Breast cancer is an absolute reality in my family. My maternal grandmother had a mastectomy and a lumpectomy. My mother had a malignant tumor and lumpectomy when I was in college. Her sister had the same not far after her and I am fairly sure she has had more occurrences since then, although they may have been benign. My maternal grandfather’s sister also had a malignant lump. All of these women found their lumps when they were post menopausal. In the next generation, there are four women – myself and my three cousins. None of us are post menopausal. None of us have had any brushes with breast cancer – yet. But we know there is a ticking time bomb amongst us. It seems as if it is just a matter of time.
So today I had my annual gynecology exam. A thrilling day, no doubt. Gotta love those scratchy paper robes and the cold lubricating gel. Ew. But I am religious about going. I also had a cervical cancer scare before T. was born. So pap away, Dr. I have no reservations.
After the exam was over, the Dr. and I got on the topic of breast cancer. I am 35 in a month. (…dramatic pause… 35. Older-than-35 ladies, please don’t be annoyed when I say this but 35 seems like a gateway to “old”. 40 is just years away. What the hell! Ok, I’m over it.) I already had a baseline mammogram before C. was born. All was well. He said we could probably wait until I was 40 (gulp) before we did one again. But he was very adamant about the next bit of advice: “Do your breast exams.”
And you know what? I haven’t been. I know, I know! Its like playing Russian roulette – what am I, nuts? Nah, just clearly in denial. Breast cancer is for old women who don’t get their period. Not me. Not a… 35 year old. Uh oh.
So seeing my face, the Dr. told me a little story. And I want to share it with you all. He told me about a 41 year old patient this past March who got her mammogram, and it was clear. In April, during a self breast exam, she felt a lump. By the end of that month, she was diagnosed with malignant breast cancer. It was early but she probably saved her own life. Think about it – for a lump to show up so fast (also taking into account that mammograms are by NO means perfect) – well, it’s a real lesson for me. I MUST check my boobies. Once a month. When? He said after your period. Or a good reminder is the day you start your first pill pack. So, this is my resolution to myself, heading into 35 in almost a month to the day. I WILL CHECK MY BOOBIES. And if you got ’em, you should too.
Another point about this. Did you notice how unsure I was about my family’s history at the start of this post? Interestingly, one of my cousins (the daughter of my aunt who had breast cancer) just happens to be in Florida for a conference and is coming for dinner on Saturday. I have decided to hassle her for her family’s entire breast cancer history. And I will get together mine. My plan is to collect it all and compose some sort of document that we four of cousins can share. Its time to buck up.
B.R.E.A.S.T. C.A.N.C.E.R. , dude. Its not just for old ladies, anymore. It’s for people like me.