3D Mammograms Rock
This photo of my family was taken 5 years ago at my 50th birthday celebration. Between then and now, I entered the “sandwich” years of my life. I was working, taking care of my elderly parents, compensating for my husband’s non-stop business travels, and guiding our 2 almost adult children along. Host 30 people for Thanksgiving? No problem. I rarely was able to say no. In my eyes no one could do it as well as I could. In hindsight, I let priorities for my health slip. I stopped exercising, and perhaps took “eat, drink, and be merry” a little too seriously. Those who know me well describe me as outwardly calm and patient—but in reality I was like a duck gliding on the surface, feet madly paddling underneath.
However, through all my life, I have never postponed my annual checkups and mammograms. I have always enjoyed good health, and was rarely ill. Like any woman in charge of it all can tell you, I didn’t have time to be sick.
In late April I went to my doctor for my annual exam, and in the year since my last visit they had acquired the latest 3D mammogram technology. I checked the box which explained I might have to pay up to $60 out of pocket for the exam. Worth every penny I figured. Three days later, my doctor’s office and a different breast imaging center called me almost simultaneously. Could I come in for an ultrasound—just to have another look at my right breast? I went the very next day- it was a Friday, only a tad concerned. My two maternal aunts had breast cancer, but my 84 year old mother has not. They said then that there was a suspect area of concern and I needed to schedule a needle biopsy.
It was all a blur from there- my husband was out of the country over that long week. I didn’t want to tell him, my elderly mother, or our now adult children and have them worry unnecessarily. I did tell my husband, and insisted I would be fine getting the biopsy done before he returned. (insert my old independent self here) The results came back within 2 days and it turned out I had a very early Stage 1 Lobular Carcinoma---about the size and shape of an irregular squashed pea.
What I learned:
• This type of breast cancer cannot be detected this early by a standard mammogram.
• This type of breast cancer cannot be felt in monthly breast self-exams.
• I was not a candidate for genetic BRCA testing since my mother has not had breast cancer.
• The 3D mammogram most likely saved me from losing my breast and maybe even eventually my life.
Moving forward, it all happened so fast. On May 11, 2016, between Mother’s Day and our daughter’s college graduation, I had a lumpectomy and 2 lymph nodes removed under my arm. The good news: all the margins around the cancer were clear, and my lymph nodes too. After the lab did a 3 week study of my cancer that was removed, I found out my risk for recurrence was low. I was able to forgo chemotherapy but underwent 33 days of radiation—6-1/2 weeks—to make sure there were no cancer cells lurking in my right breast. I will go forward with semi-annual mammograms and also taking a daily hormone blocker for 10 years. This is pretty standard cancer protocol these days to prevent the hormone fueled cancer from returning in my other breast. So, I spent the Summer of 2016 taking care of what I’m calling “Cancer-Lite”. I’m still coming to terms with it all.
Am I lucky? Yes. Am I blessed? Absolutely! My cancer was caught early and I am now CANCER FREE. This was a huge wake up call to me and I have a new profound perspective on life. I meditate, eat clean, drink less, reduce my stress, and am getting back on the exercise trail. How can I nurture others if I don’t nurture myself first?
1. If in an emergency the oxygen mask drops-- put it on yourself first and then help others. Better yet, let them help you.
2. Get an annual 3D mammogram. Tell them I sent you.
Anne is a proud 4th generation Austinite. She likes to think her Swedish/Scotish/Irish combination of Bergstrom/McConnico genes explains her fortitude.
Besides her husband, Jeff, and children, she is most proud of her work in historic preservation on the Texas coast in Rockport.