While I’m so grateful for a fun-filled family weekend in Washington, DC last weekend, this week I am exceedingly grateful—and beyond relieved—for a good health report, and for the care and diligent precaution of my doctor and a few other diagnosticians.
Without getting into the gory details, we are particularly vigilant about certain aspects of my health because of a genetic predisposition. A routine screening last month turned up a slight irregularity, and although it didn’t overly alarm my doctor and the specialist he consulted, knowing my family history he wanted to be abundantly cautious and he ordered a follow-up in six weeks.
I probably don’t need to tell you that your mind wanders to pretty dire, murky places when you get news that has potentially serious or grave consequences. I didn’t want to worry anyone, so I didn’t share the information with a soul beyond the walls of my own home. Admittedly, the last six weeks have been a little terrifying inside my head. I had been feeling fine, but a few days after getting my doctor’s call, I began having painful symptoms that lasted almost three weeks. While the symptoms were consistent with what the doctors suspected, they could also be consistent with other, more grim, conditions. I wasn’t feeling especially fabulous, but I didn’t want to let on and complain to anyone. My best friend was a bottle of Advil. When the pain finally began to subside, I was thankful but still not relieved. Since I hadn’t felt any symptoms when they had detected something awry in the first place, I wasn’t convinced that the let-up in pain meant that everything was fine inside.
It was hard to be brave, but I kept it together for the higher-level diagnostic testing this week—and I held my breath until the radiologist told me everything looks totally normal. It had indeed been a condition that’s found in most women (but they almost never know about it) after all. HALLELUYAH! EXHALE! WHEW!
Beyond grateful to get that report. So grateful to my cautious but not easily alarmed doctor who has looked after me for almost 20 years. Gratitude to the extremely kind, compassionate diagnostician; she was so different from the initial diagnostician who had been so brusque and humorless. And of course I’m so grateful that we have the technology and research to help people like me remain vigilant about our health. Oh, and chocolate. My go-to comfort food.
So, since this is the last Friday in October and we’re talking about health, I’ll take the opportunity to make one last plea during Breast Cancer Awareness Month: If ya got ’em, CHECK ‘EM!
♥ If you’re due (or overdue) for a mammogram, please call today to schedule it. If you’ve never been before and are scared to go, or if you continually postpone appointments because you dread them, know that if you live within driving distance I would be honored to go with you and hold your hand in the waiting room. I’ll even take you out afterwards for lunch or a glass of wine or a big hot fudge sundae. If you’re somewhere further away, ask a close friend to accompany you. I guarantee she’ll be more than happy to oblige.
♥ If you detect something even mildly suspicious, go have it checked out right away! Be proactive about asking questions, and push for further testing if you feel it’s necessary. You need to be your own advocate! Being “reasonably sure it’s nothing” isn’t enough in this case.
♥ If someone you know has a strong family history of breast cancer and suspects they may have a BRCA genetic mutation, urge them to have genetic testing. Or give them my number or email address and have them get in touch with me for encouragement and support to do it. Getting the results of the test is truly the scariest part of that whole journey. Knowledge is power!
♥ If you know someone who is undergoing treatment, find out if and how you can be of help. But remember that everyone is different, and you need to be respectful of and sensitive about how she chooses to handle things. I know some women who have wanted loads of support and company, and others who bristle at the thought of one more person tipping their head slightly, lowering their voice woefully, frowning and asking, “How are you?”
♥ If you’re lucky enough to have healthy breasts, help fund research for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Don’t ever think that what you can give is too insignificant – every dollar can make a difference to women who are courageously battling for their lives.
Now go forth, smile, and have a wonderful weekend!