health

Nothing Routine About a Mammogram

big belliesOne in eight American women will get breast cancer. Seven of you can relax because I was unlucky number eight. Here's how it went. I was just about ready to cancel my routine mammogram because I was leaving for China in two days and needed to pack, I had a manicure appointment scheduled so the Chinese would be impressed with the beauty of large American hands, and my gym clothes were waiting for a much needed work out. 

But reason took over and I figured I would be at the radiologist about a half hour which left time for other things. After the first set of pictures I was called back for a diagnostic set. This was no big deal, it had happened often. After that they wanted an ultrasound. OK, I thought, let's see what happens. It was during the ultrasound that I just knew. Things were intense, they were taking lots of pictures, and two radiologists bone xraywere working with me.  Then the edict came -- you have breast cancer and a lymph node doesn't look too good. We'll schedule a biopsy ASAP. My response, "But I'm leaving for China on Thursday!"

So these wonderful doctors and techs gave up their Wednesday lunches in order to get my biopsies done. They gave me their home phone numbers and personal email addresses and I gave them my email. I scheduled appointments with two surgeons the day after my return three weeks later.

It was in Hong Kong that I received their email confirming cancer in my breast and lymph node. I was not the accepting stoic. My anxiety level went over the top at times and I big belliesexperienced numerous meltdowns. But I saw the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors and the Bund in Shanghai. My husband and friends who traveled with us were extremely supportive.

I returned from one foreign world and entered another; surgery, another surgery, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist. My vocabulary increased adding words like HER2, herceptin, port, muga scan, invasive lobular carcinoma, axillary dissection, radiation boost and aromatase inhibitors. The infusion nurses became my friends and cheerleaders; they gave me shots to increase my white cells and then my red cells also. Over a year has passed and I have a new confidence. Breast cancer is curable; I will dance at my grandson's wedding. I go into the infusion room with a smile, greeting the team. Soon the treatments will be over and this will be just another chapter in what I hope will be a very long life. Moral of the story -- get your mammogram, no excuses allowed.

Ez is a woman who speaks her mind all the time. For more information about breast cancer awareness and information, visit the Susan G. Komen site.

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