Stress & (Not) Eating & Ramblings

The days between finding out the results of my mammograms (bilateral BI-RADS category 4 microcalcifications = suspicious for malignancy) and the biopsies done yesterday, I behaved very unlike me. I did not eat to soothe my anxiety. In fact, I had almost no anxiety until the day before when I started feeling what I can only described as “scared”. When pressed by my spouse to talk about it, the feeling came from being out of control of a medical situation, having my body touched, being exposed. All normal things that most people in a patient role experience, but some of us have more issues than others about our bodies. I am one of them.

For years I spent my life with my head cut off from the rest of me – literally. Probably explains why it was so easy to gain 100 pounds during my medical residency as I lost what little contact with my physical self that I had from vigorous sports. To keep the numbness going, I started binge eating after 36 hours of work (ah, the good ol’ days). Then bingeing became a way of dealing with stress in general.

One way I tried to control my life was through knowledge, understanding, problem solving. Free kindergarten did not exist when and where we lived when I was 5, so my Dad started teaching me to read and do math at a very young age. I quickly learned that the world seemed much easier to control if I could wrap my little brain around facts and put them together. Makes for a school-smart kid. Doesn’t necessarily help make one a complete person. He also taught me to play football, baseball/softball and from there I took off on every sport I could participate in. Great stress reduction to move one’s body. My family was extraordinarily loving. Still I split my head from my body.

Fast forward to last week when faced, literally, with my mammograms while talking with the radiologist. All the things that I know, that I researched and taught others to do when faced with medical decisions flew out the window. I didn’t ask enough questions. I stammered around trying to act like a doctor and a patient, trying to keep the detachment in my brain from the obvious physical abnormalities staring at me from the radiology view boxes. After calling Sue and realizing how totally numb that I felt, I went to Starbucks with iPad in hand to research the radiographic findings and get a little soothed from some mocha and caffeine (my one sugar treat). I couldn’t do it. I wrote the last blog post instead. I talked to my Mom (um, she’s dead, so it was a one-sided conversation). Then I steeled myself for the binge urge – it never came. Emotions never came until Sunday night when that feeling of being out of control hit hard.

Segue to yesterday at the radiologists’ office – an amazingly woman-centered environment. With Sue in tow, we arrived early. Suddenly Sue (who had her own breast cancer scare 4 years ago) tells me that the doc doing my biopsies went to the same medical school that we did! Why should that be so comforting? She might still be a jerk – many physicians are. She was wonderful – answered what questions I had and more that I hadn’t thought of; thoroughly explained the procedure; and then spent the entire time (it took 2.5 hours because, well both sides and it takes time to position, repeat pictures, etc.) talking with me as a human and a colleague. We yapped about medicine, Tucson, Texas, public health. I stayed in my head entirely. This time being able to disconnect from the neck down was very adaptive. Only today when I took off my sports bra did I realize how much time my breasts had spent under compression. How stiff one can get from lying like a pretzel wrapped around a machine for a couple of hours. How much pain you can ignore until the stress is gone. Ow, my neck hurts. My shoulders hurt. My boobs – fine as long they stay supported. My emotional state is good also. I don’t feel numb but am eager/anxious to find out the results by Thursday and move on from there.

For anyone who has to have a breast biopsy in the future let me reassure you that the procedure (stereotactic vacuum assisted core biopsy) is relatively painless compared to the old days of sticking a 14-gauge needle in and poking around.

This post has been more stream-of-consciousness than usual. Good for me, not so good for the reader. If you made it to the bottom of the post, I promise not to do this again – until the next time that I do. šŸ™‚

8 thoughts on “Stress & (Not) Eating & Ramblings

  1. Well, if anyone has a right to ramble right now, I think it’s you. Good for you for choosing the keyboard over the cupboard. šŸ™‚

    Eons ago (1993?) I had a lump and had to go for additional testing. I was blown away by the “girl power” in the stripped-and-gowned waiting room. There were six of us initially and the room had a TV tuned to some soap opera which we were all fixated on. A new patient walked in and asked a question about the program. Not one of us could answer! Each of us were locked away inside the fear sections of our brains, imagining the worst and hoping for the best.

    But when the woman asked about the soap opera and we all looked at each other blankly, something broke through the fear and we began to laugh. After that, we began to talk and share information and thoughts and fears. So totally cathartic. By the time I got back to the sonogram area, I was relaxed and ready to participate intelligently in the process. Fortunately for me, I had a substantial but benign lump, which was subsequently removed to make sure there weren’t any problem freeloaders behind it.

    Still thinking of you and wishing you strength and peace….

  2. I had never thought of that feeling as cutting my jead off from my body – but that is an accurate description of what I do, too. When I had an issue with a mammogram ( after my siter was diagnosed with breast cancer) and then again with a suspect Pap result, I submitted myself bodily to all that they wanted to do, but my mind was somehow not involved in the same way. Having a good doc is important, having a loved one with you to participate is even better.

    Many positive thoughts being sent your way.

  3. Isn’t it wonderful to have a venue like your blog to write about this experience and share with others. Just being able to express your thoughts and fears helps lesson the anxiety.

    It just goes to show that no matter how much training you have, how much knowledge about medicine, when you are the patient all the normal fears and anxieties swoop in and take over.

    Wishing you well as you wait for the rest of the results and praying for a good outcome.

  4. I love your posts where your personality comes through. I know it’s hard for you waiting. Fingers crossed and good vibes sent your way. I find it’s really hard to be a patient and a doctor. We know too much. Hang in there!

  5. Catching up on my blog reading – I am so sorry you’re having to deal with this and I sincerely hope the biopsies come back clear. What a scary time you’ve been having. I’m really impressed with how you’ve been writing about it – just getting it all out has got to feel good. It’s so surreal, isn’t it, to have this happen. Healing thoughts are being sent your way.

    P.S. Re the Vibrams – how long does it take you to put them on? I stopped after the first shoe – I was worn out!

    • Thanks for the kind thoughts. Regarding the Vibrams, after a few times putting them on is easy, just concentrate on you toes first then then rest of the shoe. Should be like putting on a glove, but it isn’t! Those little piggies just don’t want to separate.

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