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Random Thoughts on Various Things

Went to the doctor this morning to get the results of this year's mammogram. I am still cancer free, and this makes it seven years. Needless to say, this makes me very happy.

If you haven't had a mammogram in recent years, go schedule one today. I was going to post something very insightful regarding life, death and the fairness or unfairness of cancer, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Instead, I will write about what you can do regarding early detection and treatment. It can save your life.

Seven and a half years ago, I went to get my annual checkup with my gynecologist. Year in and year out, my gynecologist had given me the form for scheduling my mammogram. And year in and year out, I did not schedule a mammogram.

I had had one mammogram done a long time ago and I had not liked it. Having your boobs squished is no fun at all, and after all, why should I bother with another one any time soon? There was no history of breast cancer in my family; I had given birth to two children before turning 30; I didn't smoke; drank maybe once or twice a year; exercised regularly; kept a healthy diet; and had no lumps in my breasts.

In other words, I was the poster child for NOT getting breast cancer.

Breast cancer was something that happened to other people.

Why on Earth did I decide to schedule the mammogram this time? Beats me. The point is I did.

It is also amazing how we lie to ourselves. According to me, only a couple of years had elapsed since that annoying first mammogram. However, when the labs went looking for the films to compare with the new ones, they could not find them. And they could not find them because I had had that mammogram not two, but ten years earlier.

Like I said, it is amazing how we lie to ourselves.

When the films came back, the doc said that there appeared to be something that may or may not be benign calcifications, but that they wanted to check it anyway.

I still didn't worry.

Cancer scares didn't scare me. After all, it wasn't going to happen to me, right? At the end of the day it would be just a spooky thing but nothing to worry about. Still,I went ahead and had that awful biopsy done where you are suspended on your stomach while they poke your boob with a needle and take a sample of the teensy weensy little pin sized anomalies.

(And if you have small acreage in your chest, it will hurt more than if you have ample tracts of land.)

(I am ready for my torture Mr. De Mille.)


After that ordeal, I went back to the doctor expecting him to tell me "No worries, it was just a calcification. Very common. Go home and sin no more."

Instead he told me that the little devils were malignant and that I had what is known as DCIS. This means that all those little pin-pricks in the film were were still residing in my milk ducts and had not invaded anything else. There were also lots of them. It looked like somebody had shot my breast with a shotgun full of those guys.

"You know?" said my doctor. "If you had waited a couple of years, you would have probably had a tumor the size of an orange. You are very lucky."

The rest is history. I will not bore you with the details of my mastectomy and recovery. What I am trying to say is that my survival was not due of my being smarter or more cautious or better prepared than anyone. I was stupid, I was reckless, and in my arrogance I did not take care of myself.

I was also very, very lucky.

I was lucky in that I got that fateful mammogram done in time.

I was lucky in that the cancer was detected before it went anywhere.

I was lucky in that I had good insurance coverage that paid for everything.

I was lucky in that I had access to excellent medical care.

I was lucky in that I worked at a place -- and had a boss -- that would not put me on the street because I was sick.

I was lucky to have a man by my side who was my rock and loved me and supported me through the entire ordeal. (You have no idea how many men buckle under pressure, and how many of them cheat on their women, leave them, or behave like total assholes because they can't bear the idea of them being ill or loosing their breasts. At that point, it's much better to go through your ordeal alone.)

All in all, I was lucky.

I also learned that we have limited time in this world. That the year only has 52 weekends. That there are places to go and things to do and that I don't know if I will have time to do it all before I die. That even though my prognosis is great and that it's not likely that I will get the cancer back, life is something that is given to us and that is in limited supply. And than when my friend Death comes to collect me, I want to have something to show for it.

Other women are dying around me of the same disease. Yet, I am still alive. I don't know why I am still alive. If there was any justice in this world, I should have been dead. After all, I was reckless and arrogant. I did not deserve a second chance.

But a second chance I got, and I am grateful for it.

We do not beat my friend Death. No one does. But we can take advantage of Life while we have it.

So live on. Those who left before us did. They are the brave ones. They are the ones who hung in there through the pain and the tears, and who left us with all the grace they had.

You don't need to be a cancer survivor to wake up every morning and tell yourself "I am still alive. I don't know why, but there must be a reason. Let's make it count."

And yes, let's make it count.

We owe it to them.

We owe it to ourselves.

And that's all there is.

Belfebe out.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 21st, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this wonderful post. The world is a richer place having you in it.
Jul. 21st, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you :-)
Jul. 21st, 2009 08:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you! You wrote that with just enough to scare me into being careful while staying upbeat enough that I didn't get so depressed I will avoid it out of anxiety. I'm so glad you are doing well. My grandma has made it through 12 cancer free years now. It is a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate.
Jul. 21st, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Remember, we only live once. And awesomeness about your grandma!
Jul. 21st, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you're around!

And thanks for the kick in the pants, I've had a script in my purse for a month now. I called and will be scheduling an appointment for very soon! and will get it tomorrow at 1:15. Just before my 40th Bday. (Monday of War Week)

Edited at 2009-07-21 09:08 pm (UTC)
Jul. 21st, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Fabulous! It's worth the squished boobs!
Jul. 21st, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
On hold with my PPO as we speak. Thanks!
Jul. 21st, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Get it done! :-D
Jul. 21st, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this post. I keep thinking that magical "35" number is far away, and it's really not. Docs have said I can wait, but in some ways, I'm antsy. I'm also forgetful and have a tendency to put things off.

My grandmother died of breast cancer - they'd taken the breast but it was too late. My father had kidney cancer, and through a complete stroke of luck (me getting sick, and losing my colon, actually), he had it detected soon enough that he's still alive.

I'm so grateful that we still have you.
Jul. 21st, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
I understand about putting things off, believe me. That's how I spent 10 years without a mammogram. Never again. And if your grandma died of breast cancer, the more the reason for you to be careful. We want to have you around for many years to come!

I'm so grateful that we still have you.

Thank you. :-)
Jul. 21st, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC)
I got my first one done last year. I am fine so far. Will go back at 40 or so for another one.

I had the same revelation about the fragility of life and how time is the one thing we can never get back while lying on a McDonald's floor with my hands behind my head.

I probably will never do anything really epic with my life but pay taxes, recycle, pick up trash, and contribute to the economy....but that was more than anybody expected of me anyway.

I am glad you are still among us.
Jul. 22nd, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
I had the same revelation about the fragility of life and how time is the one thing we can never get back while lying on a McDonald's floor with my hands behind my head.

I think that the message is revealed to us in different ways. I have always said that you are never more alive than when you are about to die. Or at least when you think you are about to die.

We don't need to do anything epic. Living our lives as intensely and richly as we can is what this is all about. Make the most of the time we have left and make it count.

I am also glad that you are still among us.
Jul. 21st, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC)
Got my "baseline" mamo last year (age 37) and will get another one next January right after I go to my yearly exam and get the new script. Being one of "small acreage" mamos are no fun for me, but I will continue to get them regularly because you just never know. You and Arielle are (unfortunately) great object lessons in why you're never too young to get a mammogram. (and I actually learned about another type of breast cancer from an info poster in the changing room!)

MFH and I had a cancer scare this year w/ him (nodules on his thyroid). So far all the biopsies (12!) have come back benign but he'll be having his thyroid out this fall just to be safe as he is already a cancer survivor (Hodgkin's as a child).

Thanks for reminding us to be grateful for our lives and those we love.
Jul. 22nd, 2009 02:04 am (UTC)
So glad you have had your mammogram already. It makes all the difference in the world.

And good to hear that everything came okay with MHF! That was scary!
Jul. 21st, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
First mammogram in my late 20's along with an aspiration biopsy and a standard biopsy (pathology says muscle fascia...nowhere near the muscle *shrug*). Second mammogram 1 year post reduction (given that I whimpered when the scars stretched, any earlier would have caused me to scream, I think). I had lumpy breasts before, now I have scar-filled lumpy breasts, but I still check regularly for differences from what I'm used to and from breast to breast.

My mom's sister fought cancer twice, the third time she didn't so much fight as take really good drugs to be able to travel during what was left of her life. She was one hell of a woman. She found out about the 3rd case when her femur broke from metastasized breast cancer and there was too much cancer to remove surgically and chemo had no affect. Just as you were lucky to get a mammogram early enough to spot cancer when it was very treatable, she was unlucky enough that her regularly scheduled mammograms didn't catch the 3rd case.

I'm glad your case was caught early and treatable because I never even would have met you, and I'm very blessed to know you.
Jul. 23rd, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you. And keep up the good work checking those breasts :-)
Jul. 21st, 2009 11:13 pm (UTC)
And I think of you, and my aunt, and Arielle everytime I have a mammogram.
Jul. 22nd, 2009 02:25 am (UTC)
Thank you for this.
Jul. 22nd, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)
Wise words. I insisted on a baseline last year - because I DO have a history. But you're right - getting correct and timely care is a damn lucky thing. I'm so glad you caught yours early!
Jul. 23rd, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks! And keep on with those mammos!
Jul. 22nd, 2009 04:14 am (UTC)
Because my family has a history of breast and cervical cancer we started a small tradition- the month of your birthday, you celebrate being alive by going and having your annual mammo mambo and pap smear.

Glad to have you with us. As always, you rock!
Jul. 23rd, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
That's a great way to celebrate!
Jul. 22nd, 2009 04:30 am (UTC)

(Coming up on four years cancer free.)
Jul. 23rd, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
Coming up on four years cancer free

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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