See Right Through Me

This past Thursday was my diagnostic mammogram appointment. It was at the new Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgical Centre, literally brand new, opened at the beginning of June.

A very impressive facility and very much-needed in the Fraser Valley. The population on this side of the Fraser River is growing at an incredible rate and the folks in charge of medical care have needed something like this for a LONG time. In fact I could have used it back when I had the bad gallbladder, but you know, bygones.

It was an early appointment and I was required to be there 20 minutes before to check-in. My GP wasn’t kidding when he said it was pretty high-tech there. Depending on what you’re there for you can use your medical card at stand-alone express check-in machines similar to what you’d find in an airport. In my case though I needed to travel up to the second floor and report to the diagnostic mammo counter. It turns out there is also a new screening centre there so I thought for a moment I should be checking in at that desk, but I quickly saw that just before that counter was another one that was labelled diagnostic (duh me) and I stood there for a few minutes still not quite sure until staff appeared (phew!)

She smiled up at me and said that the line on the end was for screening mammos, but I told her I was there for diagnostic. She asked for my medical card and pulled up my file, confirmed my birth-date and contact info and handed me my paperwork in a little red folder (which thoughtfully had a map on it) and verbally gave me instructions to the mammogram waiting area.  I am and always will be TERRIBLE at directions but add to that the midlife brain fog I seem to be suffering from lately (SCARY I might add to a girl with a photographic memory) I was glad for that map. Of course I needn’t have worried, their signage was easy to follow apart from the waiting area which just said “mammogram” and being slightly paranoid I wasn’t sure if there were DIFFERENT waiting areas for screening vs. diagnostic (there aren’t.) Just to make extra-mondo-sure I asked the first person who walked by wearing scrubs if I was in the right place. (Yup). She also told me that they were just in the process of doing their machine tests and they would be with me in a moment. “Oh no worries!” I said with relief. I hate being late for appointments and I always have mild panic attacks when I think I’m in the wrong place. It is even worse at airports when I check-in and get told to go to gate C-16 and I get there and it is empty with the sign turned off.

I sat down clutching my little red folder, that is until I noticed a plastic wall thingie that said to put the little red folder in there. Oh! Okay. I looked around wishing there was someone to ask because nobody had TOLD me to put my little red folder in the plastic wall thing (a new place people are establishing new routines) and I also have a fear of being WRONG. I decided that the sign was right, placed my little red folder in the plastic thingie and sat back down.

See? There is my little red folder.

Eventually another lady came along and she too looked a little lost and she asked me if she was in the right place. I replied that she was if she was there for a mammogram. She sat down and I noticed she too was clutching her little red folder under her coat. I helpfully pointed out the plastic wall thingie with the sign saying to put the little red folders in there. She asked me “all of it”?  A strange question sure, but I got it, she was feeling as insecure as I was.  I nodded and she walked over and placed her folder behind mine. The same very nice lady who told me I was in the right place called my name, I was first up.

She told me to go ahead and remove my top and my bra if I was still wearing it (I was), I had this moment of self-doubt that I had missed some instruction to disrobe, but I figured it was because I was the first of the day. She was going to give me privacy to disrobe but seriously, this was the same person who would be handling my boob anyway so modesty was kind of out the window. She explained they were only going to x-ray the one that had shown an area of concern (yay less squishing!) and that it was kind of off to the side so it would be a little harder to get a picture of and apologized saying there may be a few tries to get it exactly right (ah well so maybe not less squishing). The initial try there wasn’t enough of my “girl” on there and then she realized that the top view wasn’t giving her what she needed so we went with the side squish. She first used a larger, upper plate thingie (no idea what it is actually called) and then when she was happy with that used a smaller paddle like upper plate thingie to, I guess, zoom in. She was successful in finding the same “spot” though, so my fleeting hope of a dust spot or something on the original mammogram kind of flew out the window. It wasn’t near the surface and it being the side boobuler area was harder to get to. I have to say the diagnostic mammo was a touch more painful, or rather left me a little achy after the fact. Maybe it was because of where they needed to squish combined with a more intense squish needed for the magnification. Not sure.

She was really so nice and super helpful though, she showed me the original mammogram which I have to say looked really cool though obviously I have no idea of what I was actually looking at. She pointed out the area she would be taking a closer look at as well and treated me like a PERSON with concerns and questions which made a huge difference for me. I joked about how my boobs looked so much perkier on the mammo when they’ve been squashed in a flattering position. She laughed.

I shall call him “squishy”

Once she had what she needed she told me to go ahead and get dressed and wait out in the waiting area for her to take the pictures to the radiologist to have a look at. She came back a few minutes later as the radiologist wasn’t in their office but I told her no problem I was in no hurry and I had thankfully had the foresight to pay for additional parking time (sooo worth it I’ve found for things like this, you just never know.)

By then there were more ladies of various ages in the waiting area and each time a new person would arrive I helpfully pointed out the plastic wall thingie for their little red folders (hey! maybe my new job?)  While waiting I was tapping away on my blackberry updating Tom via email (he was at work) and my Twitter buds on what was going on. Facebook I’m keeping in the dark right now cos I don’t want this getting back to my Mom. Too many family members on there and someone may have loose lips. I mean this is most likely nothing and no sense in causing worry for the sake of worry yanno?

She comes back after a while and said the radiologist would like me to have an ultrasound now and they would be fitting me in today if that was okay. I told her of course and she said she would check when it would be as they would be slotting me in.  I told her that would be perfect because I would need to feed the machine with more money if it was going to go longer than I’d paid for. Before I had written my next update she was back to say they would be calling me in a few minutes. Sweet.

The tech came and got me, told me to undress from the waist up  and lay down and drape myself with the towel provided and she would be right back. She too was very nice and explained that often radiologists would request an ultrasound to get a better/different look at what was seen on the x-ray. I’ve read up on it and they can tell by the shape and various other things if it is solid vs. a benign cyst which is more regular shaped and obviously fluid.  She concentrated mostly on the same area where the magnification was done, doing a larger view as well as what appeared to be a more zoomed in view at least that is what it looked like out of my right peripheral, it was hard to see. I did see her going to one area where I saw her make little X marks and then take a snapshot. I’m guessing that was around the spot. I couldn’t get a good look at it though as to shape etc but I’m hoping it is just a regular cyst. After she was done she said she would “take the pictures to the radiologist and we would go from there.” I know they aren’t allowed to say anything but that is the part I hate. She came back a little while later and said they had what they needed and I could go ahead and get dressed and have a great day, the results would be sent to my family doc in about a week. That would work out well time-wise as I am already going back there for the results of my blood test.. but yech I hate waiting. I’m almost 100% sure it is nothing but I wish I could find out sooner. Ah well, it isn’t going to change the outcome any regardless.

Bloggers, we’re so annoying with our pictures! Even the cell phone kind. :)

I had a little time to spare before my parking expired so I didn’t rush back and had a bit of a look around. Like I said, it is a nice place and doesn’t exude the “hospitally” vibe other than the equipment of course.

I also checked around a bit more outside, it has lots of parking (paid of course and it ain’t cheap!)  but it was a treat to not have to compete for parking spots with visitors and patients at the regular hospital down the street, that can be difficult at the best of times.

All in all I was very impressed with my experience. Obviously it isn’t any fun going for any kind of diagnostic or medical treatment, but the staff and the surroundings made is as pleasant as it ever can be. That makes a huge difference in my opinion.

Now just the wait.

This whole thing reminded me of this little cartoon, a favourite of mine and so apropos I couldn’t help myself.

Ain’t that the truth. =P

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