The best Christmas present

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 24, 2003

After a brief scare, I received a most precious and priceless Christmas gift: Peace of mind.

Many times, I have talked about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the constant battle I’ve had trying to find something to replace it with after learning it may cause breast cancer. When I shared my worries with my former doctor (Dr. John Brady, who recently moved from the area), he told me that the low dose of Premarin I’m taking isn’t a big enough risk to merit stopping its use, especially since I feel so miserable without it.

Although I usually get a mammogram every August, I put it off until fall this year because I had a lot of things going on during the summer. In early November, after deciding that I didn’t want the year to go out before I had the test done, I got a new physician, Dr. Lindsey Vaughn, to do my physical and blood tests.

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Since I knew my aunt, Maddie Vann, wanted me to take her to get her mammogram done, I told her to schedule our appointments at the same time. So on Nov. 14, we went to Obici’s radiology department to get the tests done.

Because I’ve always had a fear of developing breast cancer, I’m always anxious until I learn that everything is okay. Nonetheless, when Thanksgiving came and went with no news, I began to feel a little sense of relief. I called my aunt and she had not heard anything either so I sensed that we were both okay.

Then on Dec. 2, I received a phone call from Vaughn telling me that the blood work done at his office was fine. But he said that radiology wanted to follow up with a needle biopsy on my right breast after they got a suspicious reading related to calcium deposits.

My doctor had already made an appointment for me on Dec. 9 with Dr. Paul Hogg to do the needle biopsy. When Dr. Hogg examined me, he scheduled the test for 8 a.m. Dec. 12.

I think that I was more frightened about the test after learning how it would be done. No anesthesia, just a needle. I couldn’t imagine this needle going into such a sensitive part of my body, just to be followed up with another machine compressing the area to take pictures.

I worried about the test more than I did the results. But that worry subsided a little when Dr. Hogg explained to me not to be alarmed because situations like mine usually weren’t cancerous and the test, despite how painful it sounded, actually caused little discomfort to patients. He said the biggest obstacle would be the need to lie completely still for the 20 or 30 minutes it would take to for the procedure.

A few days later, on the morning of the exam, my sister, Earlene Banks, went with me for support because we didn’t know if I would be too sore or in too much pain to drive after it was over.

A few days later, when I had the biopsy done, I was surprised to find that the tests really were painless. I felt only a little sting and very little discomfort during the test. I didn’t even experience any soreness. I was given an ice pack and instructions to place it on the needle-entry spot at six-hour intervals for the next 24 hours. The only thing that made me remember that I had the test was the Band-aid that covered the spot.

I went back to the doctor’s office at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 16 to get the results. As the time drew near to get them, I became increasingly nervous. I asked God for strength and for continued faith that everything was going to be fine.

My name was finally called and Hogg told me what I’d prayed to hear: Everything looked good and that there are no malignant cells. In other words, no cancer!

The reason that I am telling this story in detail is to put women’s minds at ease about these tests. I thank Linda Rowell, receptionist at Hogg’s office for doing just that for me when I called her concerned about the test. When I apologized for taking so much of her time, she reassured me that I could take all the time I needed until I felt good about it.

I now have the best Christmas present of all – relief that I will no longer waste time worrying and wondering if anything is wrong. An ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure.

May your Christmas be as blessed as mine.

And now I want to extend an invitation to the community to attend my church, East End Baptist Church on Sunday, Jan. 4. Immediately after the morning service, the Health Service Ministry & Women on Mission will sponsor a seminar on &uot;Breast Health Awareness.&uot;

A representative from Koman Foundation to answer questions and to demonstrate proper breast exams using assimilated models. As males can also develop breast cancer, both men and women are invited to attend.

Evelyn Wall is a staff writer and a regular News-Herald columnist. She can be contacted at 934-9615 or via e-mail: