Last month I was at the health center, getting my annual mammogram and bi-annual bone density
scan. As I put my cell phone in that little locker they provide for your stuff, I thought, "Snap a picture of yourself in this hospital gown and post it to Facebook as a reminder to other women to schedule their checkups."
As a rule, I believe selfies are best left to the young and self-involved, but this seemed like an opportunity for a Public Service Announcement. I've had fifteen or twenty mammograms over the years and they're always okay. So, contrary to my usual policy, I posted this picture of me in alternating hospital gowns (one forward, one back).
I got a lot of likes and loves and laughs on my Facebook post--and a handful of requests to let my friends know the outcome.
I figured, in a week or so, I'd post the results and be done with it. But three days later (a quick response on lab tests is never good), my doctor's office called to say, "Something looked a little hinky. You need to get another mammogram with more elaborate and expensive equipment."*
Facebook post #2 netted 70 well-wishes and requests to be kept in the loop.
So the next Monday I went to a different facility and had another picture with different equipment. The tech sent the pictures straight over to a radiologist, who said, "That lump is tiny (5mm), but the edges are irregular. We should poke it with a sharp instrument."*
Eight days later, I went back to get poked. (Full disclosure: This was done under the effects of a local anesthesia and didn't actually hurt.) I still wasn't concerned, because the Susan G. Komen site assured me that 80% of breast lump biopsies are benign.
Only this one wasn't.
A week later, I met with an oncology surgeon, who explained that my tumor is what's known as invasive, ductile breast cancer. It's in my milk glands (ductile), and it's traveled between milk glands (invasive). The good news was, it's also Clinical Stage One.
He offered me the choice of a lumpectomy followed by radiation treatments or a double mastectomy sans radiation. Either choice has a recurrence rate of 6%. (That rises to 21% if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.)
If I went with the mastectomy, I'd have to have a second, reconstructive surgery to reinflate my breasts. The vision of permanently perky breasts atop a 90-year-old chest creeps me out. I prefer my entire body to shrivel at the same pace.
Also, not crazy about a second surgery.
So, I'm having my lumpectomy on March 7. While I'm asleep, they'll also harvest a couple of lymph nodes and check them for cancer. If they're clear, I'm good to go (to radiation treatments five times a week for 5 to 8 weeks). If not, I'll undergo chemo before I can start radiation.
All prayers, good vibes, and well-wishes welcome.
*Possibly not an exact quote.