This past Monday I had an appointment that was almost a game changer and I was pissed. I met with the breast surgeon for the first time at what was supposed to be a simple ‘getting to know each other’ appointment. She had the slides from my mammogram from this past May posted on display. One of the images of my breast looked just like a bunny so I snapped a picture of it, thinking that would be the most blog-worthy thing to come out of the appointment.
Then she gave me a breast exam.
She felt a lump in my left breast, just behind my nipple. My gut told me that it wasn't anything. As it happens, I'm slowly weaning my 2 1/2 year old from breast feeding (no judgment please - one of the benefits of extended breast feeding is breast cancer risk reduction) so I suspected that the lump the surgeon had detected was a milk duct or something. Plus, I can recall the few times I’ve already experienced this - when a doctor finds ‘something’ that ends up being ‘nothing’.
Although this time was different. This time I was stricken with the fact that now I was a known carrier of the BRCA 1 gene mutation. This time, I was aware of the 87% chance that one day, maybe today, that ‘something’ will actually be ‘something’.
After an emergency mammogram and ultrasound on Friday, I found out that this time my instinct was right, and fortunately it was nothing more than a milk duct.
The feeling that I was most stricken by this week was anger, followed by validation. Anger because if the lump was ‘something’, I would not have been able to go forward with the mastectomy on my terms. I have felt so empowered that I have taken control of my body and I am proud to tell breast and ovarian cancer “sorry, no vacancies here”. But there was a time this week when I wasn't sure if I was going to have that control. If not for preventive surgeries, between the suggested bi-yearly mammograms, breast ultrasounds, ovarian ultrasounds, and breast MRIs (plus follows ups when something shows up at one of these appointments), I could likely spend a good part of the the rest of my life in doctors offices, frightened and waiting for the inevitable. I'm just not comfortable with that option.
So that's why this week was validating. I have the gene. I will likely get cancer. Now more than ever, I know I want the power of preventive surgery. This year for Halloween I'm dressing as a ninja. I'm 5 foot 2 inches, 115 pounds, and barely have the physical strength to lift my 7 year old, but this year, I feel like a warrior.