a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Pinpointing the Problem and Dissecting it

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pinpointing the Problem and Dissecting it

SUMMARY: Weave poles and biopsy.
After my annual mammogram two weeks ago (annual because my sister had an occurrence of breast cancer), they called me in for a recheck, and then they called me in for a biopsy.

The offending spot towards the lower left with a couple of black hash marks scrawled on either side. Doc says the "nodule" is no more than half an inch. Half an inch sounds huge to me. But I didn't feel anything.

I've been through this before, a couple of times, in the last 20 years. Scary the first time, less so each following time. Previous times, they used ultrasound and a big needle to do the work. I expected the same, but this time the equipment was quite different.

I lay on a huge contoured table, face down, so that the relevant part of me hung down through a huge hole in the center. The table then rose so that the medical staff could easily get at their equipment underneath. Said equipment was essentially a small x-ray machine with the usual compressing plates to make the tissue spread out enough to be able to see things clearly. It's a "stereotopical" table, the nurse said, meaning that it takes photos (x-rays) from two directions to allow them to take the sample in exactly the right place in 3 dimensions.

It wasn't particularly comfortable lying like that for maybe 10 minutes while they got everything set up and positioned and photographed and needled. My neck and one shoulder became stiff. They used a local anaesthesia ("cold," said the doc. "Will sting." He was right about that. More than once). Then they cleaned things up and bandaged me and then I could sit up.

The other intriguing thing is that they implant a tiny titanium wire as close to the biopsy point as possible, so that if anyone has to go in there again, they'll know exactly where to go. They showed me one before they implanted it. No bigger than an eyelash.

Afterwards, they put me on a regular mammogram machine to check the wire's position. You can see it here--like a tiny "R". This image is from a slightly different angle, so I can't tell whether any of the dark round spots are now indications of holes where they remove tissue, or merely dark round spots.1

Now I wait until Tuesday for the results.

Which isn't why I called you here today. I came to talk about weave poles.

Weave Poles

SOOOOO I actually set up a weave pole drill yesterday. Very simple. A curved tunnel with each end pointing at one end of a set of 6 weave poles about 22 feet away. And one jump between the tunnel and one end of the weaves, which I could move to either side, so the dog could approach directly from the tunnel or over a jump from the tunnel, into right-angle weave entries. (The turn left into the poles was the same gamble that Boost missed in class Tues night--as nicely diagrammed here by TSD and the same Snooker 6b-to-7 that Boost missed in the trial Saturday as shown here.)

I need to focus on where exactly the weave pole nodule is so that I can biopsy it, analyze, decide what treatment is needed, and wait until Tuesday for the results. (That being class day.)

Tika had no problem turning left into the poles. Turning to the right, however, she'd make the entry but skip the next pole. Huh. Interesting. Seemed vaguely familiar, like I've seen this before. So we worked on that from closer, easier angles to longer, harder approaches. Didn't take much for her to be doing them all correctly.

Boost had no problem with the end that Tika didn't like (and that's supposedly the "difficult" end for most dogs), but, turning left, she entered on the wrong side every time. I made the angle easier and easier until she started getting it--had to be almost straight on. As soon as we angled out about 15 degrees back towards the tunnel, she'd revert to the wrong side. I dropped out all except 3 poles. Same problem. Dropped to 2 poles, and all of a sudden she could make the correct entry every time.


And a little lightbulb2 went off in my head. And that lightbulb said, "You've had EXACTLY the same lightbulb before!" And that previous lightbulb said, "I've determined that she has trouble entering weaves when she has to bear left." (Right here in this very blog post from August 2007.)

So, I have zeroed in on what I hope is not a malignant problem, but merely a benign but annoying lump upon which I must use precision tools  to make sure that it doesn't recur.

OK, I'm set. I have a plan and two huge bandaids on my certain anatomical part that I'm not supposed to remove or shower over for another day, so let's hope I don't work up too huge a sweat while practicing weave entries.

Mood: Waiting. Hopeful.

1 These images cost me $10 and an hour of waiting. I hope you appreciate them as much as I do.

2 LED, of course, or perhaps compact fluorescent.


  1. All this since last Friday?!?!? Good Lord! How... umm... strange to be put up on a lift like a car and approached with milking machines. Someone thought this was a good idea? (Probably the same guy who thought the current mammogram machine design was a good idea.)

    Sending you good vibes that you have good results come Tuesday!

  2. Yeah, the retake was Monday, the biopsy yesterday.

    They want the subject tissue to remain immobile while they pinpoint its location and take the samples. Would be hard to do sitting up. I don't know why the middle of the table was indented--maybe so one's chest is propelled downward? Flat would've been better.

    And probably it was better to lie there for 10 minutes than to stand in one place for 10 minutes.

  3. Fingers crossed for you for good news on Tuesday.

  4. I'll be thinking of you. I've always thought that if men had their anatomies smooshed between two plates, there would be a better way by now.
    You know how to find us if you need anything.

  5. Wow, just got the results already. Completely benign lump, "fibrocystic change in the tissue."

    @Dawn: In the mammogram room, there's a cartoon on the wall titled "If women ran the world". There's a big machine labeled "Man ogram" with two plates about hip level, and the female doctor is telling the unhappy-looking mostly nude male patient to insert his equipment between the plates.

  6. OMG -- wow. Even if it gets less scary each time I can still imagine that it would be scary, for sure. Very glad to hear of a second case of not-cancer this week.

  7. My boobs are feeling sympathy smooshed. Ow, ow, ow. Great news, though.

    I had a fibrocystic lump removed several years ago via surgery which was quick and easy and involved lovely drugs. I think I'd rather have the surgery than the discomfort/pain you went through.

  8. I'd take what I went through over surgery. It was pretty quick, actually. And I've almost never had pain or major discomfort from mammograms--guess I'm lucky. Glad that your surgery was easy and uncomplicated. That *is* the best kind of medical practice.

  9. Im soooo glad everything was ok.