A Real Scare…


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Warning: Get your favorite beverage first. 

What I’m about to discuss is not even known among a lot of my friends and family. Perhaps I should send them all smelling salts by FedEx first? If I am blessed to call you a friend or a family member, just do me a favor–sit down first, okay? And if you have a heart condition, take your meds first. But, I promise…it’s going to be all right.

In April 2013 I did my annual check-ups. Yes, plural. I have to do one for my heart condition and one for the female stuff. I have been doing the former ever since 1999 when I first discovered I had Prinzmetal Angina. The latter I should have been doing all along, but honestly, like a lot of women, I had lapsed on that exam for several years.

Enter my best buddy, Kim. Kim, like me, grew weary of the annual exams where our doctors usually chew us out for weighing too much, not exercising enough, and not eating right. Thus, when she felt a lump in her breast, she ignored it. If Kim were here, she would tell you that is the stupidest thing she’s ever done and she paid the ultimate price for that neglect: her life.

Thus, I resolved to be a better medical patient and started going to my annual female appointment again. This includes a routine mammogram due to my age. Normally, these come back just fine, despite having the very common, usually “no-big-deal” fibro-cystic disease.

This year, I got a very short report saying that they needed to re-do the test. That was it. I kept reading the report to try and discern whether the “re-do” was because they hadn’t gotten a clear pic of the “girls” or if they suspected a tumor. Even when I called to schedule this new mammogram, the receptionist wouldn’t specify why I was doing the test again. However, the scary part is that the radiologist would give me the results right away–I would not have to wait 10 days to hear whether or not everything was okay. I considered this both good and bad news.

They couldn’t schedule the re-test right away. Not good for a woman who can make mountain ranges out of an anthill. I considered whether I wanted to relay this to my family for prayer requests or whether I just wanted to “go it alone” with my husband and a few close friends who understood all too well the ramifications of what this test might mean for me. I decided on the latter. The friends told me this was very common and that often, women’s breasts calcify as they age and most of the time, these calcifications are not harmful in any way.

Finally the day came for doing the re-test. The technician did finally confirm that my breasts were calcifying and that these calcifications had grown considerably since my last annual exam. Not only did I have to redo the original scans, but now I had to endure even more uncomfortable positions for this test. Basically, they tried to wring out my breasts like a dish rag and since I’m a C cup, this was not exactly my favorite thing to do on a Monday morning. But, I survived, probably because my other health adventures have taught me a lot about surviving stupid medical pain.

As I waited with the lovely enormous pink paper towel (I didn’t know the Jolly Green Giant had breasts.) over the top part of my bod for the technician or the radiologist to return, I was actually calm. All I can say is that faith in God and the prayers of my family and friends intervened there.

The technician came back and said that the questionable spots on the mammogram appeared to be just calcifications and I needed to confirm this again with another mammogram in late October. I scheduled the appointment and returned home.

Being the researcher that I am, I got on WebMD and discovered that 98% of the time the re-mammogram of such calcifications proves to be nothing to worry about. That was even more calming news. I let those who had been praying know that all seemed to be okay for now.

Enter the health adventures of the last 4 months. Let me just add that my annual heart check-up went extremely well, so I was not prepared for my heart to go berzerk in June and then to create a clot in one of my ventricles this past August. As I recuperated from all of that mess, my mind periodically remembered the eventual October appointment. Again, I thought, “Should I tell more of my family and friends?” Most of them were in rather large transitions themselves and it seemed silly to tell them about something that was probably going to be okay. However, I had seemed to be okay heart-wise as well. And look how that turned out! My luck was pretty much non-existent!

I decided to only tell a few more people about the situation and proceeded with last Monday’s test. Again I lived through the “booby-trap” process I had endured in the original re-test. (I’m thinking a vise grip would have been kinder to my poor left side.) And this time the radiologist saw no reason to re-test until my next female exam in 2014. Yay! Hallelujah! Thanks be to God!

In the meantime one reader friend has also had to deal with an actual diagnosis of breast cancer. It is just scary how many women I know who face these rather unnerving, somewhat painful experiences every day and seldom tell a lot of people simply because they just don’t want to worry people unnecessarily.

The good news? Even if diagnosed, your chances of surviving are awesome today, particularly if you are diagnosed at Stage 1 and Stage 2. In fact I just learned that a vaccine is expected for breast cancer in 10 to 15 years. The friend recently diagnosed said that our country is full of great resources and support, often only a phone call or web site away.

So, dear lady readers: Is it time for a check-up? If so, make that appointment today. Don’t let cost deter you. Many places make mammograms and other female appointments free throughout the year. It never hurts to ask! All they can say is no. But, keep asking.

And gentlemen readers: Have you checked on your favorite person of the opposite gender to make sure she is having those appointments regularly? Be a man and stumble through it, if you have to. At least she will know you care. And that may be the very thing that gets her to the enormous, pink paper towel. You may even save her life. And just for the record, men get breast cancer, too. So, make sure you’re going to YOUR appointments, too.

Yes, friends, it’s that important. The life you save may be your own. And I am always here for support any way you need it. Why? Because I made the decision to keep my appointments. 🙂

Friday’s Post: The Patron Saint of Writers…and???

You might also like: Lessons Learned from the 2009 Dallas Breast Cancer 3 DayHow I Cope with a Heart that’s a Ticking Time Bomb, and 8 Women Who Changed My Life

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 at 10:50 am and is filed under Lessons Learned. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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