I started out this week feeling a bit apprehensive. I had my annual mammogram on Monday. Now for most women, this isn't that big of deal. Sure the process can be rather uncomfortable but it doesn't take long and then you're good to go. They tell you they will call you if there is anything unusual and if you don't hear from them, you'll get a letter saying you're good.
It is a scenario played out every day in the U.S. It was one I had done regularly since I was a rather young woman as my paternal grandmother had developed prior to age 40. Still, typically they are concerned only if breast cancer shows up on the mother's side... not the father. Still, I had a doctor who didn't want to take any chances with me and so she started me off early. I'm glad she did.
You see, in late November, 2007, I went in for a routine mammogram. I remember the technician had stepped out for a moment and my glance fell on the monitor. Hmm... something caught my attention and I started to move over for a closer look. At that moment the technician burst into the room, moved the monitor and said, "We need to get some better pictures."
I assumed that I had moved in a previous picture and so they needed to re-take them. I'd had that happen with x-rays before so I thought nothing of it. My assumption was wrong. On December 3, 2007 I learned that I had a spiculating mass which was undoubtedly cancer. It was.
There is a push to delay having mammograms until women are 50 years of age. Like most breast cancer survivors, I am not in favor of that change. More and more women are being diagnosed with breast cancer in their 30's and 40's. While better screening and the fact that more women than ever are having mammograms does play a role in catching cancer which might have otherwise remained undetected, it is apparent that the number of younger women developing breast cancer is on the rise.
On Monday, when I went in for my mammogram, I was in for a surprise. I sat in the waiting with other women, expecting a rather long wait. Suddenly, my name was called and instead of taking me to a room for my mammogram, I was escorted to a consultation room.
Because of breast cancer and later another cancer scare a few years ago, I've had my fair share of mammograms so I knew this was not the norm. After sitting down in the consultation room, I was told that there is a new 3D mammogram. An informational video for those interested can be found here. I would also like to tell women who are interested in this procedure that the statement that insurance does not cover this is not true. It depends upon your health insurance company. Mine covers it and from what I am reading on the internet, a number of other insurers cover it as well so check it out.
Needless to say, I took advantage of this new technology. It gets a much better picture and we all know that cancer can do a very good job of hiding when it wants to. And as far as the slightly more radiation than a 2D mammogram goes... I'm a former radiation therapy patient so in the big scheme of things, this won't make much difference.
I got my results yesterday. No, it was not "normal". Massive scar tissue due to surgery and radiation, having a missing "chunk" as well as some markers means I will never be "normal" again. However, the results did come back that there is no detection of cancer. HOORAY!
June 6, 2013 will mark the 5th anniversary of my last chemo infusion. For me, this is a huge milestone. Does this mean cancer will never come back? No, but with each passing year that I am cancer free, my risk gets lower and lower.
I am a triple negative breast cancer survivor. This is a very aggressive form of breast cancer with a higher risk of recurrence over the first three years than other forms of breast cancer. The risk drops dramatically after that, especially after five years.
Today, I have been reflecting upon my journey over the past five years. As I see the five year post-chemo milestone just up ahead, I am reminded that God has been right beside me every step of the way. It doesn't matter if the road is easy or hard. It doesn't matter if it runs through green meadows with shade trees at just the right intervals with a cool stream of delicious water running along beside it or if it winds through a rock mountain in the desert. The scenery may change, but God doesn't and He is always there.