Thursday, September 06, 2012
BIG UGLY CANCER
I've got this on my mind today because I went for my mammogram yesterday. They tell you “Everything looks good”, but you don't get the official results for several days. The waiting sucks. Needless to say, I woke up in a bad mood today and I'm trying to shake it. THINK POSITIVE! Not easy to do after you've had cancer.
I was talking to the technician yesterday and she asked me how I discovered my lump. So I told her. I had been part of a drug study the year before and was preparing to participate in another. As part of the preliminary work-up, they did a screening mammogram. They found something. That's a very ominous sound on the phone. “It's probably nothing,” the nurse in charge of the project said. “But you need further tests to be sure.” So we had further tests.
I had cancer.
On the plus side, if there is such a thing with that diagnosis, it was a very small tumor and it was stage one. On the negative side, it was a very aggressive type of cancer. They throw all kinds of words at you when you get a cancer diagnosis, none of which really sink in. You hear things like malignant, tumor, surgery. Then you hear more scary words, but the only one that really makes an impact is mastectomy.
Of course, they don't tell you at the time that mastectomies can be done with reconstruction. Not only do they get rid of your tumor, they give you new boobs at the same time. I heard the scary word and opted for a lumpectomy, because I didn't know any better. Neither did my husband. He's an RN, but this was as new to him as it was to me.
If you're diagnosed with breast cancer and are told about a mastectomy, remember that this doesn't mean you'll wake up without breasts. This means you'll have surgery to remove the cancer as well as plastic surgery to give you a whole new chest. I didn't know this, so I didn't do it. I wish I had.
Now, I go back every six months for a screening. Yearly, they do both. At the six month mark, they screen the right breast, since that's where my cancer was. My cancer was hereditary – also didn't know this going into surgery, or I would have had the mastectomy. There is a test, but it's very expensive, and a lot of insurance companies won't cover it. Mine did. Thank you, United Health Care! I had the test done after I'd had chemo and radiation.
I think my doctor talked to me about it before hand, but once again, you only hear a little of what's being said. Also, when you consider that you have a surgeon, a chemo oncologist and a radiation oncologist, each doctor is giving you more and more information. That's confusing. As the patient, you start to get sensory overload. So much to remember, so many BIG WORDS!
Fortunately, my doctors were good about answering any questions I had. My radiation oncologist answered 90% of my questions before I even asked them. The oncology team I'm with has been wonderful. The nurses and doctors are compassionate and efficient.
Ladies, I urge you to have regular mammograms and do self-exams. If you don't know how, your doctor or a nurse can tell you. Men, if breast cancer runs in your family, find out how you can prevent it in yourself.
I was lucky, we found mine very early with the screening. The placement of the tumor was such that I wouldn't have found it on my own until it was much bigger. Don't be like some people and put the doctor's appointment off because you're afraid it “might be cancer”. Yes, it might be, but you can't fight it if you don't know. Why be scared of something unknown when you can put that energy into fighting it?
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