Lila is the Sanskrit word for cosmic play, or creative sport. I use it here to mean a little dance, a little play, a drama between two people – the players are myself and the radiology doctor I met this week.
This is the story of my breast biopsy. I’m aware that some readers may not want to read it, and that is understandable. I don’t even know why I write it. Except that it is a story of how people can change, and interactions shift, if we better understand the other person. No matter what our own drama is at the moment, it is beneficial to remember this simple concept, too often forgotten. On this day it was critical for me to remember.
Early morning drive to biopsy. White frost everywhere, bright sun low in the January sky. It is beautiful. I can think of a million things I’d rather be doing.
I have danced around the roller coaster of fears, anxiety, even moments of calm acceptance, for a week, since the dreaded call telling me my mammogram has something ‘suspicious’ on it, an area of ‘concern’. A ‘call back’, what every women with a history of breast cancer dreads. This was my second in three years. All these carefully chosen words that beat around the liability bush, as if those vague words will calm the fears and anxieties.
Responding to my asking again (our conversation Monday did not go well), the doctor reaffirms she believes the lesion is cancerous. She starts the biopsy procedure after telling me I’m likely to bleed and develop a hematoma because of a large blood vessel at the site. The pressure on my already painful breast is excruciating and I flinch. The doctor tells me I can’t move and says she won’t start something she can’t finish and maybe I need to be anesthetized and have a surgeon do the biopsy (she is a radiology doctor), she knows I have a reaction to anesthesia, have almost died from it.
What the hell am I suppose to do, lying there all prepped for this vacuum assisted needle biopsy? We have a tense conversation, I’m in tears telling her I can’t help it if I live in a painful body (the breast pain, at the site of the lesion, has been particularly bad lately). She is being contrary, I am ready to get up and walk out and tell her I will come back when I can have a different doctor. But I don’t, that inner voice is overridden by something else in me that knows I need to go through this with her and it will be okay. Since Monday that voice has told me this lila with her simply is, don’t let it get to me. I convince her to go ahead, I will do the best I can and expect her to do the same.
Something shifts, after a self-disclosing remark that makes me realize this doctor has poor self-esteem, as a woman in a male dominated field (radiology docs) I am not surprised by her defensiveness, and nervousness about doing a procedure on a body that is an anomaly. After she starts with the local anesthesia needle, she cracks a joke and then says she has a bad sense of humor, and mumbles something about how she isn’t creative, or good at gardening either. This unintentional exposure of her vulnerable, “underbelly” side, shifts her energy. She starts asking me what would help with the pain, a warm blanket? (again she is self disclosing, “I’ve had lots of surgeries and I like warm blankets”), something to grasp in my other hand? (Out comes the smiley face squeeze ball). We are working together now.
The procedure went perfect, the blood vessel “amazingly” contracted and was not in the way. I joked a bit with her. Afterwards she was surprised at how well I did. I told her I would tell her my ‘secret’ some day, she said, why not now? I told her about taking oral Arnica, did not get around to telling her about Rescue Remedy, the Ayurvedic herbs for balancing the nervous system, or the homeopathic Calms I took right before she came into the room. (They wanted me to take Valium.) I also didn’t tell her about focusing on the “third eye”, and using breath.
She left the room with a smile, a softer person than when she walked in.
Overweight, rather pale, a woman in early middle age, she identifies with her work, it is where she feels good about herself, she clearly is experienced and tries to do a good job. Some of my questions Monday, I believe, she took as challenges – questions like “would another doctor read this the same and recommend a biopsy?” or “Is this a gray area?”, none of which were meant to challenge, only to inform me, the ambivalent patient who had just been told she needs a breast biopsy due to a ‘suspicious lesion’.
Now, with ice packs on my poor poked boob, I recover…….and I wait.
The doctor, by now, is on to another biopsy. What is a routine day for her is a life-changing day for me.