Friday, June 21, 2013

Speaking of breast cancer...

That moment when your doctor asks you if the lump on your right breast has changed in size or shape since your last appointment, and you don't remember ever having a lump on either of your breasts.
"Right about 7 o'clock," he assures you.  "Too small to show up on your mammograms."

As he and the nurse are pulling up your files to double check that it really was your breast and not the breast of another patient he's thinking of, you are SO sure that he's thinking of someone else that you now can't remember if he and the nurse did or did not find his notation about it on your records.

In any case, he could not find a lump of any kind on either breast during yesterday's exam, so no worries.
I'll be going in for mammogram #12 in October.


Like many other women, I ask him about the BRCA test that Angelina Jolie had.  "Can *I* get that?  And, how much would it cost?" I want to know.

"That test," he tells me, "runs about fifteen thousand dollars.  And you can't get it unless you have reason to believe you are at risk."  He explains that having two immediate family members who've had breast cancer would be helpful ("My mom," I say.  "Sisters?" he asks.  "No tumors," I answer.  "Okay, then, no."), and he explains that even if such a test came back positive, it would not mean I would definitely GET breast cancer and whether or not to have a radical mastectomy would depend on several more factors.
It is about this far into the conversation that I hold up my hand to stop him.
"You had me at fifteen thousand dollars."
"We could get it covered by insurance if..."
"I only have my mom.  And I'm not that worried about it."

God bless you, Angelina Jolie, for bringing this disease and this test into public awareness and conversations.  But, I, like most women in America, can't afford the test much less the surgery and much, much less the very nice reconstructive magic you had done.  Your job, which fortunately pays very well, required it, of course.  You are one of the lucky ones (or twos, uh, yeah).

The truly brave women are the ones who have the double mastectomy, and spend the rest of their lives boobless in order to remain worry-free.  Those women are my heroes.  If your average, everyday woman can do it, I'll be just fine.

***Updated 7/20/2015 to add the following***

It has been years since I first wrote this post, but it occurs to me that perhaps the doctor HAD at one point seen something concerning in one of my mammograms. Remember how long it took the medical facility to let me know my 10th mammogram was clear?  Years later, my chiropractor requested copies of my medical records and told me that something had shown up one year.  I told him he was wrong, but he showed me the report.  I saw it with my own eyes.


I really hate the medical community.
First, they eff up getting me timely news on my test.
Second, they eff up the information they give me. 
Third, an outside source gave me this correct info YEARS later.

I'm just going to leave this here.
The important thing is that there've been no further complications since (that I know of) (that they've managed to tell me).

1 comment:

Bou said...

I've been gone for too long.

My grandmother was the kind that went boobless to be worry free. I just assumed this is what I would do if I end up in a situation to have to do something prophylactically like she did. I hope I don't have to see if I am...