It’s October — which most of you likely are aware of, the wonkiness of time in 2020 notwithstanding. It’s the time of the year for changing leaves, and football games (for those of us not still locked down), and Halloween (again, for those of us not still locked down), and pumpkin spice, and election-related surprises. It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Now, I recognize this is RedState, not PinkState, but seeing as how I just had another mammogram this morning, and seeing how it has now been seven years since I had my own skirmish* with breast cancer, I’ve decided to (re)share my experience with the C-word with an eye towards reminding/nudging everyone to follow up and through with their recommended cancer screenings — be they for colon cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, skin cancer. Go get checked, folks. You can pass the time in the waiting room by reading RedState.
[*I characterize my own experience with it as a “skirmish” as “battle” makes it sound much more harrowing than it was. Though it’s possible the passage of time has softened the edges of my recollections, honestly, I was quite lucky, both in terms of diagnosis and treatment regimen. I should add that, since then, it’s turned out that there is, in fact, a history of breast cancer in the family — at least four cousins have had it, as did our paternal aunt, though none of us has the telltale BRCA gene.]
(Original publication date: September 16, 2013.) I’m a terrible procrastinator. Or….maybe I’m a terrific one. Whichever adjective best describes one who procrastinates in most all arenas….that one’s me. For instance, I have an office in my house. It’s a nice space (converted bedroom), with a desk, computer, printer and filing cabinet, book shelf, and an electric piano. Given its function, it has become the repository for all paper — bills, tax returns, school records, six years of school art projects, EOB’s, old photographs (remember when they used to be printed out?!), etc. This may not come as a surprise to you, but even one-and-a-half people can generate a lot of paper. (And laundry – but that’s for another time.)
So, over time, the office filled up with paper I kept meaning to get to and sort through and pitch and organize….but never did. And since it was already such a mess, it started becoming the place to toss all other items for which I couldn’t find a proper place. And I started keeping the door to the office closed whenever we had guests so no one could see what a pigsty it had become. I’d get to it. Eventually.
“Eventually” finally got here last weekend. I set out with the very unambitious goal of simply sorting through a couple stacks of things which were essentially blocking my access to the closet (which houses various gift wrap/tissue paper/gift bag supplies, along with my business suits and dresses.) Once I started in, though, it was hard to stop. And pretty soon, a room which once had required a very careful tiptoe through a maze of stacked papers and assorted things-to-be-pitched-or-donated, returned to its former glory. Well, almost. There are still several stacks around the edges which need to be addressed. And several folders of different sorts of paperwork which actually need to be filed in the appropriate file folders. But it’s infinitely more presentable than it was.
One of the items I came across in my random fit of organization was the envelope containing my old mammogram films. When I say “old,” I mean “old.” These date back to 2000. Which might seem strange because if one were to do the math, one would realize that way back then, I was only 31-32. And most 31-32 year olds don’t have mammograms. Well, I did, because way back then, I found a lump in my right breast and had to have it checked out. It turned out to be nothing. Just a harmless cyst which eventually went away, thankfully.
So, when my 40th birthday rolled around and at my next yearly check up, my doc wrote a scrip for a mammogram, I took it in stride. Which, in Susie Speak means “procrastinated.” I wasn’t in a real rush to set it up. I’d had one before. We didn’t really have a history of breast cancer in the family. It certainly wasn’t anything urgent. Eventually (there’s that word again!) I got around to scheduling one. For some reason, I felt compelled to try out a new place which was in the same location as my OB-Gyn. And since I’d already had one done, they asked me to retrieve my films from the original place. Which I dutifully did. But when I showed up for my appointment and finished filling out the requisite paperwork, I was suddenly advised that this new place didn’t actually take my insurance. (Might have been nice to figure that out before the appointment.) Since I was already there and scheduled, they’d happily go ahead with it, but that would be $300 out-of-pocket. Yeah – no. Forget that! I’d just go back to the original place.
Which would require actually calling and making an appointment. Which I knew I’d get to….eventually. Have I mentioned that I’m also a little obstinate? For some reason, the insurance fiasco prompted in me a stubborn resistance to getting around to making that call. Each year, I returned for my annual check up, my doc would write out another scrip for that mammogram I still needed to go get. And I’d add it to the stack of papers in my office that I knew I needed to get to…at some point. I even had it written down on several different “To Do” lists floating around my home and even electronically in my Microsoft One Note personal notebook.
Well, the newfound sense of freedom and motivation that followed from my office organizing last weekend prompted me to actually get off my duff and follow through on several of those “To Do’s,” including finally calling to schedule that dang mammogram. The “old” place welcomed me back with open arms and had an appointment happily waiting for me last Thursday. I went in with my old films in hand and filled out the updated paperwork. I’d been through it before (albeit, thirteen years ago), and knew it wasn’t a dreadful procedure. Just a few moments of (as I’ve heard it described before) feeling like your boob is smooshed in the refrigerator door.
All went well and I felt pretty good about finally checking that box off the ToDo list! Sweet! Wouldn’t have to worry about that for another five years. Except that they called me back on Friday to say they needed a Mulligan on the right breast. Something looked a little off and they just needed to be sure. Ever the optimist, I chalked it up to the fact that I don’t have a lot to work with to begin with and so getting me positioned just right and getting a good image I’m sure is no easy feat.
So, back I went again today for more smooshing. And then an ultrasound. Because, it turns out, it wasn’t just an imaging issue. There isn’t a mass of any sort, but there are calcifications lurking in there. Itty bitty things, which most of the time turn out to be benign little nothings. (These are known as “macrocalcifications.”) However, sometimes, especially if they’re clustered together or arranged in a pattern of sort, they can be indicative of a sort of pre-cancerous process going on. These “microcalcifications,” again, most often, turn out to be benign. But not always. And, in order to be sure of that, they require a closer look. So…next up is a biopsy. That comes this Thursday. And I’ll know something by Friday or Monday. (Thankfully, the folks at the breastcare center don’t procrastinate. Unlike someone I know….) And hopefully, what I’ll know is that they’re just benign little boogers. And even if not, the good news is this is early and will be addressed accordingly.
So…why am I sharing all this? I mean, it is kind of on the personal side. (Right, like nothing else I’ve ever written is…..) Well, I’m sharing it because it just so happens that October (which is just around the corner!) is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – which is the perfect time for all those of you who, like me, tend to procrastinate to go ahead and make that call and set up that appointment you’ve been putting off. Because chances are, you’re fine, and you’ll get the peace of mind of that reassurance and of checking one more “To Do” off your own list. And even if you’re not 100% fine, by getting checked out now, you’ll know, and be better off tackling that b-word sooner rather than later.
Now is the time!