Tag Archives: breast cancer risk

A simple question

It is once again October and the Pink is flying.  Breast cancer awareness visually pushed into the forefront for all.  Put aside the millions being made by the CEO’s running the charities or those behind the merchandising of all of the apparel and take it for what it should be, a moment to step back and recognize that awareness, testing and early detection really does save lives.  So instead of a long-winded post rehashing my own story or one looking at so many strong women who have fought or are currently fighting this awful disease, I ask a simple question, when is the last time you had your mammogram?

If you would like to buy a pretty pink sweatshirt, pen, baseball bat or energy drink with the special label go right ahead but I ask you to go one step further.  If you yourself are due to see your doctor and have your scans get off your butt and make the call and schedule your appointment.  Today and all month-long as you interact with those women closest to you, remind them to do the same.

CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EARLY BREAST CANCER DETECTION

Two years later

Today is a Happy Anniversary for me, the 2 year mark since I underwent the bilateral prophylactic mastectomy, a life changing day for me. I thank god that I had the strength to make such a decision.  The year prior to the surgery was filled with doctors appointments, scans and blood work. The years prior to that were filled with biopsies and worry.  Since I also had the DIEP flap procedure done at the same time, my surgery took over 14 hours and  I spent 7 days in the hospital. The entire process took a total of three surgeries and several months to fully recover.  I would say that it took about a year before I felt normal.  I had numbness in my abdomen for a long time which was actually welcome after much pain.

I remember finally being released from the surgeons care many months after the BPM, walking to my car thinking both “wow” and “now what”?  Strange right?  Doctors became such a normal part of my life for so long that it was strange thinking about life after.  For so long my entire life was associated with my “procedure” it became part of my identity.

I can not believe it has been two years since the surgery.   I have not posted much over the last few months.  I started this blog as a way to help me keep my thoughts straight as I prepared for and recovered from major surgery.   As time has gone on I am not as sure as to what this will become.  I have recently entered a political race for our local town council.  I know that I do not want this sounding board to become anything political which is part of why I have stayed off of the pages. I also think there are already too many people posting about the day-to-day life of their children.  For the moment I will stay in the background posting from time to time.

Things that I learned through the process, never look back!  Make a decision and only look forward, trust in yourself that you made the right decision.   Especially with my pathology findings of lobular carcinoma in situ, had I waited another year or two….I can’t think about it and thankfully I did not!  Sadly, I also learned that many of the people who I loved and counted on were not there for me or my family when we needed them most.  A hurtful reality but one that we have accepted.  I no longer waste my time trying to keep our circle any larger than those who truly want to be a part of it.

I enjoy my family more than ever before. There are some who do not understand and to be honest I do not spend too much time explaining myself.  I hug my children tightly and kiss them everyday. I enjoy every minute I have with my family and I never pass up an opportunity to tell them how much I love them.  To all of the women out there, get you mammograms regularly, talk with your doctor and never be afraid to ask questions!

My beautiful family

My beautiful family

Mark the date

keep calmI was standing amongst a group of women the other day listening to the conversation.  I am not fully sure how, but the topic of breast cancer came up.    Three of the four of us standing there lost our mothers to the disease.  As I looked around another woman close by recently lost a sister.  It is not hard to find someone who’s life has not been affected by breast cancer, it seems in my travels it is nearly impossible.

According to recent statistics, about 1 in 8 US woman will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.  As you stand in a room look around, count the woman in the room. Who will it be?  With numbers like that what still astonishes me are those who do not have a sense of urgency to be checked.  Women who find it to be too much of an annoyance to have the yearly mammogram done.  For many of us the mammogram was useless.  I used to also have yearly breast ultrasounds.  If you are not fortunate enough to have a doctor who will write the scripts together you have to wait for the alarming phone call letting you know the mammo was inconclusive or even worse saw something abnormal. It is probably nothing they say but back to the radiologists for the ultrasound, very time-consuming.  Most of my lumps never showed up on mammograms.  Many times I heard it was probably nothing.  Several of those ended up in biopsy until the day when it was the beginnings of something.

dateI was able to react, to take control of my situation because I was vigilant with my screenings.  I hated it of course but a necessary thing.  I had my first Mammogram at 22 years old and my first biopsy soon after.  Mammograms, Ultrasounds surgeries and MRI’s made it clear what my future would hold.  Because of screenings I was able to seek out advice, talk to experts and make the decision to have a preventative mastectomy before ever having to face any type of cancer battle, thank god!

Complain, whine, scream if you must but make your appointments and have the screening done!  Somethings are just too important to wait!

A busy week and medical advances

First day for all of us

First day for all of us

The summer has officially ended in our house with the yearly closing of the pool.  There are still some very warm days in the forecast like today’s heat in excess of 90 degrees, but once school starts there is just not enough time in the day. Speaking of school, the fist day was a success for all!  Both girls had great days especially our new first grader.

Ready to take the field

Ready to take the field

The first day seems like a life time ago already.  Saturday morning was picture perfect.  Although there was a slight chill in the air, the sun, high in a bright blue sky was warm and comfortable.  Our day started with a season opening soccer game with the youngest at 9am.  At her age they play 2 fields of 4 on 4, open goal.  This is my husbands first year coaching soccer and the first time most of the girls have played together.  There were many bright spots.  A little girl who just could not keep herself from picking up the ball mid play was not necessarily one of the brightest but the season looks to be fun none the less.

The look of a 3-0 shut-out to start the season!

The look of a 3-0 shut-out to start the season!

The travel game with the older child was much better.  I think what made this game so much fun was the fact that over the last year we sat through many (emphasis many) bad, down right ugly soccer games.  With Megan as the full-time goal keeper this year we feel extra pressure to ensure she plays her best.  Saturday the entire team stepped up and played the best game we have seen them play as a team.  The final score was 3-0..first game of the year and first shut out of what we hope will be a wonderful soccer year for Megan and team.

The week is flying by with time split between my few hours at the school doing cafeteria and playground duty, soccer practice, karate and everything in between.  How quickly our lazy days of summer have been filled with days that just do not have enough hours.

On a totally different note, I caught a few minutes of the news last night  as I was getting dinner ready for the girls.  The story was about a new pump to help to identify breast cancer up to 10 years sooner than with current methods.  I do not know how much data they have collected on it or how accurate it is but I would like to believe that such advances are true and reliable.  I think about my young daughters and the very real high risk possibility that they face of breast cancer.  I can only hope and pray that the advances continue so by the time my babies have to face tough decisions,  like me they will be lucky enough to be able to act proactively.

Jolie, the day after

I follow many blogs written by woman who either have breast cancer, are BRCA positive or have had a prophylactic mastectomy.  Yesterday after reviewing several of those blogs most covered Angelina Jolie in some way of another.  What struck me as very interesting is the wide range of opinions on her story.  Most women like myself who underwent BPM surgery commend Jolie for using her platform if for nothing else to get the conversation about breast cancer risks flowing.

I was very interested in some that took great offense in how for lack of a better word , simplistic Jolie made the event seem.  In her article she makes a statement, “but days after surgery you can be back to a normal life”.  Now, I had a different surgery since my reconstruction was done by DIEP flap surgery cutting my entire abdomen.  This required many different steps be taken including not being able to move a muscle in the hospital for 48 hours and having someone checking for a pulse in my new breasts every hour which was fun for all. (not!)

When I got home I was no where close to back to a normal life.  Honestly there was a great deal of pain, many tears and for many weeks the belief that there would never be such a thing as “normal”.  I remember weeks after the surgery attempting to walk around the block with the girls and feeling like I would not make it home.  I remember being unable to get in and out of my own bed. I could not lift my arms, bend over or lift anything for what seemed like a lifetime.  I could not shower for well over a month because of the drains which left such large scars that shaving was an issue for months.  I could go on and on but the point is the same, it was less than a normal life for a very long time!

Normal.  I guess it is all in how we define the word.  I will be reminded for the rest of my life every time I take a shower.  60+ stitches left a more than noticeable scar across my abdomen.  I had wonderful surgeons whom I would recommend to anyone. Angelina describes her “small scar”, I am sure she had the best medical care that money could buy and she probably had a better outcome from it than many.  I do not fault her for that at all.  All I do is say that I will agree with those who fell she does paint a much rosier picture than what I found to be my reality.

One thing that was normal for me was the fear that after multiple years of biopsies that the next one would be the one to show cancer.  That the next mammogram would be the one.

With that said, the many of use who have shared our stories could never reach the audience that she has with her name recognition.  As I stated yesterday in my post, if her experience results in women being tested, educated and empowered well God bless her for sharing simplistic story and all!  Maybe it will cause women to take to the internet to read more realistic stories of the process. Causing women to act is the important thing.  Get your mammograms, question your history, talk to your doctor.

I thank god everyday that I had the strength to make such a decision.  I too now only have a 5% risk of developing breast cancer.  Even with the worst of the memories running through my head about the surgery and recovery, I would do it again tomorrow.  I look forward to many healthy years with my family!

Me and Angelina Jolie

In the news this morning I learned that Angelina Jolie and I seem to have a lot in common.  Her story is very similar to my own and to all of the women I have met along the way in my time writing this blog.  Chosing to have a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy, to remove a part of your body because it will one day quite probably declare war on the rest of your body.

The difference is her celebrity makes news.  I am glad that she wrote the article in the NY times.  It brings to light the struggle that so many woman have.  Having genetic testing and advanced medical abilities which have allowed so many of us to make a preventative decision to take control of our own medical destiny.  Maybe her sharing the story that so many of us have lived will cause a few more women to have a mammogram.  Maybe a few will open up to their doctors about their family history.  Maybe one day we can finally put breast cancer in the past.

Until then, Bravo to all who share their stories!

Happy (yet strange) anniversary

Happy-Anniversary-si3577dI just received a “happy anniversary” note from WordPress.  It made me think for a minute. Indeed it was a year ago that I started this blog to help clear my mind and prepare for surgery.

One year ago the decision was made. A decision to remove a part of my body that I believed would become dangerous.  My mind was set on a decision that would change my life forever.

One year ago is important in my history because it changed me as a person, I put into print what was swirling through my mind setting the course for what would happen over the next many months.  It was not always easy but ever second was worth it!

One year ago I made the smartest decision in my life! The pathology report several months later proved, had I not made this decision, well nothing is 100% but lobular carcinoma in situ sets forth a dangerous course which would never have been found via mammogram.

One year ago seems like a lifetime ago.  I wonder what the next year will hold?

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