The beginning

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As I mentioned in my other thread, I was officially diagnosed in February 2019. I will talk about how the diagnosis happens and the first steps.

I had been experiencing pain when I moved my arm certain ways. This wasn't very unusual because I have degenerative disc disease in my neck that can cause similar symptoms. When my usual strategies of stretching and the like didn't work I started thinking of other possibilities. Around that time I discovered the mass in my breast. I knew immediately what it was. I mean, what else could it be? It took me a couple weeks to get to a doctor. Some of that delay was likely because of feelings of anxiety and dread. Denial most certainly was a factor. I wonder too as I write this if the messaging around breast cancer was a factor. After all, it's all treatable, right?? Irrational logic of course. That's part of the process.

I had no idea where the medical clinics were in this community. When you google medical clinics you get a lot of choices. Narrowing the search to family medicine or similar wasn't helpful. I did figure out where there were walk in clinics. Thankfully there was about three or four clinics at the time. Now there is one that is extremely busy and somewhat hard to access because of the lineup. It can't be easy trying to get a diagnosis today, especially when you don't have a doctor.

The doctor I met was a stern South African doctor who frankly was a bit scary. When he did the exam, he said it was dense breasts. I said it was not and that there had been a change. I'm not sure he believed me. He did though, refer me for an urgent mammogram. That urgent mammo would have been several weeks away. :confused: I asked to be placed on the cancellation list and as it happened, we had a snowstorm so I got in within the week.

I had the mammo on a Wednesday which turns out to be a good day at this hospital. It is the day when they do biopsies. When the mammo was finished, the tech said she had to talk to the radiologist. I told her I expected that. The radiologist sent me for an ultrasound which was just down the hall. The ultrasound tech said she had to talk to the radiologist. Yup. I expected that. The next thing I knew I was getting a needle biopsy with two or three students watching.

The needle biopsy is interesting. It is done by the radiologist using ultrasound to guide the needle. The radiologist was a gentle kind man a little older than me. I appreciated his kindness and gentleness. He inserted the needle and it grabbed some of the mass. The feeling is a little like an elastic being snapped against you. A little uncomfortable. Not horrible. When the procedure was done the radiologist let me know there may be a referral to a surgeon. He said to not be alarmed because that is the standard procedure.

I don't remember if I heard from the walk-in clinic or if I phoned. I did see a doctor the next day. She was married to the first doctor I met at that clinic. She was very different from him. She was a very personable and chatty Newfoundlander. She told me it was cancer and that I would be referred to a surgeon. She stepped out to call one and came back to say he had agreed to take me. She told me he was the best in the city. I really appreciated that.

And so it began.

I can only imagine the extreme courage it took to make that first appointment Northwind. Especially with you just starting an exciting new retirement adventure - a fresh chapter of life - interrupted. I can understand the sense of knowing & waiting, adjusting, hoping against hope. Glad you got prompt follow through.
See, I'm used to thinking that several months is normal for a specialist referral. So I've been especially thankful that the odd time I've had an "odd" result (which over a lifetime happens to lots of us at least once) has been looked at in weeks versus months. (I've recently developed a relationship with a vascular surgeon due to a wyrd healed anomaly in an artery in one of my legs; we book follow ups on a yearly basis.)
Our system can move quickly when it needs to. I don't think having to wait for several weeks for an "urgent" mammo or other imaging is appropriate though.
Waiting is dreadful. I waited four months for an Urgent CT scan (suspected cancer). Once I got it the next needed tests followed quite quickly.
I waited four months for an Urgent CT scan (suspected cancer).

That is way too long. Like I said, the odd time I've had something "odd", it's been days or weeks. But I live in a medium-sized city with a large regional hospital close to me.
I usually wait quite a while. My PET-CT was quick but my hematologist did rush that through for me. Both my hematologist and internist thought my biopsy timeframe was way behind. And from the actually initial screening tests? Yeah, years behind :mad:
I recognize waiting is the norm. There are times when "urgent" needs to be quicker. I say that even knowing the burdens on the system. I don't think it has gotten any better in the past few years of course.
That is way too long. Like I said, the odd time I've had something "odd", it's been days or weeks. But I live in a medium-sized city with a large regional hospital close to me.
It happened when Covid had started and deluged hospitals. I didn't feel particularly ill, unlike some poor souls who get stuck in the ER for days! Once in a while someone actually dies before getting medical care.
Thanks Northwind. That was quick!

What a whirlwind of emotions.

I find sometimes my logical-me knows, but my emotional-me hopes it's wrong.

Glad that you booked that appointment and spoke up
Appointment on Thursday because of breast pain. So I have re-read your experience with some trepidation. Tenderness has been going on for a couple of months, but it wasn't until the screening for a mammogram that I realized I would need to do something about this. They won't do a typical mammogram because of the tenderness (which has since turned into occasional pain) and now I will need to go to the hospital for an ultrasound.
I'm glad you're getting that checked @Nancy. I couldn't go to the screening clinic because I had pain from a lymph node. I had a mammo at the hospital followed by the US then a biopsy. Apparently I was able to get them all at the same time because Wednesdays are biopsy day. Please keep us posted.
Thinking of you, Nancy. Hopeful for the inflammation thing? I hate these scares, for myself, and for others. I'm always so hopeful that there will be a sigh of relief (it's "just" inflammation, or an ulcer thing, or something easy and fixable) at the end of the scare. I have my yearly "what happened to that artery in your leg" consult with a very cute young vascular surgeon in early July.