Sunday, January 23, 2011

Breast Cancer all-too-awareness

This past week has been filled with breast cancer news--some good, some bad. I'm fine--no issues. I guess I should be careful to start there. I had my two year check-up this past Thursday. Well, not so much a check-up as a "diagnostic mammogram" (which means the right breast only--the one that had cancer).

I've moved on from thinking about having cancer daily to less frequently, although it's now a significant part of my history. But the few days before check-ups and certainly the day of the check-up are always a little tense. The "what-if" sneaks back in. The possibility of recurrence becomes all too real. Chris and I (and Dr. Good Karma!) do a pretty good job of distracting me from dwelling on the check-ups with a little trick learned from Seamus's experience. When Seamus went to his oncology appointments the techs, doctors and receptionist at the center plied him with green doggie biscuits. Consequently, he loooooved going! To him the Veterinary Cancer Group was just the "handfuls of yummy biscuits" place. So when I have a check-up, now that I don't have 3 or 4 appointments in one day, we follow it up with a trip to the Cheese Shop of Beverly Hills and then dinner. This time we outdid ourselves--after the cheese shop we met Dr. Karam at the Los Angeles Art Show and then the 3 of us had dinner (not at the restaurant we had planned on...that one had a line down the block waiting to get in! You gotta love LA and its hip spots).

The news from the check-up was good on many levels. Because it's a "diagnostic" check-up, after the mammogram (and ow, wow, did this one hurt!) I sit in my highly fashionable men's boxer material gown and wait for the radiologist who then meets with me to go over the results in person, right there on the spot. And the radiologist was the very same Dr. Koo who did my ultrasound biopsy two years ago! You may remember her (or refresh your memory...or meet her for the first time...) in THIS post. She, like Dr. Karam, was brand new at the UCLA Medical Center at the time, but both are now busy, sophisticated, much sought-after specialists. It was nice to see her again and particularly so when she told me all was clear. And that soon I would be graduating. I get my annual mammogram (both breasts) in August...and then I'm on a yearly basis just like every other woman over the age of 40, and I'll no longer get the immediate in-person meeting with the radiologist. I'm returned to normalcy. Well, except for the part where I'll still see the oncologist every 6 months, but I believe that after my April appointment that will change  as well--I'll be annual with him too.

I have mixed feelings about this. I'm happy to be returned to "normal." That should be the goal, right? But then again there is something comforting about knowing that every 3 months I'm either examined by an oncologist or a radiologist is looking at my mammogram. It makes me feel like if there is a recurrence we'll catch it early too. But, then, I have to remember it was me who caught it the first time. So, I know what I'm looking for. And perhaps Chris and I can venture out to the Cheese Shop just for the heck of it, no oncology appointment needed.

No sooner had I come to terms with this, and decided it was a good thing to not have recurrence on my mind, then I learned that one of my breast cancer blogging friends had passed away. Daria was originally diagnosed in 2000, had a recurrence in 2004 and then again in 2008 when she learned the cancer had metastasized to her liver and bones. She'd been undergoing treatment ever since and yet still blogged, still encouraged others (including me) when they underwent treatments, and stayed optimistic until the very end--which still seemed alarmingly quick to me. Her husband announced her passing on her blog--he know how many people followed her and how many people she had touched.  For those of you who read the article on breast cancer blogging, you will recognize Daria--she was also featured and her article was just above  mine.  She will be missed.

Sometimes, I'm just a little more aware of breast cancer than I want to be.


  1. I hear you there girl. Do you really believe you can never not be aware of it? Or even better, would you ever not want to be aware again? I wouldn't ever want the answer to be truly no, but I look forward to the day that changes. I think about a lot of other things right now, but breast cancer is my life. I got a big enough dose of it, that it will probably always be my life, and I will be lucky if it doesn't kill me. I will allow it to define my life in positive ways, but hopefully someday it will no longer consume my life.
    I am so happy that you are almost to your annual go girl! That is fantabulous, but I can also understand your fear of leaving your comfort zone. Funny, it didn't bother me much the first time round. Age, caught early, highly cureable=no worries. 2nd time, not so funny. I felt that lump not even 3 months out of treatment, but it couldn't be cancer...not after all the treatment. Now it is serious, and I'm not so sure of a long healthy life anymore. Treasure all the moments of security that you have. You never know when it will be ripped from you again. It is so much harder to get back what you lost in a minute. Stay strong, and keep being the inspiaration that you are!

  2. Teresa, I'm happy to hear you are almost to the point of only needing annual checkups. You explain perfectly the mixed emotions arriving at this point means. Just when things start to settle down it seems, we get news about someone else like Daria, and suddenly those feelings of vulnerability are stirred up in us again. On the lighter side, going out for "treats" after appointments, is a great idea. Thank Seamus for me too!

  3. Thanks for the inspiration! I am almost at the end of the fight against "early" stage breast cancer. Three more weeks of radiation and then on to the next adventure. You give me hope that I will someday be at "annual" treatments. And then I read about the women who are not so lucky and I question whether or not I will again be so care free or whether I will always live in fear of getting the cancer back. Right now I am living in fear and always aware..maybe too much. I wish you the BEST and remember "chocolate is a girl's best friend"

  4. Of course I'm checking the internet tonight because my one year checkup is Tuesday. I had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation - finished everyone Sept. 10, 2010. I feel great but this past year was horrifying. I NEVER expected this to happen to me. But with it comes a whole new outlook on life. I don't know if I will have a long, healthy life so I will just be thankful for today and put it in God's hands.


Comments mean you care. That's all I'm saying.