Breast Cancer Awareness Month and My C Scare

Usually this blog is about cooking, and I know I have not been very diligent about that. today I am writing you as a advocate for self breast examinations and early mammogram screenings. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so please get screened, tested, self exam, etc.!!! this applies to the men as well, you are not immune to this as you once thought and it is nothing to be ashamed about, I know many men are which is why the percentage of male cases reported are so low.

I am 35 years old, no kids and a family history of breast cancer on the paternal side of the family. 2 of my aunts are survivors and my grandmother passed away a few years ago from complications, later stages of breast cancer. I am very diligent in knowing my family medical history because I do not want to get older and then hear the "You know your grandfather had something like that." I would like to know what I am getting into even if it is a few years off.

After giving the family medical history to my gynecologist, he recommended I have my first mammogram at 35. Well, this year I turned 35 and reminded my doctor that we needed to start screening and got my orders to head to AMIC (Advanced Medical Imaging Center) and have my first ever mommogram done. I was scheduled for Friday September 2nd, we had a half day due to the holiday so I figured why not get done when I know I have the time.

Ladies, if you can imagine an Indian Sunburn like when you were kids, this is what I experienced the first time they decided to squish the living cells out of my left breast. Mind you I have enough for myself and maybe to help out another girl, but I did not have enough skin for that machine to do it's job and survive. I screamed out bloody murder and then realized she had me too far into the machine and then it was fine. If you talk to your technician first and give them your pain tolerance level then things should be fine, but please remember the first time is a crap shoot! After having smooshed both my breasts in this neat machine that pops up the images a couple of seconds after they take it, I was told that I might have to come back since this was my first screening and it was normal since they have no previous images to compare these against.

I went about my weekend and had a lovely labor day sleeping in and doing absolutely nothing and not worrying about a thing. Monday morning I got a call from my doctor telling me that AMIC needed to see me again and that he would be sending the orders over as soon as possible. I was able to get in the following wednesday when the radiologist was in and would take the images for me.

I was fine with everything till I heard the words ultrasound from my doctor. The last time I had an ultrasound they were checking to see if I had a gallstone because I was having issues keeping food down at times and they ruled out appendicitis. This was not good news to me. He then told me that they found a 7.5mm spot in the upper right breast area and I was told it might be a lymphnode and this is why they were going to do more screening. 7.5mm is a huge spot to point out if you ask me.

I made sure I knew most of my family medical history and when my aunt saw my Facebook status "Need to have right breast rescreened. Hope this is just routine! Talking to the lady scheduling and it sounds intense! #scared" she responded with "Brandi, praying your tests are all negative. Barbara and I both had ours in the right upper breast so when I read your post, my heart sank. Grandma's was in her left outer breast and hers was inflammatory BC. Have they ordered any blood work? All 3 of ours were HER negative and progesterone/estrogen driven. Call if you have any questions or need to talk. Love ya, Julia"

That weekend I participated in the Downtown Dash with a friend to get my mind off things. All I kept doing was worrying about it and I tried to mask it with the fun that we were suppose to be having as well as trying to kick butt of the other teams. After awhile i just wanted to pack it in and sulk at home alone but I thought If I want to be positive this is a way of acting positive and finishing the race and finding out who won. My partner and i won for best costume, which I thought was well deserved since we did dress the part of the Bad Hare Day. I ended that saturday night with roller derby, of course I complained that there was not enough contact and thought it should be played like hockey.

Sunday I was not sure what to think. I tried to keep myself calm but you know how us women are, we cannot rest till we know what the hell is going on. I decided to check on paternal breast cancer and the possibilities that it could be genetically passed on. Most reports you read about these days indicate that breast cancer is passed maternally, but this is due to the lack of paternal medical history. Might be because the paternal figure is not in the life or they just do not know it. I decided one website was enough for me and that I needed to stop worrying about it. Think positive, be positive and everything will be ok.

When i got to work monday I started talking to some of the ladies at work, one in particular that I share some of my lady things that just do not seem to run properly and vice versa. I told her what was going on and she right away says "You will be fine, there is no other option, you will be fine. Stop worrying." Of course there is something to worry about, but she is trying to be positive. She lost her husband a few years ago to cancer and she just did not want to hear or talk about the possibility that I might be going through the big C. Hell, I do not even want to think about it but I can't help it. I tell everyone family history is dictating things right now and I am a bit freaked out so let me be.

On wednesday I headed to my appointment as recommended, 15 minutes early, and sat there knitting a blue and orange scarf for some Bears fans while I waited. The whole time I was sitting there my mind started to wander. I started to think what if this is not a lymphnode, what if it is something worse, what if I pass out when she says biopsy? Lets just say I was like a dog going to the vet, shaking and wanting to run out the first door that opened. I kept knitting to take my mind off things and then my name was called.

I followed the nurse to the changing room, put on the gown and started reading more of my book "First, You Cry" written by a woman who worked for NBC in the 70's and her dealings with breast cancer. I can tell you this title is to the point. The nurse came back to get me and brought me back into the same cold room I was just in a week and a half ago and nothing changed other then who was doing the imaging and how many were in the room.

Seeing as they only had to work on my right breast, I simply whipped it out and they went about placing it on the plate and gently working it down to flattening out the area in which they needed to concentrate on that day. They took more images of my right breast area then they did of both my breasts the first time. I guess they wanted to make doubly sure that everything was ok, however, when they got to the last image I knew something was not right. They used a special plate to press the breast mass even flatter so they could get a clearer picture to look at. After they applied double the amount of pressure then the previous images they sent me back to the changing room to wait for the ultrasound. I started to worry when i heard this. To me this meant they found something and it was not a lymphnode.

After about 10 minutes the nurse came in to get me and took me to another room that was dark and had a hospital bed in it. Next to the bed was the table set up with a monitor, the ultrasound wand and all sorts of doodads for this fun party. The best thing is they keep the gel needed for the ultrasound warm. The technician placed some gel on the upper right area and started pressing away. I tried to look at the monitor but the technician had it facing her and away from me so i could not see what she was taking images of. after about 15 minutes she called in the doctor and the monitor was turned towards me since the doctor was on my left. I could see the mass and of course they were zoomed in so it looks huge.

Before the doctor left she said "I am going to recommend to your doctor that you have a biopsy done." All of a sudden my heart fell to the floor and I thought i was going to pass out. The technician wiped the last of the gel from me and gave me a clean towel in case there was anything left on my before I dressed. As soon as I walked into the area where my clothes were locked away I started to cry. I was thinking why is this happening to me. I have had my fill of issues and medical problems that I did not need this now.

After i got dressed I headed out into the world and try to make some phone calls. The first call I made was to my mother because she wants to make sure that everything was ok. Of course I sounded like I was 5 and had just broke my arm when i left the message for her to call me. The second call was to my sister to let her know I was going to have to have a biopsy and that I was freaking out. The rest of the time I was texting people and answering emails. The rest of the day just kind of dragged and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep. Depression was kicking in bad for someone that was pretty much happy go lucky till that day.

The next day i called my doctors office to get a recommendation for the biopsy since AMIC does not do this procedure. I got everything needed from a copy of the orders that were sent to Northwestern to the BRCA 1/2 screening forms from my insurance company. BRCA test is the genetic test to see if you are predisposed to breast cancer (BReast CAncer). Please refer to the National Caner Institute for further information on BRCA.

I still have yet to have the BRCA test done since the insurance company ran me around in circles to find out what i needed once the doctor filledĀ  out the paperwork. Be careful, you might need to have this test pre-authorized and getting that cleared is a major pain in the butt through insurance. The test will also cost, without insurance, approximately $3,500 so make sure your insurance will cover it if you have history like I do to back it up. It is a quick blood draw and is then sent off to a specific lab to have the genetic breakdown done. I was hoping to get this done first and have the results back before having another screening and a biopsy done, but I guess that was just some wishful thinking that fell on deaf ears.

The past month has been hell due to a pain in the area in which I am having this screening and the fact that my mind wanders to the big C. Daily I feel like someone is poking me in the chest and armpit with a very strong finger and I wish I could break it but nothing is there. The spot in which they will be looking at is about 1/2 inch in diameter from what my doctor told me. This worries me more after talking to my mother and finding out that they are monitoring 3 lumps in her left breast for the past 18 months. They show no growth after 3 screenings so they have put her back on the annual regime.

Today I am just about a week away from having my breast smooshed again but this time at Northwestern Memorials Lynn Sage Comprehensive Breast Center. Next Thursday, the 13th, I am scheduled to have my breast imaged for the 3rd time in a month along with another ultrasound to determine if the area needs to be biopsied and if so I am scheduled the following day.

I am currently knitting pink scarves if anyone is interested in buying one. They are $20 and the proceeds will go towards the Y-ME program that I have been working with for over 7 years now ($10 for materials and $10 to be donated). They are a great organization and are great supporters to people like me that tend to freak out when you hear possible bad news. Feel free to comment below if you are interested in purchasing a scarf and helping out a great cause. They make prefect presents for the ladies in everyone's life. My goal is to sell about 20 of them and raise close to $100 after cost of materials. They are triple knit (2 pink yarn and 1 fancy) and very warm for the coming winter months. I am also working on Bears scarves if anyone is interested and they are going for $15 ($8-10 in material and the balance going to Y-ME). Please inquire for photos if interested.

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