I don’t remember a lot about it. I was far too self absorbed to pay attention to the details, or maybe to even realize what it all could mean. Ignorant and idiotic. I didn’t make time to get to know her well, and looking back on it I see millions of missed opportunities. But one thing I can never forget, when the doctor said to me, “Your sister is dying.”
So calm. So cold. Just those four words as he looked me straight in the eyes. I was 27 years old. She was 45.
This year I turned 35, just one year younger than she was when first diagnosed. For some reason, I have felt a great need to seek some medical exploration and got the 2nd mammogram of my life. I had questions about genetic testing and was interested in having it done. The first step was to see the head surgeon of a new High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic that opened recently at a local hospital. I didn’t even really know what I was there for or what we would discuss. I thought I was heading for genetic counseling, but as the petite doctor, not much older than myself, walked into the room, she made it clear that this was not genetic counseling, and if that is what I was solely interested in then she could schedule that for me, but as no matter what I was going to end up paying her, she would like to discuss a few things with me if I was interested. I said I was, and I’m so glad that I did.
Dr. Saldhana is a fantastic doctor, very interested in her patients’ needs, and very personable and caring. We talked about some family history. She did a few genetic analyses of her own just to calculate some of my potential risk factors, and gave me some homework of what additional information I need to find out about my family history for when I would have my genetic counseling appointment as they would go much further in-depth than she had. Some lifestyle changes such as ensuring I get 30 minutes of cardio a day and refraining from alcoholic beverages are in store. Does alcohol really make a big difference? I practically pleaded her with my eyes to say no, but she gave me a resounding Yes. Fun fact: alcohol can function as a carcinogen essentially. Shit. However, back to what’s really important, the next big step as far as she was concerned, was to get some more imaging, and that meant a breast MRI.
Scheduled rather quickly, I had this procedure performed last week right before Thanksgiving. It wasn’t a big deal. Lie in this machine, the girls kinda dangling in this contraption, stay very still, and listen to the whirs and knocks that surrounded me for nearly a half an hour as they took test images, then the first set of real images, injected some dye, and then the last set of contrast images. Walk away, rush home and quickly begin preparing for tomorrow’s day of family and food.
4:44 pm Monday as I’m preparing dinner, my cell rings. Surprisingly, the voice that meets me over the phone is Dr. Saldhana. This can’t be good echoes in my mind as I take in the news. A small lesion, about 6mm near my right arm pit. The images not detected on the mammogram or the 3D mammogram. More imaging needed, and some kind of biopsy in the future. That’s the basic gist of the conversation.
Most likely a cyst...
Not trying to scare you…
This is what you came in for. Not quite the genetic testing, but preventative measures to make sure you stay healthy as someone at high risk for breast cancer.
So today I should receive an appointment for a ultrasound, and then some form of biopsy will follow. From some light Googling last night, a cyst will appear more translucent if it shows up on a sonogram, fluid can hopefully be removed from it, and the cyst should disappear. Some cysts come back, and some don’t. If the 6mm lesion is not filled with fluid, there are still a variety of diagnoses other than breast cancer that it could potentially be, and so I am choosing to remain optimistic and see where the next few weeks will take me.
And while I have so many regrets about what I have done or not done in the past, I do not regret listening to the little voice that said, You might wanna check into this.