You Can’t Let Life Get in the Way

I became neglectful of myself and let “life” get in the way. After having mammograms yearly since my late thirties, but I eventually became complacent when it came to my health. I was busy volunteering at our kids schools, carpooling for sports, and making weekly treks to the orthodontist 30 minutes away because I thought it would be so much easier having both kids in braces at the same time. (HA! They neglected to tell me that their schedules would be different!) And of course there were the typical pediatric and dental appointments thrown into the mix.  I wasn’t worried about finding the time for another mammogram, my monthly self breast exams would be enough, or so I thought.

Ironically, that was okay for me, but not good enough for my friends or family.

Becki, a close friend, had not had a mammogram her entire life. I chewed her out for this many times whenever the topic of Dr’s visits, mammograms, general health, etc. came up. Finally, four years ago, when she was in her mid 40’s, I talked her into going along for what ended up being my last mammogram until this year. I wanted her to see how quick the appointment would be, and see that it didn’t cause me any distress.  Breast cancer doesn’t run in her family, so it wasn’t that important to her. I assured her that I it doesn’t run in my family either, and stressed that it was still something she needed to do for herself and her family because early detection was very important. She finally agreed and made an appointment!! She invited me to ride with her because we always had a good time when we would venture out together, so we made a day out of it, going to lunch and shopping when she was through. She thanked me for talking her into going, saying the mammogram wasn’t that bad at all, and told me how glad she was that she finally did it!  Yay!

Fast forward to late 2013. Greg and I decided that it was about time that we find a Dr. that we were truly happy and comfortable with as a family since we were officially reaching the middle aged “old farts” status.  After months of waiting for an appointment, we finally got in to see a doctor that came highly recommended to us in March of this year. After completing a battery of tests on both of us, he discovered that my hormones were out of whack. (Duh, I was the queen of hot flashes!!)

From a previous conversation, Dr. Mora knew that Greg and I prefer to treat issues naturally if possibly (which was one of his specialties), so he gave me the option of using a bioidentical hormone cream to treat my hormone imbalance.  As he wrote the order, he commented that the hormone cream doesn’t cause cancer, but “if you have breast cancer, it can make it grow quickly, so I want you to have a mammogram ASAP since you haven’t had one in a while. I mistakenly guessed it had been 2 years when I filled out his initial paper work. I later found out that it had been FOUR years. Let me mention that the other Dr’s I’ve seen in the previous years also knew that I hadn’t had a mammogram in quite some time, yet they ignored the fact.

My motherly duties and social calendar happened to be a bit full at that time. Nick was graduating high school with honors in a month, I was on the Project Graduation Committee, I still had to make Nick’s senior poster and plan the post graduation brunch for Nick with his long time girlfriend Alayna and her family, followed by a Graduation BBQ for Nick, family, and his friends the following weekend! To add to the upcoming excitement, I had arranged a mini reunion of sorts with several elementary classmates and two of our favorite elementary school teachers. It was perfect timing since Tara, another lifelong friend like Gina, had booked a trip here from Texas to celebrate the high school graduation of her daughter also. Unlike the last few years, since the Dr’s words hung in the back of my mind, instead of putting things off as I had done in the past, I made sure to squeeze in time for a mammogram.

Even though the mammogram technician questioned about getting my past records because there was an “area” of question she was spotting on the screen that day that she knew the radiologist would want to compare to my previous films to, I went about my merry way and put it in the back of my mind. I had too much to do to worry about it!

About a week and a half later, I received a call from my Dr’s nurse telling me that he ordered a diagnostic mammogram due to a spot found on my mammogram. She said an ultrasound would be done also if it was deemed necessary by the radiologist.  I still remained positive that it was nothing to worry about.  I had too much going on in my life to worry!

The technician doing the mammogram explained that this would be worse than normal because she really had to tighten the tension on the machine to get a good picture. I told her to do what was necessary because I wanted the best reading possible. I really didn’t have in mind for her to park a semi on my mashed boob, but that’s what it felt like!! I made a joke or two about it because I knew she hated causing me the pain, but it’s what had to be done for her to do her job. She left the room, telling me to sit tight as she took the film to the radiologist. When the door opened, I knew by the look on her face what was coming next. “The radiologist wants you to have an ultrasound.” My heart instantly sank, and from that point on, I was numb and just went through the motions.

I was escorted down the hospital hallway in my beautiful gown to the ultrasound room that seemed like it was 3 miles away. The ultrasound tech’s personality was very different from the mammogram tech. She was all business. She informed me that at times she can just do the ultrasound, talk to the radiologist, and then the patient can go home, yet other times she will talk to the radiologist and he may want to come back in and talk to the patient. I knew what that meant, but just continued to stare at the dim light overhead and pray.

She finished the ultrasound without saying a word other than apologizing for the gel being cold. She asked me to just lie there without moving, JUST in case the radiologist wanted more pictures. The door closed quietly behind her as I stared at the light above and continued to pray.

As the door swung open, I took a deep breath and looked over to see a man in a lab coat following behind her. The radiologist extended his hand and introduced himself. Again, I knew by the look on his face that he wasn’t there to bring good news. “There is a mass on your mammogram and ultrasound that warrants you needing a biopsy.” I had a tear form in one eye as I kept silently telling myself to suck it up. I wanted to hear what he was saying and knew I couldn’t focus if I was blubbering like an idiot! I listened to him explain the differences between a fine needle aspiration biopsy vs. a stereotactic needle biopsy. He left the decision entirely up to me, so I went with my gut decision and chose the fine needle aspiration. The technician was very matter of fact, dismissed me to get dressed, then pointed me toward the exit.

I walked out of the hospital feeling like I was in a trance. I somehow managed to find the Armada and climbed in. I stared out of the window for a minute, then began replaying the radiologists words in my head.

Greg knew I had the appointment and I figured he was at work waiting to hear from me, so I pulled out my phone to call him. Before I could dial, I started thinking about my Mom. You see, my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer on Mother’s Day of 2012 after being a smoker for 50 years. By the time we received her diagnosis, the cancer had already metastasized to both adrenal glands, and had developed into four tumors on her brain. The health issues that the brain tumors caused were eventually what led to us discovering that she had cancer. There is no way of knowing how long she had actually been sick without us knowing.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mom that would have jumped my butt for letting so much time slip by without having a mammogram done even though she was also one to let life get in the way. She was also very neglectful when it came to her own health. Had she gone to the Dr. years, even months earlier, the cancer could have possibly been detected early enough that she could have had a chance to beat it. We lost her six months later at the age of 72. Watching her take her last breath was the most excruciating thing I’ve ever witnessed.

Thankfully, no one else was near my vehicle at the time, or they might have thought that I needed to be admitted to the loony bin because as I sat there, thinking of Mom, and trying to dial Greg’s number, I yelled to myself “get it together Kim!” I was my mother’s daughter, and she was the strongest woman I’ve ever known. I was going to get through this, and if nothing else, I was going to give it hell. I also knew that I had to pray that Dr. Mora sent me for the mammogram in time to catch it early if in fact I did have cancer.

I hope anyone that’s just read this picked up my lesson for the day…….



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