I’m the lucky one.
On Feb. 15 I was informed that I have Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS). In short form, this is an incredibly curable, non-scary form of breast cancer. Some have even said it’s not even cancer. Technically, it’s not. Yet. Which is one reason I’m “lucky.”
I’m also lucky it was found on a mammogram.
In mid-December of 2011, I went in for my first mammogram ever, at the age of 42. I’d put it off for two years.
Hell, I was going through a divorce and had been laid off from my job – things much more important than a routine scan – or so I thought at the time. And there was no traditional breast cancer history in my family (looking at my mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers) so really a mammogram wasn’t too terribly urgent. Following the “unpleasantness,” I was told that if I hadn’t heard anything within 2 weeks it meant everything was fine.
In mid January I went to my (incompetent) physician because I had strep throat. While prescribing me an antibiotic, he “reminded” me that I needed to repeat my mammogram because the radiologist had concerns. I was worried but – at the time – the burning in my throat was of primary concern, so I agreed to schedule a new appointment and went home. Two days later, I found a letter in my mailbox informing me that my mammogram was irregular and needed to be repeated. I must point out that this was now 28 days after the original mammogram. The letter was dated Dec. 22 and mailed BULK on Jan., 15. I received it Jan. 17.
Major paperwork fail. Still, I’m the lucky one.
I went back for another mammogram and ultrasound. And following that, I was asked to come back for a biopsy of some calcification – basically barely-visible white spots on one side of one breast – which wasn’t sitting right with the radiologist. There was a 20 percent chance it was cancerous, I was told.
I’m lucky. I hit the jackpot.
Why? I’m hearing that DCIS is incredibly hard to spot on a mammogram. In fact, I’ve had friends tell me their friends’/sisters’ mothers’ breast cancer was viewable on mammograms as DCIS years before it was diagnosed, but nobody saw it. Yes, I’ve told the radiologist I’ll birth his children, even though I consider my baby-store to be closed.
I’m lucky because I have options. This cancer was caught incredibly early. Next week I will have this cancer removed from my body – along with another bit whose type and status is yet to be determined. Everything will be tested and evaluated and I can make decisions from there. No, it’s not triple-negative and my lymph nodes appear to be healthy. So the prognosis is exceptionally good. But mysteries remain, and physicians are perplexed that I’m the third (young) cousin in my family to develop breast cancer despite no “traditional” risk factors.
I’m lucky. So far. And you can be, too.
I’m not writing this because I want to be a martyr. Or because I want to compare myself to other cancer-fighting warriors I know or have known who have fought and won or lost the battle. I’m writing this because I know the only reason I have options is because I got a mammogram. And because I happened upon a doctor who is exceptionally good at his job and spotted what many miss daily. I’m lucky because this all happened while my employer was in open enrollment so I was able to switch from an HMO to a PPO to get better care. And I’m lucky because I have a strong group of supporters in my friends and co-workers who keep reminding me that they pity the fool who dare cross me…because they know I’ll kick its ass.
I will kick cancer’s ass. I will go as aggressive and (to some of you) crazy to make sure that I get to watch my son’s kids graduate from high school – or even college. Nothing else matters to me. And everyone who knows me well knows this.
But this post isn’t about my survival because – Damn it! - That’s a given.
This is about YOUR survival.
I’m the lucky one. I got a mammogram and in my first one I hit the cancer jackpot. If my writing this results in just one of you getting a mammogram - or encouraging your loved one to do so – I’ve done my job.
Please do it. And tell me if you did.
Note: I highly recommend my radiologist: Dr. Ben-David at Encino Breast Care Center (818-784-8799). Do it.