sample. I had no idea they'd be spearing me with a Phillips head screwdriver!

After a catnap with my sweet cat Arwen and three Extra-Strength Tylenols that a kind neighbor brought, I'm feeling much better. The Ghirardelli blueberry-filled chocolates he brought also lifted my spirits, as did a visit from my dear friend Ana who lives across the street.

I can feel the love and prayers of all of my friends and family, who are the expression of my Father's love. I'm feeling so blessed and deeply at peace. Due to the Christmas holiday, I may have to wait a full week for the results. Please keep praying for me. I'll let you know the moment I hear anything.

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