Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Barbie" (TM) Does Breast Cancer...REALLY! (or...I have found the Pink Beast's Lair)



After meeting with surgical onc on Tuesday (8/16) and then the radiation onc on Wednesday (8/17), I was sent to the new "cutting edge" breast imaging center at John C. Lincoln Breast Health & Research Center. Before any slice 'n dicing can be agreed upon, the ladies (no, not the ones affixed to my upper frame, the oncs) wanted a breast MRI on both my ladies (yes, the ones affixed to my upper frame ... with crazy glue it sometimes seems). I agreed with this. Prudent, reasonable, no major radiation exposure. Let's do it. Well, that was where sanity ended and surreal began...

I have stumbled into the lair of the Pink Beast...and its name is Barbie!

Remember all the coveted Barbie (TM) play scenes. Barbie Condo; Barbie Salon; Barbie Beach Party; Barbie Corvette; Barbie does Botox...all of Barbie's unlimited fantasy lands? If Mattel were ever to decide that since Barbie is now part of the 50+ generation she should have some "real life" experiences; and, let's give her breast cancer (think Samantha a la Sex &the City); well ... they would not be able to create a better back drop than John C. Lincoln's Breast Health & Research Center.  

Grab your barf bags!

Glowing pink pony walls grab my attention as I enter the Imaging Center. There are three intake counters divided by milk chocolate floor to ceiling panels ... and bright glowing pink pony walls. Glowing because they are opaque and lit from within the walls. Accent it.

Next my attention is drawn to the textured creamy accent wall behind the intake clerks. It looks like they took a 15' x 20' rectangle of whipped cream cheese, and with flicks and swirls created hibiscus flower shapes, then sealed it in motion with silicone. Gracefully scripted is ... YES ... pink lettering with the Center's moniker.

Retro-pink patient chairs act as sentinels in front of the intake clerks. At least the upholstered backs match the milk chocolate wall panels. The actual waiting area has retro-60's, milk-chocolate bucket leather chairs. Yippee.

The wall-to-wall carpet is dotted with small pink, white and milk-chocolate geometric squares. I am dizzy.

Cream (oh...let's just call it white chocolate) textured wall paper has muted gold sparkle squiggles running vertically floor to ceiling.

I look up. Barbie (TM) et al did not disappoint...a large, faux crystal, retro-60s chandelier hangs in the center of this Barbie (TM)  menagerie. Mood lighting, I suppose.

As I sit with the intake clerk, I cough and politely turn my head to the left. As I do, my attention is caught by salon (?). An ante-chamber lined with hip to ceiling shelves of head wig stands. Sadly some are bald, but even their necks (?) are adorned with the signature pink & milk-chocolate colored scarves. Really ???

Mind you, this is just the waiting room. The secured MRI room holds it own. The linoleum floor immediately draws my eye with its large neapolitan-colored s/curve (though the pink is more bubble gum than strawberry in this room).  The wannabe Barbie (TM) interior designers went retro-modern in this area and opted for geometric plasticine lighting fixtures.

The changing room has a tiny airplane-sized sink with a ruffled milk-chocolate curtain hiding the plumbing. Privacy is provided by a heavy, embossed velvet curtain that hangs just beneath the 20' ceiling. Two lockers are available for clothing - clear but pink neon "A" and "B" identifies the different locked cubies. And, yes, there is a mini chandelier illuminating this 5' by 5' dressing cubicle. The soap is cotton-candy pink. I put on the provided quilted white robe, monogrammed with the proverbial pink ribbon that serves as a flagpole for the initials, "BH&RC".

I am taken to the injection site. Detail-oriented, and consistent, their decorator was. A large milk-chocolate - the same color as the s/curve on the linoleum, LazyBoy recliner awaits behind the pink and chocolate circles-on-cream curtain. Wow, I am now so prepped for my IV and the upcoming procedure..

I lay naked, save for the thong (now the barf bag is needed!) (BTW, the thong was blue) upon the baby-pink cushions that soften (barely) the divided well, designed to separate and suspend the ladies (yes, the affixed ones) for their close-up. I place my punim on the coordinating pink gauze that covers the face holder. Pink-tiles accent the otherwise cream-colored room. I start taking long cleansing breathes to bring both my pink-induced nausea and claustrophobia under control. Tech Michelle puts on the Stones for me (you rock Michelle!) and covers me with the robe and a baby-pink blanket. I get cold really easy. Ear plugs are put on (they are orange...ugh! fashion aux pas!) - not for the Stones, but for the deafening sounds the MRI is going to envelope me in for the next 40 minutes. Extra time is allotted because I have fake ladies. (Point of clarification...I am referring to the affixed ladies here.)


One last breath. Arms are positioned over head (think a slovenly clad pink Superman). Eyes are closed...Mick, Keith, Ronnie, Charlie stay with me! Okay, slide me in... I am ready for my pink ribbon close up. Oh, and yes the outside of the Research Center was marked with a 5 foot pink ribbon sculpture. I know, because I am 5'1".

Post Script:

Oh, if only Michelle, my tech, had been bestowed with equal attention to detail. I explain the difference to her between ILC and DCIS. I explain the difference between expanders and permanent implants. I explain why she cannot take my blood pressure on my mastectomy side. Why do I need to explain? She shares that she has been doing MRIs for 10 years, but breast MRIs only one. She asks me health hx questions so she knows how to proceed. (Kudos for questions, really! Glad it is not her interpreting the films, however.)  And she is trying to expand her understanding. Learning should be a life-long pursuit. Even if it is done in the lair of the Pink Beast!

P.S.S.: I guess Barbie (TM) truly is the poster-girl for plastic boobies. And we wonder WHY there is no cure????  

P.S.S. - It just gets better...I swung by the John C. Lincoln Breast Health & Research Center today, to pick up the amended MRI report as well as the CD -- [ALWAYS GET A COPY OF THE ACTUAL IMAGES, NOT JUST THE WRITTEN REPORT, WHETHER IT BE CD OR FILM. WHEN YOU GO TO THAT NECESSARY SECOND OPINION (or even first opinion with the intial doc) MAKE SURE THE DOC LOOKS AT WHAT THE RADIOLOGIST LOOKED AT - MISTAKES CAN BE AND ARE MADE WHEN ONLY ONE SET OF EYES IS DOING THE INTREPRETATION.  But I digress..]

They handed me the envelope with the CD of the MRI, with a written amended report. The envelope was off-white with bubble gum pink border and writing...and...wait for it...a 4-view diagram of women's breasts, right and left, drawn in the same bubble bum [sic] pink color. The envelope size was 11x17. It did catch the eye of more than one in the crowded elevator as I made my way back to the parking garage.


  1. LOL! That's got to be the best description of an "intake" I've ever read or seen even on telly. OMG! Barbi pink. GAG! Please just boring old medical green and blue, thank you very much!

    The wig room sounds scary, frankly. What a thing to see as you go into your MRI. That would be raising my blood pressure sky-high. As for Michelle - hmmm....

    Do I take it that you have made some decisions? Or are you still considering?

    I'll email you privately about travel plans. But crikey TC - 25K? What airlines and routes were you looking at?!?! Anyway, Steve and I are on it. Let's just say, you should think about re-embracing your Catholic upbringing. Lourdes is in your immediate future!

    Love + hugs
    Vic + Steve

  2. Holy pink hell TC. Is this the future (or present) for interior decorating for imaging centers? I know it's become the scrubs theme of choice for my chemo nurses, but this really is too much. As if a breast cancer diagnosis weren't enough hell?

    And does anyone actually read the chart anymore? The blood pressure thing is one of my biggest bug bears, although I quite often also have to remind my blood draw nurses that I have a port. My mantra amongst others: Read The Chart!!!!!!

    P.S you know that Breast Cancer Barbie is real, although has absolutely nothing to do with reality

  3. I am sure you will agree, once you start down this "rabbit hole" reality is turned on its head. The decor smacked of something you would find on the Vegas strip...actually, you can find this decor on the strip. It is called the Cosmopolitan Hotel! Google it and you will get a good sense of what the BH&RC was like.

    P.S. My understanding is that green is supposed to be the most soothing of the color spectrum -- Barbie (TM) pink certainly is NOT. But then, my collective experiences over the last two years have taught me that b.c. is not about the individual patient, but rather, about supporting the industry.

  4. Vic - travel plans at this point are going to be limited to New Hampshire to move Samara back into the dorms for sophmore year; likely a trip to Marin County for my second opinion with Michael Lagios, MD (see Med-Pro page); and if husband has his say, to Houston to check out the Brzynski Clinic. [btw $25K was $5K per person RT to Toulouse over this summer - and that was looking at comparative rates on one of the discount travel sites]

    I don't Catholicism ... all their failed attempts to exorcise me left me scarred! Obviously ;=}'


  5. UGH! I am so sorry that you have to deal with that! I don't think I could have kept my big mouth shut about how repulsive it is. I would have had to express my feelings to someone there. I am just like that though. I guess that I am lucky that my cancer does not have such an annoying following.
    All the best of health, joy, love and peace to you!

  6. Dear Laura (aka C-Assassin) - but I did say something. Poor Tech Michelle was quite distressed by my lack of appreciation of the decor. I shared with her that I feared I had gone to Barbie-Hell. Her only response - which was disturbing for a number of reasons, was: "this is what you get when a hospital gives two docs, who have had breast cancer, a 'blank check' to create a comfortable 'female' environment." No kidding. It makes me wonder as to their own personal pathology and what informed them...and if their collaboration is "Legally Blonde Meets Barbie" or "Payback is a Pink Bitch."

    All snarkiness aside. Thank you for your thoughts. <3

  7. TC,
    Oh my. I had to read this more than once because it was like, really? Seriouly?

  8. The One with the New JobAugust 28, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    Thanks for your vivid description of Barbie Hell. You made my day with the humorous spin :)

  9. Thank you so much for this thought provoking blog with valuable information!!

  10. A ~ I appreciate your readership, and comment. Keep perusing. Thanks, TC