Cancer Lesson #4: Performing a biopsy is as easy as spearing a grape with a strand of uncooked spaghetti.

Cancer Lesson #4: Performing a biopsy is as easy as spearing a grape with a strand of uncooked spaghetti.

Three days after my mammogram and ultrasound, Dr. S (an oncological breast surgeon) and I reviewed the results. They revealed not one lump but three.

My previously sanguine attitude took a nose-dive. One lump hadn’t scared me; three lumps did.

Still, Dr. S assured me that the masses – as the medical profession prefers to call them – were probably innocuous.

I didn’t believe her, focusing instead on trying to calculate the odds. Did having three raise my 20% chance of having cancer to 60%? If so, did that mean there was a 60% chance they were all cancerous, or 20% chance each, adding up to a total of 60%?  For the first time in my life, I wished I’d paid more attention in statistics class at college.

And yet, I played it cool, telling my husband only that I’d found a lump that required a biopsy. Feeling the need to explain my sudden increased use of sick time, I also told my boss.

Five days later, I laid down on the table, confident I knew what would happen. The radiologist would insert a needle to draw out tissue from my breast, kind of like the core samples geologists take from the earth.

I was wrong. It turns out a woman’s breast bears little relationship to the ground we walk on.

Prod, prod, poke, jab, pull! Jab, poke, prod, tug! It didn’t hurt, but as I watched the movement of that needle on the screen, I knew I’d be sore when the anesthesia wore off.