Three times this week I ended up in conversations about pain. How we got onto the topic is unimportant (although admittedly three times in one week is odd), but in all three cases I found myself recounting my sentinel node biopsy pre-work experience.
While it’s been more than two years since I had this procedure done, the excruciating pain is forever etched in my memory. Worse than childbirth, you may ask? Light years worse.
When a woman is having a mastectomy, the doctors want to look at your lymph nodes for cancer invasion. In the “olden days”, they would just remove all of your nodes to be safe. But since lymph nodes are sort of important, removing them all causes a lifetime of side effects. So they do try to remove the least number of nodes possible. To do this, they need to find the “sentinel” (or lead) node.
Finding the sentinel node requires a procedure whereby a radioactive material is injected near the tumor (that is IN YOUR BREAST) The lymph nodes then absorb (for lack of a better word) this material, presumably to take out the trash.
Once they inject you, they use a gamma detector to find the first node that “lights up” with the radiation. That would be the sentinel node. They then mark you with a tattoo of sorts so the surgeon knows which node(s) to remove. They start with the sentinel, and if it’s clean (no cancer), then they stop. If they find cancer, they will move to the next nearest nodes and continue the process until they find the clean nodes. And then they stop. The intent is to remove the least number of lymph nodes possible, while removing all the cancer.
Doesn’t sound so bad, doesn’t it?
Let me circle back to the radioactive material being injected… My injections were referred to as “bee stings” by the tech. Radioactive bee stings, that is. Radioactive bee stings around your nipple…. Can’t wait.
The tech warned me that it would hurt (bad), and even went so far as to say some women scream, so I shouldn’t feel bad if I do so. Shit. Ok. I’m ready. Injection #1. No screaming, but my eyes tear up instantly and I am crying from the pain. It was truly THE most intense burning pain I have ever felt. I think this would make a good torture technique somewhere (maybe it is?).
The tech was very comforting, telling me he could wait a while before the remaining shots. I tell him no way… do them all. Now. And do it fast. The injections create big welts, and the pain “only” lasts about 15-30 seconds (each), but the intensity of the pain is unbearable. After it’s all over, the tech tells me that some women pass out from the pain, some refuse to continue. I understand.
All I have to say is, if men had to go through this, they would have come up with a better way!! Drugs, for example, would have been very helpful. Or even better, how about anesthesia? Knock us out first! Totally barbaric to do it any other way.
And that is my pain story. (Although the guy who told the story of getting hit in the face with a tree also had a compelling story.)
It took me a few days to think about this, but I was reflecting on my salt lamp post… Is it any coincidence that no heavy metals showed up in the biofeedback scan after I started using the salt lamps at work and at home…? Hmmmm….
Look for some new recipes in my next post!
IMDb: Laugh at My Pain (2011)