Learning you’ll need ‘extra views’ | Kitsap Living

There were eight of us sitting in the waiting room. Some were staring into space, while others nervously turned the pages of old magazines.

Each one of us was there for the same reason and had the same worry on our minds. We all had something abnormal show up on a mammogram. We all were thinking the worst, “What if I have breast cancer?”

Statistically, one of us did. Who would be that one?

I had had my mammogram at a mobile unit offered by Swedish Hospital. Because my internist is with Swedish Bainbridge Clinic, I thought “Why not do that? It will save me half a day and a ferry trip to Seattle.”

The other women had just had their mammogram that day and were waiting for what they call “additional views,” which usually means more mammography and an ultrasound. Their wait to find out if they had breast cancer was shorter than mine. Because I had done the original mammogram on Bainbridge, I had to schedule my additional views and wait a week for an appointment.

During that week, all kinds of thoughts went through my head. What would I do if I had cancer? Would I be able to get treatment near home, or would I be going back and forth to Seattle? Would I have to have chemotherapy and lose my hair? I even obsessed to the point that I had already decided on a short, blond wig, just for shock value.

As I waited for my name to be called, to review the additional views with the doctor of radiology, I thought how many times that week I’d made deals with God.

“Dear God, If you let this be OK, I won’t ask for anything else for a year. I won’t be the negative person that I tend to me. I’ll look at this as a new beginning …”

You get the idea.

The women in this room ranged in age from their 30s to — well, let’s just say older. I wondered about their stories. I thought about whether they felt the same way I did, that bad news might be coming. I especially felt for the younger women in the room because they probably had young kids at home who they’d have to explain all this to. And they had more years out in front of them to be concerned about breast cancer.

This had happened to me once before, when I was about 40. I was called back in for more views. That time, everything turned out OK, so I thought luck was on my side. But there is a history of breast cancer in my family. In fact, I had a cousin on my mother’s side who died at 40 from breast cancer. And the BRCA gene is present in some females in my extended family.

Just before they called my name, a woman in her late 30s walked out from having met with the doctor. Her face was red and she’d been crying. She looked very upset. She just learned of the battle that lay ahead for her and even though she was a complete stranger, I wanted to rush up and hug her.

When I did see the doctor, she said the new 3D images taken earlier that day looked good, but she wanted to do an ultrasound to make sure. She was very good at explaining everything and showed me the area of concern, which she said most likely was dense breast tissue only, no tumors.

She told me to come back in a year. I got dressed and went home.

On the way, I couldn’t help but think about the woman who was so upset. Why was it her and not me? Did any of the other women in the waiting room get bad news, too?

Sometimes, it just all feels like a crapshoot. And as a female, the worry never goes away. It just rests at the back of my mind, until next year’s mammogram.

— Leslie Kelly is special publications editor for Kitsap News Group. Contact her at lkelly@soundpublishing.com.