Being Proactive and Assertive Regarding Your Emotional Needs

I returned for my additional views/mammography and my test results were benign. The calcifications were a result of trauma (I had surgery on my left breast three months after reconstruction on my right breast to regain symmetry). On my return visit the technician placed a strip on the scar to make it clear to the radiologist where my surgical site was located. Needless to say, I was very relieved to receive the news that the calcifications were a result of the surgery.
I had decided before I arrived at the radiology center that I was not leaving without results; we need to be proactive and assertive (taking care of our needs without stepping on the needs of others) to take care of ourselves. I politely told the mammography technician that I wanted the results before I left due to the emotional issues a survivor faces while waiting for results. She explained that she would be sending the radiologist the pictures as soon as they were done to be assured that he would not need any additional views and she would be speaking to him on the telephone. She also stated that because of the HIPPA laws, she may not be able to tell me what he reports. I assured her that I did not want to be a pain in the a.., but that I would have no problem speaking with him on the phone myself or driving to the hospital where he was receiving the information. She smiled, and when she returned from sending the films and speaking with the radiologist she provided me with the results. If I had not been proactive and assertive, I do not believe I would have been informed of the benign diagnosis for a couple of more days, at least. My stress level would have been increased unnecessarily because not all health care professionals totally understand what a survivor experiences when waiting for results, especially ambiguous test results. Perhaps for this reason my decision not to go to a Breast Cancer Care Center for my mammography and sonogram was not the best one. However, educating health care professionals regarding emotional triggers that affect survivors from previous malignant diagnoses and being proactive and assertive regarding your own emotional needs is an important lesson for all.

Coping with Ambiguous Test Results

I went for my yearly mammography and sonogram, waited five days for results and then heard that I need to return for a follow-up mammogram. I previously lived on Long Island, New York and went to a Breast Cancer Center for my testing and was always informed of the results on the same day. For five years I continued to travel three hours for my yearly test, but this year decided to pick up my records and schedule my testing for a local radiology center. I had a choice of a regular radiology center or a breast care center, but when informed that they both used the same radiologist, decided to go to the regular radiology center. Maybe this was my way of finally deciding to let go of the past. Yesterday, I was informed that the radiologist wants a follow-up mammography regarding calcifications in my left breast (I had breast cancer in my right breast). My next appointment is in two days. The first thing I needed to do for myself was gain some knowledge regarding calcifications. I went to Breastcancer.org for this information. “Calcifications are tiny flecks of calcium…like grains of salt…in the soft tissue of the breast that can sometimes indicate the presence of an early breast cancer. Calcifications usually can’t be felt, but they appear on a mammogram. Depending on how they’re clustered and their shape, size, and number, your doctor may want to do further tests. Calcifications can be macrocalcifications or microcalcifications. Macrocalcifications usually do not require any follow-up as they are usually not associated with cancer. Groups of small calcifications huddled together, called “clusters of microcalcifications,” are associated with extra breast cell activity. Most of the time this is non-cancerous extra cell growth, but sometimes clusters of microcalcifications can occur in areas of early cancer.” On-line I also read at least half of all women over 50 have some form of calcification and they can also be caused by trauma. I keep trying to remind myself of all this information and the statistic. I have had to have a “discussion” with myself regarding all the emotions coming up. I know that a lot of the fear, sadness, anger are triggered by the original diagnosis/testing ten years ago. The body and mind remembers and will “clobber” us, if we allow it. I attempt to keep my mind in the present moment and the present circumstances. It is not a mass this time; if it is cancerous, it is probably very early. I try to keep my mind positive, utilizing meditation and prayer. I keep repeating the centering thoughts: “my security and peace are within,” my strength and power are within.” Part of one of my favorite prayers: “Gracious God you tell us you do not give us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.” When we can truly believe this, we can face what the future brings, not necessarily fearlessly, but knowing we embody the strength needed to move forward. If my mammography shows pre-cancerous or cancerous calcifications, I will have decisions to make. Until then, I will attempt to live in the moment, repeat my centering thoughts and prayers often, and acknowledge my emotions (reducing their power) and accepting them as a normal reaction to ambiguious test results. Blessings.