I don’t know if I was ever as vulnerable as I was the day I got a breast biopsy.
I found a lump, I got a mammogram, and I got a biopsy. The surgeon took out some cells and inserted a two-millimeter-sized titanium marker that will help pinpoint the biopsied region in future diagnostic testing. Just like that, I joined the ranks of thousands of American women that are literally part-titanium. Some of us got a phone call telling us that everything is totally normal and healthy and perfectly okay. Others got a call with a different caliber of news. All of us got through it.
We are titanium.
I definitely didn’t feel like titanium when I got my breast biopsy, though. I was scared and confused and overwhelmed with emotion. Here are some of the thoughts I had when the procedure was taking place:
- How many women have put their clothes in this locker before me? Who else has worn this pink gown?
- How many of those women had cancer?
- How many survived?
- Maybe I should have had my husband come with me.
- How long is this going to last?
- They’re telling me to remember to breathe. That’s good advice.
- It’s cold. My hand is getting numb.
- This doctor is really nice. All the nurses are ridiculously nice. Do they give you a personality test before they let you become a nurse? They should. These women are awesome.
- Whew, that washcloth was cold.
- Where am I supposed to be looking? The ultrasound machine? I don’t have a clue what is on that screen. Black and white and gray. The blobs and ripples all look exactly the same to me.
- They have pretty nice curtains here, for a surgical center. They are spotted and kind of shimmery. Not much on the ceiling, though. Fan. I am not going to look at the doctor. That’s way too weird.
- Okay, here comes the needle. Holy cow. Breathe. Okay, that’s okay now, that wasn’t so bad.
- I wonder how many women get this done every day? I should ask them. Hmm, 12-15 women per day, just in this office, just in this town. This is so common, and it’s so often benign. There’s really nothing to worry about.
- Oh boy, that was some serious pressure. I’m glad I didn’t see the needle, or whatever it is they’re sticking in me right now.
- Don’t think about needles!
- I can’t stop thinking about needles.
- Oh, is that music playing? That’s really nice! How haven’t I noticed that before now? Listen to the music.
- What’s the yoga breathing? Breathe in, belly goes out. Breathe out, belly goes in. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
- It’s almost over.
- It’s okay.
- Why me?
- Why not me?
- I’m so scared.
- It’s all going to be okay.
When the procedure was over and I was on my way home, I felt myself flooded with unexpected emotion. There was an 80% chance that the results would be good, and that the lump I found was non-cancerous. The odds were in my favor, and there was no logical reason to be upset. I’m not an overly emotional person, so it was a little out of character for me to feel like sobbing. Yet, somehow, I did. Today, many months later, when I close my eyes and picture that procedure room and the comforting smile on the kind nurse’s face, I still do.
The emotion wasn’t, and isn’t, entirely for me. It is for the woman that came before me. The ones, like me, who got a call with good news and felt relief and gratitude. The ones for which this little procedure was just the beginning of a long, long battle. The ones that survived. The ones that didn’t. The ones that pushed to find better treatment options. The ones that sat in the same chair I did. My aunt. My cousin. My sisters-in-law. My Grandmas (both of them). My mom. All of us are a little bit bruised and battered, but we are more than okay.
We are titanium.
“You shoot me down, but I won’t fall / I am titanium.” – David Guetta