Earlier this week, I was contacted by a woman who worked for my health insurance company. They are preparing a series on the importance of preventive care and wanted permission to share my story. I gave my consent without giving it a second thought. You see, I am a firm believer in preventive care and I have good reason to be a supporter of it.
Over 25 years ago, a doctor noted that my maternal grandmother died of breast cancer which had matastasized to her lungs. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was about 37 years old. She was 44 years old when she died. This doctor also noted that my father had been diagnosed with colon cancer at age 40. He died a few weeks after his 43rd birthday. Though these two cancers are not related, this doctor immediately issued orders for me to begin regular screenings for breast and colon cancer at the age of 30, twenty years before the normal recommendations. This single act of preventative medicine may have saved my life.
In early 2007 I received a call that my mammogram was cancelled. The tech was sick that day and I would need to reschedule. I forgot to reschedule. In the fall of 2007, I began to experience strange and brief episodes of dizziness. One day this happened while I was in the classroom lining up students to go to a specialist class. It was more intense than the other episodes. Fortunately I was standing next to the phone at the time and the students were standing right by the door. I managed to send as student next door for a teacher and punch in the phone number for the office.
I was given a break and everything appeared to be normal once again. I decided to go to urgent care after work and get checked out. The doctor could find nothing wrong but suspected that perhaps there was a bit of infection in my inner ear. I was given some antibiotics and instructions to call if the problem was still persisting in a few weeks. The problem continued.
Early one morning I called to make an appointment to see my primary doctor. Perhaps she could get to the bottom of this. After making the appointment, I was about to hang up when the woman on the other end of the line stopped me.
"I see you are past due for your mammogram. Would you like to set up that appointment as well?"
No, no I wouldn't, I thought to myself, as I am in a hurry. Instead I said, "No thank you. I will call back later."
In the nicest way, the woman persisted. I need not trouble myself about calling back. She was looking at the available slots opened. Would the Wednesday before Thanksgiving work? I sighed because I knew that just happened to be the only day that I really could do this as it was a non-school/non-duty day and I would not have to take off time from work. I had no excuse for not making the appointment now.
That mammogram would reveal a tumor that I would later learn was not only breast cancer, it was triple negative breast cancer. Since it was TNBC, I would still have to have chemotherapy and radiation after surgery however, it appeared that my cancer was discovered before it had spread to my lymph nodes or entered my bloodstream. Had I waited until I had found the tumor, it may have been too late. Receiving preventive care may have saved my life.
In December, my oncologist recommended that I have genetic testing done. There have been a lot of advances in genetic testing since I was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago and based on my history plus that of my father and his mother, he felt it might provide some important information. I agreed even though I realized I might discover something that I would have preferred to remain hidden. I decided that it would be better to discover my "enemy" so we could take any necessary steps to prevent it or slow it down as opposed to remain in ignorance so I consented to have the testing done.
I did not test positive for the known mutations that are responsible for breast cancer but they did discover something about me. I have a mutation of a gene known as PMS2 and have Lynch Syndrome. Though we cannot be certain, my father fit the profile of someone who has Lynch Syndrome and therefore in all probability I inherited this mutation from him.
My genetic counselor told me that if you have Lynch Syndrome, the mutation you want to have is PMS2 as opposed to the other mutations associated with Lynch Syndrome. Why? Because this particular mutation is the least likely to develop into a Lynch-related cancer. That being said, my medical care team has been put on red alert. The screenings I routinely do have been increased and others are being added to my preventive care plan. While no one can keep me from getting cancer again, we can certainly do our best to detect any normalities as soon as possible and stop cancer before it gets very far.
I have two purposes for writing this blog. First of all, I want to send the message, please do not neglect preventive care. If your insurer balks at the idea of covering preventive care which I believe is now illegal in the US, firmly remind them that it will cost them far less to do the screening and avoid or treat problems early on than it is to treat them when they are full blown.
Secondly, what applies to the physical, also applies to the spiritual. We were all born with a spiritual disease called sin. We inherited it from Adam and Eve. Only God can purge us of the disease of sin but we need to recognize that we are susceptible to it and therefore we must be on our guard. We need to submit ourselves to frequent screening by the Holy Spirit and we need to follow God's preventive care plan faithfully in order to maintain good spiritual health.
"Frequent screening by the Holy Spirit..." I like it. This web site has become part of that screening process for me.Thank God for CB! Bless you, K :)
You sure have a way with words!