Just over a month ago, Lisbeth (think left breast) endured three biopsies and two lumpectomies (three if you count the exit of two lymph nodes). Consequently, the left Girl with the Dragon Tattoo twin is cancer free.
Salander (think right gal) is a virgin (more or less).
Regardless, I allowed the virgin to undergo a mammography on Oct. 3.
The invasion of my celebrated twin came about due to an over-abundance of caution on the part of my oncologist, who was supposed to recommend the appropriate treatment for Lisbeth, following her traumatic surgery.
I was feeling jubilant. Three days earlier, a visit to my radiology doctor, a woman (I repeat “a woman”), stated matter-of-factly: “I consider you cured.”
She even questioned the need for six weeks of radiation and/or the hormone blocker pills that hopefully stop any recurrence. Problem is, the blockers, prescribed for five years, can cause crippling bone loss in a few women. She suggested I consult my oncologist.
The radiology doctor also took more than a half hour (a lifetime in terms of bedside manner) to explain every aspect of my case and why she had come to her conclusion.
"The decision is up to you," she said.
Somewhat overwhelmed that I was to adjudicate my own treatment (or lack of it), I realized that I finally had some control over my own body. It was too good to be true.
By the time I got to the oncologist, however, it was too good to be true.
I fully expected an exam and got one. He thought my scars were healing well, the bruising had diminished, and agreed that the surgeon had done a fine job salvaging a good deal of Lisbeth.
Still relatively symmetrical, Lisbeth was only a half cup smaller than her right twin (uh, former twin), Salander. Plus, the disfigurement was pretty well disguised from the front—as if anybody bothered with frontal nudity anymore except in a doctor's office.
But when the oncologist started examining Salander, the virgin twin, he got that look in his eye that made my blood run cold. “It’s probably nothing," he said somewhat casually. "But do you feel this?”
He guided my hand up under my right arm. “Uh, uh,” I stammered, “uh, sort of…maybe.”
In truth, I didn’t feel a thing. Why I was so needy as to give my oncologist hope that yet another lump existed in a place that had been examined to death is a mystery.
I gathered my wits. Or was it my outrage?
“I had an MRI of both girls specifically to find out if anything was wrong with the right one," I said. "Everyone said the right breast is fine!” So there.
I sounded like Barack Obama attacking Mitt Romney for Romney’s superior debate performance.
“It’s probably nothing,” the oncologist repeated. (I’d only heard that about 25 times before they ripped Lisbeth to shreds.)
He prescribed a mammogram and ultrasound. And, oh yes, five years of hormone blockers. "If you get a bad result," he said cheerfully. "You can always do radiation."
I was too incensed to argue. Then again, better to be sure than sorry.
Poor, innocent mammogram lady at the Polak Breast Center in Torrance as she positioned me so Lisbeth could be shoved into the jaws of death. “We’ll do the left side first,” the clinician chirped.
“NO!” I cried, clutching the couture hospital gown around poor, wounded, scarred Lisbeth. “I’ve just had eight mammograms, three biopsies, and two lumpectomies on the left side! I’m here for the right side!”
“But it’s time for your mammogram," the mammogram lady whined in a little girl's voice. "You haven’t had one since last year.”
“Touch Lisbeth and die!” I said.
Listen, everyone at the breast center has been nothing but compassionate, courteous and considerate. But there are times when an innocent clinician can send you reeling.
Still, I owed the woman an explanation.
“It's true I haven’t had a mammogram on the right side in a year," I said, praying for patience. "But I had an MRI on both sides because biopsies showed I did have cancer on the left side. Everyone said an MRI shows waaay more than a mammogram or ultrasound. So you only have my permission to crush my right boob in that thing.”
She finally gave up.
A while later, the ultrasound clinician I had seen twice before said she was surprised to see me back. “I thought we got rid of you,” she said.
“I’m giving you another chance,” I grumbled.
She, and ultimately the ultrasound doctor, did a a thorough scan, and the doctor rendered the verdict. “You’re fine. There’s nothing there.”
I smiled and said, “Oh, yes there is. All the rest of me.”