Monday, February 3, 2014

Things That Would Have Been Nice to Know

Did you know that a hysterectomy and the hormone changes that come with it can change the density of your breast? And that the tissue can become much more fibrous?  I had no clue.  I knew hormone changes could cause soreness, but I did not realize it could change the whole make up of “the girls.”

Since my surgery, my breasts have been intermittently sore. Often to the point that hugs hurt. Normally, this might not be too big an issue, but I come from a family of huggers.  And they don’t give little spaghetti armed, polite pat on the back sorts of hugs. They hug you with the intention of squeezing any sort of sadness right out of your ears.  So needless to say…OUCH.

 I really thought the soreness would have gone away by now. It’s been 6 months since my hysterectomy but it hasn't. And about 2 months ago, I noticed that my left side was particularly sore under the arm.  And it was non-stop.   I finally called for a mammogram. I was a year and half overdue, so I figured I might as well get it done.

I told the scheduler about my hysterectomy and hormone replacement when I made the appointment. She acknowledged that and I assumed had put the information in my chart.  I went in on the 22nd and had the procedure done and fully expected an all clear post card a few days later.

On the 28th I received a call telling me that I needed to come back in for more screening because my left breast looked “suspicious.”  The appointment was made for the following week. A day later I got a letter in the mail informing me that additional imaging was recommended. (yeah, I figured that out when I got the phone call.)  The letter also said:
“Effective July 1st, 2013, The Indiana Senate passed a law (SenateBill 414) stating we must notify you of your breast density type….”    OK. That’s interesting. 

The options were:  Almost Entirely Fatty, Scattered Fibroglandular Tissue, Heterogeneously Dense, and Extremely Dense.

Apparently mine are heterogeneously dense. “Your mammogram shows that your breast tissue is dense. Dense breast tissue is very common and is not abnormal. But dense breast tissue can make it harder to find cancer on mammograms. Also, dense breast tissue may increase your breast cancer risk.”   

Really?  I understand that awareness and education are key. These are very important. But jeez oh Pete!  Way to add fuel to my already overly active and anxious imagination. I KNOW that my risks are low. There is NO family history of breast or ovarian cancer. But that is still a bit nerve-racking. 

So, for the next week instead of thinking about my boobs, I stuck my head in the sand and  hyper-focused on vacation planning. (which I had started doing a couple days before I got the call)  I looked at several hundred rentals in Michigan and the Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia. In that time I spent well over 40 hours obsessing about finding the perfect place.  I spent maybe an hour looking up information on breast issues. At that point, I figured it was better for me to NOT dwell on what may or may not be going on.  

I had my second screening this morning. The technician explained that they were concerned because my breast looked dramatically different from my last mammogram. I had gone from “Almost entirely fatty” to “heterogeneously dense” in a year and a half.  I mentioned the hormones and hysterectomy again, which seemed to surprise the tech.  It was NOT in my file. She actually looked relieved.  But we still had to go through the whole squishing thing. This was a LOT more uncomfortable than before. In this sort of situation they want as FLAT a view as possible. And the fact that the suspicious area was near the chest wall made it that much more difficult to get a good image. The doctor looked at the scans immediately and decided that I also needed an ultrasound. That was a lot easier and did not hurt at all.  

Doc decide that this was fibrous tissue caused by hormone changes but wants me to come in for another scan in 6 months to make sure nothing has grown.  

Everything seems to fine and that is a huge relief. Not crazy that I have to come back in 6 months. It is what it is. But it certainly would have been nice to know that these changes were a possibility right from the start.  It would not have changed my mind about having the surgery. But knowing would have prevented a bit of worry on my part.  

 A site with information on the importance of understanding breast density.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Still Fighting

Maybe Starting to Fight would be better

Depression has not let up. Hormone levels are higher and a bit steadier, but I am still an emotional mess.  In fact, it became bad enough that I decided to go back on anti-depressants before Christmas. That decision made me feel terribly weak.  Of course I would never let one of my friends say that about themselves if they had to take ADs.  But for some reason, I’m different, right?  

I really need to cut myself some slack.  I spend so much of my time feeling guilty. (I am good at that) Guilty for not being a better mom or wife. Guilty for not having all the answers to fix my Grandma’s situation. (another long story) Guilty for missing the past two semesters of school. Guilty for gaining back lost weight.   Guilty for things that are completely out of my control. Guilty for feeling guilty.  And guilty, so very guilty, for being depressed.

I realize a lot has happened over the past few months.  Physical challenges and emotional events.  Any one of which could trigger a bout of the blues. But all combined is taking its toll. Add to that, the long, dark days of winter. It makes digging out of this on my own overwhelming.  I should not feel guilty for needing to ask for help. Of course, I do. 

So medication and therapy it is. I’ve been on the AD for 3 weeks now.  It takes a while for it to kick in. I need to be patient.  Patience is but one of  many virtues that I do NOT possess.  Monday I start therapy.  That is going to take a while as well.  I think most people think therapy is just lying on the couch and spewing out your mommy or daddy issues to a shrink.  But it is so much more than that. (at least if it’s done right) It is actual work.  It is retraining your brain.  And it is not easy.

 I am hopeful, though.  I see a small light at the end of the tunnel. I am starting to make plans again. I am taking a class this semester, and I am starting to feel like writing.  I think these are good signs and steps in the right direction.