Complacency Interrupted


AdaptabilityI’m not even sure where to begin this post, so I’ll just jump in right about here and continue outward, possibly in several directions at once. I’ll be sure to sprinkle breadcrumbs along the way to help you follow.

I was lying on my back on an examination table in a small room. A very nice man, about my age had spread glop (technical term) under my arm and was moving the transducer around my right armpit. “I can’t find it,” he said. “I don’t even see it.” I pointed to the lump in my armpit with my other hand, and then raised my left arm so he could see that my left armpit had no lumps. He found the lump in question and then started moving the transducer around a bit more.

At one point he seemed to become more engaged in what he was doing. I couldn’t see the monitor, but I did hear clicks. I know those clicks, and they are not my friends. Those are the clicks the ultrasound machine makes when the tech is taking measurements of something. Those are not clicks we like to hear.

This is the part in the narrative where my writing self separates from my written-about self. Writing self is fighting tears. Written-about self gives a friendly smile to the tech and asks in a casual voice, “Oh, did you find it?”

“No, no, it’s nothing,” the tech smiles back. Liar. He grabs his phone off the desk and makes a call. “Can you come? No, now. I need you to come now. Yes. Okay.” The smiling, lying tech smiles at me some more and asks me to get dressed and wait in the corridor outside the door for a few minutes. He takes a printout from the machine and fan-folds it small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. Concealing it? Then, flashing me a final smile, he strides off.

I sit in the corridor next to a lady a few years older than I and we chat. She’s a retired hairdresser who still works a couple of days a week because who can live on social security and she discusses my split ends. (Thank you, dear.) I ask if her hair color is natural. (You’re welcome, dear.) We talk about surgeons we both know, and compare the amenities at various hospitals. (Yikes! When did I become this old person who’s been in almost every hospital in the city?) I was actually glad to see Smiling Tech come back, with a tall, bulky man in his forties following him. The younger man had “I’m the doctor” radiating from every pore. I got up to follow them back into the exam room, but the doctor gave a smile and a little bow and waved me in before him.

The whole story started almost a month ago now. I began to experience increasingly severe pain in my armpit that radiated along the inside of my arm. It was painful enough to wake me at night (even though I take strong narcotic pain relievers for the pain caused by the bone mets). It was so painful that I couldn’t use my treadmill because raising my forearm to 90 degrees to hold on was very painful. In short, it really, really hurt.

I’ve been avoiding doctors for a while now, so it took that kind of pain for me to go to my GP and ask for help. “It’s an infected lipoma,” he decided, so he prescribed antibiotics and gave me a referral for an ultrasound. The antibiotics didn’t help and the ultrasound appointment was still a way’s off. He sent me to a surgeon for a consult. “Not a lipoma,” the surgeon snorted. “It’s frozen shoulder. Go downstairs to the orthopedist. Here’s a referral.” Now, that didn’t even make sense, but whatever. I went downstairs to the orthopedist.

As it happened, I had met this orthopod before, when I fractured my ankle. He was a resident at the time, and he was so inept and caused me so much pain that I requested that he not treat me. And here he was; let joy reign unconfined. I walked in with a big smile, “Hello, Dr. S! I knew you when you were a resident.” “Long time ago,” he muttered. He read the growing pile of consult referrals, stood and walked over to me. He jabbed a finger into my shoulder. I jumped. “That hurt? It’s tendonitis. Bicep tendonitis. Take these anti-inflammatories and if it’s not better in a week go to physiotherapy. Here’s a script and a referral.”

Okey dokey. The drug Dr. S. gave me did help some, but I was still having considerable pain. The ultrasound appointment came around and I went. That brings us up to where we started. Are we all on the same page? Good.

Dr. L, whom the ultrasound tech had run off to bring, was very kind. He did a very thorough ultrasound exam, front, back and side. I heard the machine clicking away, recording more measurements. “Just one more moment and I’ll finish, then I’ll explain everything to you.”

The explanation was simple. I have a finding that appears to be an infiltrated lymph node in the axillary tail1, and another finding in the breast itself, which is oval and looks like a cyst. “We have to do a biopsy. I’ll write up my report and then you can make an appointment.” He smiled kindly at me and I tried to smile back, but I was crying.

My first breast biopsy was physically and psychologically very painful. It was at a different clinic . This one will be at the breast center instead of the general diagnostic radiology clinic. I hope that means that the clinicians will be more sensitive. I’ll let you know after the 28th of June.

1. The axillary tail (also called Spence’s tail, tail of Spence, or axillary process) is theaxillary tail part of the breast tissue that extends into the axilla (armpit). This drawing of a left breast illustrates the approximate shape and location.

Additional Note: I created the top image with the imgflip.com meme generator and the quotation is from Open Sesame by Tom Holt, which I’ve never read.

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51 Responses

  1. Maxine D says:

    Oh Knots I am weeping for you – you don’t need this, you didn’t ‘need’ any of this – I am angry at this monster and frustrated that you have to go through another biopsy….. these are initial and gut reactions, not a considered response….. be assured of my prayers, especially on the 28th!
    {{{{{gentle cyber hugs}}}}}
    Prayers and blessings

  2. Tim says:

    So sorry for the development. I’ll be thinking of you while you wait to find out more.

  3. stacey says:

    ugh, Tail of Spence sounds more like Tale of Suspense. I am sorry you have to endure this. Hugs and hope to you.

  4. Mae says:

    A big hug to Writing Self and I am in awe of Written About Self for her composure and strength. I know it is not easy to navigate these meetings especially with a head full of split ends! I am thinking of you and sending you positive thoughts.

  5. yvonne says:

    I wish days filled with peace and serenity and send to you loving prayers.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Greetings, dear Knots…thank you for writing about the reality of living mid-stream with MMTSD (medical mid-traumatic stress disorder).

    It IS hard to determine who and what is going to help or hurt you.

    Knots, as you head into this next encounter, I will keep you in my healing prayers.

    May all your health care providers provide competent, kind and healing care as you investigate and deal with this next challenge. May you feel the loving care of your many readers wishing you well-being. And may God ever strengthen your inner being.

    best, Stephanie

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thank you so much for your prayer and wishes, Stephanie.
      Yes, sometimes it feels like a traumatic event that just won’t end.

  7. Kathi says:

    So, the orthopod appears to have been wrong. Again. Dear One, I’m so sorry. Crap. I wish you didn’t have to wait so long for the biopsy. And I hope they remember this time to apply some kind of local and/or topical anaesthetic before they do the biopsy. And wait for it to work before they start. xoxo

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thanks, Kathi.
      I do know that I’m going to take a lorazepam before the biopsy this time. I’m also doing some visualization and desensitization because I’m worried about triggering that first awful experience.

  8. Rebecca says:

    I am sorry you’re re-living all of this again.

    Agree with Kathi, ask that they provide a lot of local and/or topical anesthetic. And they need to wait a few minutes before they start performing the biopsy — that’s I had to do for mine and it was strangely painless.

    Thinking of you and hoping you reach some level of peace while you wait.

  9. Susanne says:

    Oh, honey. All I can say is that I love you and you’re in my prayers.

  10. Julie Frayn says:

    Your orthopod sounds like Carolyn’s nurse practitioner. They shouldn’t be allowed in the room when they always get it so wrong. This all sucks. And blows. xoxo

  11. ada says:

    You are an amazing writer , makes me feel like I was there with you..Sending you lots of love and will keep you in my prayers .hugs!!

  12. Sharon Armstrong says:

    I’m truly sorry about the latest developments. I was hoping it was something that could be quickly rectified. It seems to never end doesn’t it? I first had lymphoma, almost made it 5 years cancer free, then diagnosed at stage IV with breast cancer. Now they want to replace my knee and remove my gallbladder. Really? Can I deal with one major health problem at a time please? But I digress…Sending you hugs and prayers. Hope the biopsy is quick and painless. Take 2 lorazepam, they’re small!

  13. Gail Speers says:

    I’m sorry to hear about this. Courage and strength friend. The uncertainty of not knowing is always the worst. Do take extra good care of yourself. Do something special spontaneously. Find a good distraction … For me that is anything art related and specifically I am deeply involved in learning and trying various jewellery making technique , I like bead weaving the best. After the biopsy you will get info and together with your Drs you will make a plan and then you will feel better, when you are in action mode rather than this anxiety producing wait made. Best to you…

  14. Yes, Knot, please update us after your biopsy. A lot of people care about you. I know I do.

  15. Bill says:


    Years ago I had a scary armpit biopsy, and the only thing I remember is that a very kind nurse held my hand tightly while they did the procedure. I was terrified and that warm, helpful hand was all I could rely on.

    In whatever form it takes, I wish you to have a “comforting hand” during your procedure, whatever the outcome might be.

    Hoping for you that the outcome will be less bad than you now seem to expect–big hugs!

  16. Elizabeth J. says:

    So sorry Knot, you will be in my prayers.
    Not all biopsy experiences are alike. My first one, they did not use sufficient anesthesia. I think my scream reached the C above high C when they went into an area without anesthesia. My second biopsy was only a couple of weeks later at the cancer center, properly anesthesized and a family member was allowed in to keep me distracted. (The doctor said she had heard many unusual conversations, but ours about J.S. Bach was a first.) So don’t be afraid of a repeat of that first awful biopsy.
    I am sorry you have to wait so long, but I pray they will be gentle with you this time. May your heart and mind find the peace of God’s presence.

  17. Beth Gainer says:

    Knot, please let us know how your biopsy turns out. Perhaps this one won’t be as bad as the last one. I’m sorry you have to go through all this crap.

  18. I wish I could bring a bottle, or take you dancing, or just give you big hugs… I remember both of my breast biopsies, all of my biopsies in fact. I hope this time yours is gentle and pain free. Ridiculous finger jabbing orthopod. Thinking of you, my friend. Always, xoxo

  19. Yvonne says:

    I stumbled upon your posts as several people I went to school with in Georgia are connected with you on Facebook. I appreciate your honesty and candor. You exhibit grace…under extreme pressure. I am sorry for what you are going through.
    Wishing you comfort and peace. Yvonne

    • Knot Telling says:

      Hello, Yvonne. Welcome to my blog. I hope you’ll be coming back to visit now that you have the address. 🙂

      You must be a Model girl, right? I love you guys.

  20. Sometimes I fear the medical process is like a web or cave I cannot escape–the whole “no it’s this, no, that previous doctor was wrong, it’s this”. Horrible. And ugh, my biopsy was painful too–they did not wait for the topical to even begin to work! So I echo Kathi’s comment totally! Keeping you in my thoughts now, until the 28th, and always of course!

  21. tracy says:

    Sometimes people are inept. I still don’t know how so many of them end up dealing with us as their patients and thank goodness they aren’t all the same because none of us would ever bother going to the hospital of GP if they were! Thinking of you Knot, this isn’t the kind of discovery any of us wants to make.

  22. I have already used all my words so now all I have is onomatopoeia.

  23. Barbara says:

    Thinking of you. I hate not knowing almost worse than knowing. Blessings no matter what you are covered.

  24. Nora says:

    Thinking of you Knot, in prayer and love. So sorry for the same old, same old song and dance that isn’t even a good song and dance. I hope the days that lay ahead bring something kind and gentle in your wait. Peace, njp

  1. 29 June, 2015

    […] that’s all over now. As I wrote about three weeks ago, a large, painful swelling had developed under my arm. I saw several doctors and ultimately was […]

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