All That Was Missing Was Incense

I’ve got to hand it to Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Almost every encounter I have with them is an interaction of efficiency and compassion, from the desk staff to the doctors. Today I had a stereotactic breast biopsy. That’s where you climb onto a table that’s a cross between a massage table and an auto shop lift, and your breast hangs through a hole, and they put a needle in to pull out suspicious tissue for testing. It’s not a Big Deal, but it’s not how I’d prefer to spend an afternoon, either.

But it was more pleasant than I expected. I checked in 15 minutes early as required. I was seen within 5 minutes, whisked back to a changing room, given a terrycloth robe, and told to wait in a little room chock full of magazines. Shortly I was ushered into the biopsy room.

The room was softly lit overhead (not the interrogation lighting common to such places). There was a 24×36″ photo of a sunset on the Marin Headlands to gaze at. And soft, new-agey music provided background ambiance. If there had been hot towels, aromatherapy, and chimes, I might have fallen asleep. (Not really.) The staff were caring. The physician made a point of talking to me before the procedure about what was coming and held my hand while she did so. The nurse periodically put her hand on my back. At one point I even closed my eyes. Aside from a sting when they put the local anesthesia in, and a little bit of tugging, I felt no sensation. They frequently asked how I was doing. I joked that with a three-year-old at home, it was actually a bit nice to lie still for awhile.

It was over in an hour. They were happy with the sample. They got 99% of the calcifications out and put a teeny titanium marker in the spot in case it turns out to be cancerous and they need to go back. It’s all over except for the results, which unfortunately take time. The earliest I will hear about it is next Thursday, the 17th. I’m a little sore and bruised, but it’s nothing compared to other medical interventions I’ve had.

Until then, I simply don’t have enough information, so I’m not traipsing down any “what if” paths. Yes, I’m a little tense about the unknown, but not in a way that’s ruining the present.

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