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asymmetry, billing and surgery dates

Last week at 4:36 am, Barry and I started the drive to UAB. My first appointment wasn’t until 10:30 but if you know me, you know I don’t like being late. We stopped for breakfast at Waffle House somewhere in southern Alabama and then drove the rest of the way to Birmingham. Parking was so easy. The facility was clean and I was impressed with the ease of the check in process. Not 5 minutes after we sat down, an hour early!, and someone was calling my name. We were πŸ’― in the wrong place but they found me and sent me in for my mammogram.

The mammogram itself wasn’t bad at all. I wouldn’t describe it as painful in any way. It was definitely awkward. And I didn’t realize they could get that flat but it wasn’t bad at all. I told the technician that I thought the machine was cool and she laughed. Apparently I’m the first patient to ever say that. I mean, hello! It saves lives!! That process was quick and I was still full of food from our Waffle House breaky therefore I was happy and smiley. My moods are directly related to my level of hunger I find. We finished the mammogram at 10:27 which was 3 mins before my appointment was even scheduled for! Yay!

Except that meant I had a whole hour to wait for my appointment with the genetic counselor and Julie the breast specialist. I decided to take out my nose ring during that hour to prepare for the MRI. It’s been in for like 2.5 years and I didn’t know how that process was going to go. It wasn’t as bad as I expected but it’s weird how much different I felt.

So they took me back at my appointment time, did the vitals and then we sat in this itsy bitsy room with the genetic counselor. She drew a chart with my family history represented by βš«οΈβ—ΌοΈ and βž•βž–. Male/Female or positive/negative for brca1. I loooooved the genetic counselor. She was very sweet and took my hot mess family history with no judgement. I mean it’s complicated.

Then Julie came in. Every time I say Julie know that I’m saying it with so much love and admiration. It’s like a swoony voice and I definitely have heart eyes. Julie is amazing.

The genetic testing said I was at an 89% risk for breast cancer by 70. That’s pretty shitty. Julie took into my family history, health history and personal habits and knocked that down to about 65%. Which is still SIGNIFICANTLY higher than the average population at 12% but not like a walk on death row. She expected my decision to have the prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction and said NoLa is a great place and some of her patients go there. I think I kind of surprised her with my lack of fear. I mean I’m nervous and scared but not FEARFUL. I was laughing and joking and she told me it was noted in my file that I was a heavy caffeine user πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚.

And then Julie got three pages. In a row. About my mammogram. Like you know that’s not good. I watch grey’s anatomy. They don’t page repeatedly to say your scans are clean and perfect and things are great! Turns out ol’ lefty is asymmetric. I didn’t know what that meant, still don’t really know other than it’s just different from the right. Apparently 10% of the population have asymmetry in their breasts. (See just another coin toss I lost at.) It meant I would need an ultrasound. They wanted it after my MRI just in case the MRI picked up anything else. However they didn’t have any openings. So they squeezed me into a slot right before my MRI. And Julie gave me my first real breast exam. It’s vastly different from the ones your OBGYN does. But she couldn’t feel anything in lefty, no bumps or lumps or anything which made her feel better.

Ultrasound was basic. No cute babies sucking their thumbs or showing off their goodies. This time it was just black and I couldn’t see a single thing. The tech did her exam and then the radiologist came in and did an exam and she said it was likely a benign nodule in my milk duct. (I mean my milk ducts barely worked. Why is there any kinda nodule anywhere in them?! That’s a blog post for a different day though.)

I was 3 minutes late for my MRI. I was sweating because I hate being late. AND I couldn’t wear deodorant. Ugh. I smelled. Stress sweat is the worrrrrst.

So they call me back for the MRI. I get my IV for contrast, double gown on for easy access and head into the room. We get situated. Which was easier than I expected yet not like EASY. (Your breasts go into separate cubbies so they can take images of each breast. It took a little maneuvering but we had it done. The tech had raised the platform and started to send me into the tube feet first when a voice came over and said “stop the scan!”

Turns out they hadn’t gotten preauthorization for my MRI from my insurance and MRIs are very costly. Despite me having been on the books for literally two months. Whatever it wasn’t a big deal. We sat in this room and they called and tried to get my authorization. Head of MRI came and apologized to me. Head of breast center billing came and apologized to me. I wasn’t mad just ready to get it over with. Eat me tacos and get Home to my babies.

About 2 hours later I said I wanted to just sign the paper saying if my insurance wouldn’t pay I would. (Gulp $5000-thats a LOT of LuLaRoe leggings to sell!) The MRI took place. Was weird AF but not as bad as i had expected. My place holder nose ring is forever lost in the MRI machine tho!

I got my clothes on and met Barry in the lobby. The breast center billing lady apologized again and gave us a $25 gas card which was incredibly sweet but unnecessary. The MRI billing head was amazing and basically was like honey you’re not paying this bill. I kind of loved her too.

And then we had the best tacos ever.

Legit best tacos ever. I kind of can’t wait to go back to Birmingham in August for my mammogram and maybe ultrasound.

MRI results came back when we were driving home, agree with benign nodule (probably NOT cancer)! πŸ™ŒπŸ½πŸ™ŒπŸ½πŸ™ŒπŸ½

I. Don’t. Have. Cancer.

The first time I said that sentence was one of the most liberating moments of my life.

And i scheduled my surgery today for 9/11!

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So, I had a really positive phone call with the charge nurse of the New Orleans facility. Since I’m cancer free and this is a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction (definitely thinking positively today!) I will be eligible for a nipple and skin sparing mastectomy. That means everything will look pretty much the same when all is said and done only better.

I will need to be in New Orleans for about 9 days total. a day or two before, three nights in the hospital after surgery and then on day 7 post op I’ll be released to go home. I’ll come home with (likely) two abdominal drains. She said since I’m relatively young and healthy the recovery time should be between 5 and 6 weeks. She said I won’t be able to lift anything but I should be able to drive pretty quickly. (I am so afraid of being completely reliant on everyone so this felt SO good to hear!) She said I would have to take it easy and rest but still move.

I also found out I’m a candidate for the type of reconstruction I wanted! DIEP Flap Reconstruction. You can read about it here!Β I might have to do an extended DIEP which just means a longer abdominal incision. They’ll not only use belly fat but my hip fat too! (BYEEEE love handles!) She said my surgery would last between 7-9 hours! There will be two surgeons, the oncologist surgeon who will remove every speck of breast tissue and then send it to pathology followed by the micro plastic surgeon that will do the reconstruction! Three months after recovery, I go back to NoLa for a night and have phase 2 done. Since everything is already going to look good (her words, not mine) it’ll just be fine tuning and LIPOSUCTION if I want it. Say what?? You’re about to see as much of my navel as an early 2000’s Britney video. Sorry, not sorry!

I am waiting to hear from their benefits coordinator/billing person to find out how much my insurance is going to cover but I think it’s a 100% doable figure for us out of pocket. If not I’m definitely not above a GoFundMe haha! Feeling incredibly grateful for TriCare right about now. In my dream world tomorrow’s scans show no cancer or anything sketchy and I can schedule surgery for 9/7. (7 is my lucky number, I realize that’s irrational but like, hey it’s my dream world.)

Things are all set for us to leave super early tomorrow! Still SO grateful for everyone that has volunteered to help with the kids and extra thankful for Nacho Mama, Geri for taking care of my punks!



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The week of a million appointments

Ok, so I’m being dramatic. But this is a big week, medically. Starting with today. I have a phone consultation with a surgery center in New OrleansΒ at 1 o’clock. I’m definitely not procrastinating the things I’m supposed to do by writing a blog post, nope, not me! I’m anxious for this phone call even though realistically I know that there’s nothing specific about my case/body that they’ll be able to tell me. It’s supposed to last close to an hour. I am not quite sure what we’ll talk about for that whole hour but we’ll see!

Thursday, Barry and I are heading up to Birmingham for three appointments. Mammogram first, specialist second and then MRI last. I’m so incredibly grateful for my friends that have volunteered to shuttle my kids and especially for Geri. She is getting up Bondi early to take them to school and of course, it’s Thursday. Emilia has ballet. Not an easy day like M/W/F but it has to be on a ballet day! Ha! She’s excited for the challenge and my kids are stoked to have their actual favorite person watch them. Owen even suggested that I could stay in Birmingham for like two weeks if I needed to. (He totally loves me.)

I will gladly accept any and all good vibes today and Thursday. If I’m being honest, I’m afraid for Thursday. Not for the tests themselves. I mean a mammogram certainly won’t be FUN, and sitting in a tube for 45 minutes listening to a disjointed symphony won’t be FUN either but I’m terrified for the results. My cousin was my age when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. There’s this voice in the back of my head telling me it could be and it’s getting progressively louder the closer to Thursday we get.

If all goes well on Thursday, I am hoping to schedule my surgery for early September. There are a few reasons for my desire to schedule it so ‘far’ out and most have to do with my kids. It’s almost summer vacation already. I mean, I just paid for my kids’ dance recital costume! It’s happening faster than I can imagine. I don’t want to spend my kids’ entire summer stuck in a recliner. (Also, that’s something I’ll get to shop for in the future, apparently it’s the most comfortable place to sleep after mastectomy!) I want to be able to take them to the pool, or the beach, or miniature golfing. Or be able to drive them to the store for food. I know my recovery is going to be kind of intense. It just makes the most sense to me to wait until then. I know Barry will help as much as possible and I have a hood full of people willing and wanting to help. I also want to be able to rest and recover and that just isn’t happening with my kids home. If the flu showed me anything, it’s that when they’re home mama doesn’t rest.

Thanks for reading and I am accepting good vibes from now until eternity πŸ™‚