Tell Me Why I Don’t Like Mondays

Monday 14 June 2010

Today is Boy George’s birthday. Sorry, my mind is often filled with useless trivia on days I have to face potentially hard news.

My BFF Karen arrives at KK’s Breast Centre at 9.44am. Me, I’m still turning into Bukit Timah Road when she SMSes me.

I like the KKH carpark. You don’t have to pay $10 for valeting and the valet guy is always so sweet (that I give him $2 or $4 every time anyway). I leave my Honda to the valet and scurry up to the Centre. Karen greets me in a gorgeous long strapless smocking dress – her uniform, only it’s so in-trend now that she says she paid $89 for it when it would have cost her $30 in a normal year.

We sit and talk about marvelous nothings — our kids, a little bird she rescued that had died and caused deep grief in her family, her upcoming performances — waiting for the radiologist to summon me, which happened all too soon.

I hate mammograms but that’s stating the obvious. Who (not in the BDSM community) would enjoy having her breast clamped at a 45-degree angle between two pieces of plexiglass like a piece of frog flesh between two slides in a Secondary 3 science lab?

“Okay, hold your breath,” says the radiologist.

When I do, she clamps my right breast just a little bit harder. I mean, it’s not like my breast is going to run away. But I understand the flatter she can make it, the clearer the image of any growth.

The alarm goes off and 5 long seconds later, my breast is released from its plastic vice. Only to be clamped again in the opposite direction.

I am vaguely wondering how come I’m not told to wear an iron apron like at Gleneagles, which apparently is supposed to protect my womb etc as my breasts are being X-rayed.

After my left breast is similarly abused, I get to leave the room and now have to wait for the radiologist to decide if I need to redo any shots.

Karen mercilessly entertains me as only she can. Our raucous laughter fills the cold waiting area like a Christmas song in an empty mall.

After an eternity (45 minutes) the nurse calls out to me. “You have to go for an ultrasound next.”

I’m ushered into another room and this time made to take off my top and bra and lie down on a bed. The ultrasound doctor squirts warm jelly on my right breast and proceeds to scan my right breast. This takes an awfully long time—she clicks and prints photos of the troublesome area in a bid to see how large or widespread it is.

Finally, I am released, and told to pay for my mammo and  ultrasound, and to go to lunch before seeing Dr Hong Ga Sze at 2pm.

Karen and I have the first kopi we’ve had in a long, long time, at Delifrance. “Look,” she says, “Delifrance changed their logo colours but the decor is exactly the same!” By George, she’s right. I never noticed the rouge-blanc-bleu of the Delifrance logo had now turned into a very unglamorous brun. Not even a chocolat brun. Just brun. (Pardon my very bad French)

Good thing her kaya danish tastes the same as before. I have a yummy, huge cup of black coffee with two cookies. I put brown sugar in my coffee — first time in possibly a year that I didn’t use Equal or Splenda instead. Suddenly the voice of my cousin rings in my ear: “You know that Equal rubbish is bad for you. Stop taking it.” Mr Threez thinks that’s stupid, but … I pick up the brown sugar packets instead. Maybe, if it’s true, it’s too late. But I just feel better swopping the synthetic for sugar.

Waiting to exhale

1.45pm, Mr Threez arrives and there is the changing of my guard, haha. Karen leaves for her rehearsal at The Necessary Stage. My husband and I huddle. He seems too anxious too eat, but really, he is starving.

By 2.30 he can take it no more, and hurries to the Kopitiam to pick up a snack. As Murphy would have it, the nurse called me in to see Dr Hong a minute after Mr Threez leaves me.

Dr Hong is a tall, somewhat austere man who is the head surgeon of the KK Breast Centre. His reputation precedes him — I know I’m facing one of the top doctors in this field in Singapore. He has my mammograms clipped up on a light box and he is studying the radiologist’s report with a poker face. Mr Threez has by now returned and is reading the report upside down.

I feel my heart slowing down. I can hear my own breathing. Peace wraps around me like a cashmere blanket, soft and warm.

“Any family history?” asks Dr Hong.

Yes, my mother died of breast cancer.

“Any other aunties, sisters? Any other cancers?”

Yes, my cousin had breast cancer in her early 40s also, and my uncle died of colon cancer.

Dr Hong fixes his eyes on my face. “Are you worried?”

“No. Not really.” I’m not sure I believe the words coming out of my mouth but somehow… God’s presence fills the room. I know my heart is unafraid but my head is filled with all kinds of thoughts.

“Okay, judging from the mammogram and ultrasound, it looks like cancer,” he says. He reads out from the radiologist’s report. “It’s what we call a suspicious mass.”

“Suspicious mass”. Medical terms make me laugh sometimes. A “suspicious mass” sounds like a Catholic mass conducted by a felon.

Dr Hong circles a dark patch on my mammogram. According to the report it measures 3.2cm wide and 2.1cm long. There are also many white dots like a constellation just above the dark mass. These dots, called “microcalcifications” are not a good sign. The cancer might be more widespread than I think.

“We need to do a biopsy as soon as possible,” says Dr Hong. Apparently, a growth this size is indicative of Stage 1 or Stage 2 cancer.

Mr Threez and I leave Dr Hong’s room and head out to set a date for the biopsy and follow up.

I head to the counter expecting to get a biopsy appointment the next day. But the counter staff schedule me for biopsy on Friday and followup with Dr Hong on 28 June. No amount of arguing with them (which leaves me quite cross, frankly) could budge them.

“Dr Hong is very busy!”

I guess I have no choice, but I don’t know how I’m going to survive till Friday with this thing in my breast that could, for all I know, grow as I walk, eat, sleep. What if it’s Stage 2 already and by Friday it’s Stage 3?! (Okay, that’s just my paranoia speaking but you know what I mean.)

I have to sign some papers and have my biopsy explained to me. The doctor who does this with me gives me a pitying look and asks why I missed my 2009 mammogram. I decide she is the Grim Reaper and pray I will not see her ever again.

Mr Threez and I finally have something to eat. I decide, if this is cancer after all, I’m going to eat what I feel like today. So I have yong tau fu with laksa gravy, which I always want to eat but have ordered just twice in my entire lifetime because I used to believe healthy eating will keep me away from diseases.

But today I have proof that that’s not so.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tepj
    Jan 06, 2012 @ 12:40:44

    How did the surgery go???

    Reply

  2. nia
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 11:40:19

    hi threez, my mom was diagnose with several tumor located in neck and breast, we plan to meet dr. Hong, would you share your experience with him? or if you have time to contact me i’d be really grateful.

    thank you for your time,

    Reply

    • threezframe
      Jul 08, 2012 @ 14:09:08

      Dear Nia, I’m so sorry for this late reply. I hope your mother is well and that she has seen Dr Hong. I hope she has had her surgery or treatment scheduled, if it hasn’t already happened. How did it go? Please do update me. I have heard that Dr Hong is one of Singapore’s foremost breast surgeons, and I am certain your mother is in good hands. You can email me at theresa@word.sg if you wish to tell me more in private. Keeping you and your mother in prayer.

      Reply

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