Thursday, June 09, 2016

Things I've inherited. . . (An Update)

  • some jewelry
  • a weird sweater that I can't bear to let go
  • a good head of hair of varying colors
  • a healthy curiosity
  • a duck-like walk where my toes point out
  • a good deal of patience. . .
  • that can evaporate quickly into a mean temper
  • fairly decent amount of intelligence
  • probably a little too much empathy
and many more things. . . but one thing that I did NOT inherit are cancer genes. 

Found the news out today that I do not have any mutations on genes that affect breast, ovarian, gastric, colorectal, pancreatic, melanoma, and endometrial cancers.  HOORAY!

What does this mean?

As mentioned yesterday, 10 percent of cancers are genetic so it appears I'm in the clear for that. But I'm not out of the woods. I'm still a high risk for breast cancer but I just have to check my breasts a little more than the average bear. 

That being said. . . HOLY COW!!

I never realized how many people had had similar experiences or cancer or other health problems that are scary as fuck. And at really young ages. We're too young for this, people! 

I'm also humbled by the outpouring of support. I honestly just wanted to  get this off my chest so to speak because I had been nervously carrying it around. I hope that by sharing my mom's symptoms that women might realize that breast cancer isn't just a lump. It can be a weird dimpling or a red rash. 

But lastly, I cannot believe the understanding and kind words and support from everyone. I am a fucking lucky person to have such great people in my life and don't think I don't know it. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

I Found A Lump.

These words are always scary. There are very few instances where finding a lump on your body is a good thing, unless that lump is the size of a watermelon and you're pregnant.

But finding a lump in my boob was very scary.

A few weeks ago, I was getting out of the shower and noticed an area that was warm to the touch and red about the size of a silver dollar. It was when I went to feel it that I noticed the lump. In one moment, I felt every fear I've ever had and every sense of mortality hit me in the face and then the stomach.

And then I vomited.

Literally, had to shove Genghis out of the way on the counter to hit the sink in time. I had such a visceral reaction not only because my mom died of breast cancer, but because of how eerily similar this felt. She had noticed a red spot on her boob. It itched a lot. The doctors thought it was a spider bite. Then she got a lump the size of a softball. It happened in just a week or so.

My mom had inflammatory breast cancer, which is really rare. The lump wasn't actually the cancer but her body's reaction to the cancer. Most people with inflammatory breast cancer don't get a lump. They get a red, warm spot on their breast that itches. Which was what I suddenly had.

I had to be at a client's that morning so I rushed out the door. I called OB-GYN offices because I was sick of my hobbit Larry David gyno and wanted someone new. Someone who would understand why I had vomited that morning and fit me. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. New patients don't get priority.

But I remembered a clinic specializing in breast health that my rheumatologist had told me about so I called them and was able to get an appointment for the next day. I didn't sleep great. I told Chef and my friends Meredith and Amanda, and my boss only because I had to reschedule a meeting with him to make the appointment work.

I went in and was happy to find a whole room full of women in the clinic who took my lump, my worry and my breasts as seriously as I did. They heard my family history and had me classified as high risk so that I could get additional screenings covered by insurance. They did a biopsy that very moment and a sonagram of my breast to look even further. They discussed my case as a group treating me and worked to get genetic testing taken care of. They made me feel like they would be there to hold my hair back if I vomited again.

The biopsy came back less than 48 hours later as benign.

But tomorrow is a different day. Tomorrow I go back because the results of my genetic testing are in. I get counseling as to whether I am a carrier of cancer genes. (Did you know that only 10 percent of all cancers are genetic? Another 30 percent are familial but not genetic. Weird, right? Fun fact to amaze people at parties. You're welcome). I've literally been thinking things like "What percentage of probability is the tipping point for me to pull a full Angelina on my boobs?".

It's stressful. It's been something I haven't wanted to think or talk about, but here it is. I wonder tomorrow if I'll be in the "Knowledge is power" or the "ignorance is bliss" camp. I guess I'll find out soon enough.


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