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Life After Credit Card Debt – A Stressful 2010 So Far

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Hi Everyone. Tricia here with a long overdue update. I missed December’s update completely. The last Friday of the month (that’s when I update) landed on Christmas day and in the excitement I forgot about it. When it was time to write January’s update, I didn’t feel like writing a single word. Financially, things have been fine. We are still credit card debt free and we’re still plugging away at our other debt. Emotionally, well, I was a wreck.

It’s sort of my unwritten rule that I do not discuss people close to me on here unless I can keep it very general or if they say it’s okay. So you’ll have to pardon me when I say there was someone close to me with a health issue but do not give any more details. It’s tough when you know someone having troubles. I am a worry wart – I didn’t handle it well. A little bit later I found myself with my own health issue. Since that issue is about me, it’s fair game to blog about so I will take this update as my chance to do so.

Before you read any further, what I am about to write is not necessarily finance-related although the financial aspect of it will probably be discussed in a future update. It also may be too much information for some of you and it’s definitely not what you would expect to read on a debt blog. It’s still very fresh on my mind and it’s been a part of my “Life After Credit Card Debt.” Rather than skip yet another update, I decided to write about it.

Deep breath…here we go…

I still remember the exact moment I felt it. It was a small, hard lump a little bigger than a pea. I finished up my shower and as soon as I saw my husband I said, “I found a lump in my breast.” The next morning I told my doctor what I had found and she wanted to see me at my earliest convenience. I made an appointment and tried not to think about it too much. When it was time for her to see me, she confirmed that she felt the lump in my left breast and she said the next step would be to get a mammogram. I’m in my early 30s, I never thought I would be having a mammogram so soon.

My husband went with me to my mammogram appointment. He asked the technician if he could go in the mammogram room with me (what a sweetie) but the technician said he couldn’t because of the radiation. The technician left me alone in the mammogram room to change and I slipped on the hospital gown. There was a mirror on the wall and I found myself gazing into it, feeling like all of this was a dream. I heard a knock and the technician came back in. As my breasts took turns being compressed in the mammogram machine I knew it wasn’t a dream. When it was over, the technician left the room to develop the film. I decided to stand instead of sit in the pink recliner. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the x-rays start to appear on the technician’s computer monitor behind the glass. I pressed my face as close to the glass as I could. There was my left breast. I didn’t see the lump I felt, but I saw some white in the area where the lump was. I knew enough from researching mammogram pictures on the internet that white isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My right breast pictures started to appear. Clear as day, there was a mass. I was completely surprised – my left breast had a palpable lump, not my right!

The technician came back and said that the radiologist didn’t need any more pictures and that I could get dressed and leave. I wouldn’t receive my results for a few days. I joined my husband in the waiting room and we went home. Life went on as I anxiously waited for the results. I jumped every time the phone rang. Almost a week later the results came back. It wasn’t the worst news, but it wasn’t the best news either. The results were inconclusive – I needed to have a follow-up ultrasound. The appointment was made for that and again I had to wait. Of course, I hit the internet again but this time I filled my brain with ultrasound pictures.

The day of the exam, my husband had to work so he couldn’t be there with me. The technician left the ultrasound room while I slipped on the hospital gown. This time I didn’t think I was in a dream. It was all very real and part of me wished I was back to thinking it was a dream – if only for a little bit. The technician came back and instructed me to lay on the bed. She squirted the cold gel on my body and the ultrasound began. She located the mass in the right breast first. It was uncomfortable, but I managed to contort my neck enough to allow me to view the monitor. There was definitely a mass, but the inside of it was black. Fluid shows up as black on an ultrasound so I took that as a good sign that maybe the mass was just a cyst. Whew. She moved the ultrasound wand to the other breast. She started hitting buttons on the ultrasound console to mark something on the screen. Mark what? I couldn’t tell heads from tails with what I could see on the screen.

When she was done I asked if I would receive results that day and she slightly chuckled that it would take a few days for the radiologist to review and for me to receive the results. She left the room to talk to the radiologist to make sure he or she didn’t need any more pictures. I sat up from the bed and reviewed the ultrasound pictures still on the screen. I didn’t like what I saw (or rather couldn’t see) with the left breast lump. I forced myself to lay back down and stare at the ceiling tiles. I’m not a radiologist. I have no clue what the ultrasound pictures mean and I had to stop looking at them.

The technician’s knock broke my tile-counting concentration. She walked in and she wasn’t alone. The man with her was dressed in business casual attire and not wearing scrubs. My heart dropped even before he introduced himself as the radiologist. I knew it wasn’t a good sign when she brought him back with her. He started off by talking about the mass in my right breast. It was nothing to worry about and blah, blah, blah. Seriously, I don’t know what all he said. You’d think that I would have felt some relief at that news but I didn’t. He was there for a reason and it wasn’t to tell me everything was okay. Finally he started talking about the lump in my left breast. Again, I don’t remember everything that he said but he did mention that he didn’t think the lump was cancer. That was the first time anyone uttered the “C” word to me. I tried my hardest to keep my face emotionless but a single tear managed to slip out and travel down my right cheek.

I had a few options. I could come in for follow-up ultrasounds at six months and a year to see if there are any changes with the lump or I could have a biopsy right then and there. Biopsies are more invasive than an ultrasound but you will know for sure if a lump is cancerous or benign without waiting months. I bet I don’t have to say which option I chose.

The radiologist performed a fine needle aspiration biopsy. He numbed my breast with a shot of lidocaine – the same anesthetic that dentists use to numb your gums. With the technician showing the way with the ultrasound machine, the radiologist pierced my skin and navigated the needle to the lump. The needle draws out either fluid or pieces of the lump depending on what the lump is made out of. I had wanted to watch the procedure itself to see what ended up in the needle barrel but given my awkward position and the needle angle I couldn’t see it. I did the next best thing and watched the procedure on the monitor. After three aspirations with the needle the procedure was finished. I asked how long the results would take and they told me 2-3 days.

I went home and the waiting period began. I found an article from the New York Times that said that the anxiety of waiting for biopsy results appears to affect stress hormone levels just as much as finding out you have cancer does. I believe it. The stress broke me down.

Two days passed. Three days passed. Four, then five days passed. I received a telephone call – the person close to me was going to be just fine. A large portion of the weight on my shoulders was lifted as I soaked in the good news. The last thing to know about was the result of my biopsy. Six days passed. Finally, a week after my biopsy I heard the results: benign. That single word was what I wanted to hear. I started balling. It wasn’t because I was overjoyed and it definitely wasn’t because I was sad. I had been under so much stress the past few months and kept most of it in. I felt it was finally time to cry buckets and I did. I let it all out.

So now we are at the present day. It’s been only a few days since hearing the benign word. I think it’s a funny looking word, but it’s oh so beautiful. This weekend I will be digging back into our finances again since they have been put on the back burner. It’s also time to start our taxes to see where we stand with those this year. The next update will be lighter fare (I certainly hope!) and related to finances.

Till next time…


23 Comments

  • Reply jaye |

    Tricia,
    The same thing happened to me, more or less. I had the trip to the doctor, the mammogram and ultrasound. Thankfully, I didn’t need the biopsy, as I was fine. But, oh, it was so scary. It is so easy to let one’s imagination wander down dark pathways. Especially when kids are involved!

    I will say that I didn’t bother with internet research, as I’d been warned that that can lead to more stress.

    In any case, I’m so happy for you and your family. Good for you for finding the lump and dealing with it right away. It sounds like 2010 might just be a lucky year after all!

    -Jaye

  • Reply Tricia |

    Jaye – I’m happy to hear that your experience turned out just fine! My mind did wander down a dark pathway for a little bit, especially after the biopsy. There is good that came from all of this. It kicked me in the butt and gave me some strength to finally kick the smoking habit. I haven’t done it yet, since my quit date isn’t here yet. But I’m getting ready for it!

  • Reply Maria |

    Tricia: I am SO glad that all is well. I have had surgical biopsies on each breast (general anaesthesia and surgery to remove the suspicious lump). Both times it was benign but it is VERY scary. Your doctors have probably already mentioned this already, but in addition to monthly self exams you should make sure that your internist or gynecologist is doing their own exam at least once a year. Some women seem to produce benign tumors and, if you are one of those people, you need to stay on top of what’s going on with your breasts. Glad you had a good outcome!

  • Reply whitney |

    Oh Tricia, I am sorry you had to go through that! I am so glad that it turned out okay! How can we get you back to blogging? Will begging help?

  • Reply Jenn |

    Tricia, so glad to hear you are okay and see you blogging again. I jad a needle biopsy this week on my breast as well, it is my second one and I am only 25, i so know what you mean when you say you were in your 30’s and didn’t think that this was something you should have to worry about. So glad all is well, mine was beningn also, here is to a happy healthy financailly fit 2010 for us all!

  • Reply E.D. |

    So glad it turned out well for you. I had the exact same thing happen a couple of years ago at age 32. I did have the extra mammogram pictures, and the ultrasound showed a large, hard lump. I had to wait for a core biopsy, which came back as fibroadenoma (benign). These can be hereditary and I knew I would eventually have to deal with it. I just hoped I could get to 40 without a mammogram.

    About a year after the biopsy, I had it completely removed because it was annoying me. It was the size and shape of a pecan and happily still benign.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Maria & E.D – I’m so glad to hear that everything turned out well for the both of you! In my internet research I found stories of cancerous lumps but not too many about benign ones. It’s always nice to read about those πŸ™‚

    whitney – I almost came back to blogging. I had a domain name all ready but that was as far as I got. Maybe someday.

    I’m actually still waiting to hear about what my lump was (when I was told the results they only told me benign). The biopsy did not make the lump very happy. Right after the procedure it was smaller than before. About four days after it started getting bigger than ever. I may end up getting it removed if it doesn’t settle down once the bruise goes away.

  • Reply Grace |

    Wll, you’re a lot more patient than I was when the same thing happened to me. The radiologist called me late on a Friday to tell me the results, but I missed the call by five minutes. When I called back, she had left for the day and no one was willing to look at the file and tell me anything. I threw a fit, stayed on the phone until they got me to someone who could tell me what was going on, and told them there was no way I was going to spend the whole week-end worrying. Even if it was bad, I wanted to know. Someone finally got through to the radiologist who called and said I had calcium deposits, which were no cause for concern. Whew! I thanked the Dr. but I did NOT apologize for calling her outside of office hours!

  • Reply Mar |

    Tricia, I’m so glad everything is okay. Some of us were wondering what had happened to you, so it’s nice to hear that, in the end, everything is okay. Whew! Aren’t you glad you didn’t have debt? At least you didn’t have THAT stress, too…

  • Reply Tricia |

    Grace – if they called and I happened to miss the call I would have done just what you have done.

    Mar – it’s funny that you mentioned the stress about debt. Part of the dark pathway my mind went down involved debt. Specifically, what would we do if my lump wasn’t benign. We have some money in savings, but not enough to cover all of the medical expenses and time away from work. It’s time to do some disability insurance shopping.

  • Reply jaye |

    Hey Tricia,
    When IS your quit date? Good for you for taking on smoking next! We all know you can do it–it can’t be harder than what you’ve already done!

  • Reply Nicole |

    Tricia, I’m so glad to hear the story has a positive ending. How difficult those months must have been for you. You have a huge group of people caring about you out here in blogland! πŸ˜‰ And I wholeheartedly agree that you should come back to blogging!

  • Reply Jen |

    I’m so very glad to hear it was benign!! But not as happy as you were to hear it, I’m sure πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Jean |

    So glad for the good report. I can’t imagine what it was like to go through all of that waiting – and frankly, I hope I never have to experience it. Good for you for quitting smoking, too! Hope 2010 ends better than it started out for you.

  • Reply Lana |

    Tricia,

    So glad to see your post!

    Whew. I’m glad you are okay. I know where you have been! I was in a similar position 8 years ago. I had a 1 year old and I was convinced she was going to be motherless. I had a surgical removal of the lump and it was benign. But, man, it was so scary … I went to the doctor with a lump on Wednesday, had the imaging done on Thursday and was in surgery on Monday. Since doctors NEVER seem speedy with appointments, I was totally 100% freaked out.

    I look forward to hearing from you next month! πŸ™‚

  • Reply sandra |

    Ah – good for you Tricia! You scared us! Since my scare a few years ago – I ENJOY getting my yearly mamogram – smash away – tell me I’m fine – so worth it!

    SO good to hear from you – keep us on your calendar.

  • Reply Claire in CA, USA |

    Wow, what a crazy 2010 you’ve had so far, Tricia! So glad to hear the lump was benign. I’ve been there, as well, just a month or so ago. No biopsy required, but they did a mammo and an ultrasound in the same day. I was so nervous waiting for the results, but all was okay here, too. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Tricia |

    jaye – My quit date is 03-13-10.

    sandra – I have the same view of mammograms now. It really wasn’t that bad, either. I think the worse part of it was the technician flopping me around LOL.

  • Reply MLM |

    Thank goodness everything turned out okay, for you and your friend. A while back (and this is kind of embarrassing) I read your whole blog over the course of a couple weeks. I can’t believe how much debt you paid off. I really hope you return to blogging!

  • Reply scout |

    Tricia,
    I’m so thrilled that you and your relative are fine. So many positive vibes have been sent to you over the past few years and they continue.

    Your dedication to clearing your credit card debt has been inspirational and meaningful to so many. Maybe that lump (metaphorically) was the last vestige of the debt-stress that had built up in your life and wanted to remind you how far you have come in appreciating what you have in your life.

    I know that quitting smoking will be incredibly difficult, but just as thoughts of your son and family motivated your journey out of debt, I know they will be even more motivating on nicotine-free journey.

    Please keep us updated. Frankly, you are still the reason I read this blog.

    Beks life is interesting, but debt relief doesn’t seem to be a high priority anymore.

    Wishing you well.

    s

  • Reply Tabitha |

    Hello Tricia! I am so happy you’re okay. I miss you like crazy even if I only know you from this blog. BIG hugs to you and your family. <3

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