Monday, December 15, 2008

My Ribbon

I am not a supporter of cancer research. I believe we already have a cure. I am not a supporter of breast cancer research. I know that it not only effects women, but men get it too. Last Thursday I was reminded of what I believe. At the age of 37 I had my first mammogram.

It was for good reason that I sought out the mammogram. Cancer really seems to be comfortable in my family. My paternal grandmother passed away when I was 11 years old after a heroic battle with pancreatic cancer. My paternal grandfather beat three types of cancer before he passed away in his sleep at the age of 94. My oldest paternal aunt survived ovarian cancer, the next oldest passed away several years ago of lung cancer, and the youngest aunt is a breast cancer survivor. Here's the clincher. On April 1, 2005, my father passed away from male breast cancer. So, you see? My ribbon would be pink AND blue. There's no real information out there for daughters of fathers that had breast cancer. Maybe if there were more awareness there would be.

It seems that they have now learned that cancer can be hereditary, and there is genetic testing available for those that have cancer so prevalent in their family trees. Based on the recommendation of the nurse practitioner I saw this past week I will be advocating for genetic testing for our family. Should my aunt agree to the blood test the information could prove life saving for the rest of my family. It is best to start with a family member that has cancer, and she is a breast cancer survivor.

Breast pain that started several months ago encouraged me to seek out any free or affordable resources that may be available for me to get a mammogram. With my husband working in the automotive repair industry our family has not had health insurance for years. I just paid cash for an MRI in relation to the Meniere's Disease, and mammograms are expensive. I had heard of free screenings, but I did not know of them personally.

Well, the pain went away, but I did find a lump. The lump kept me moving forward in my pursuit. Since I was born with a tumor and cyst under my right arm, and I had fibroids in my right breast at the age of 14, and the history of my family, I knew to not ignore the lump.

While my husband was having breakfast at his favorite local restaurant, Acropole, being the morning person, breakfast guy, social butterfly that he is his waitress knows him well. He was talking to her about my situation, and she told him about a program at Karmanos. It seems there are funds available through the Race for the Cure annual fund raiser for women just like me. (I wonder what would be available for men. My dad received his treatment through Karmanos, but he had insurance. I'll have to look into that later.) This is a program related to cancer that I will support in my charitable giving from here on out. I have no problem helping to make cancer screening services available for those that cannot afford such services.

Anyway, I almost didn't go to the appointment, but I am so glad that I did. It seems I have another tumor in my right breast. It's exactly where I thought it was, so do not forgo those self breast exams you ladies are supposed to be doing once a month! Who knows how long that lump was there since I hadn't done an exam in ages. If you are a guy, it wouldn't hurt you to keep an eye on your chest as well. The thing that alerted my dad that there was something to be concerned about was when my son asked why his nipple was sunken in. As my dad always said, "Any body part that men and women have in common can be afflicted by cancer."

During the exam I was just blown away by the kindness of the staff. The mammogram really wasn't bad, and I had to get an ultrasound as well. I was initially given a choice to have a biopsy right then, or keep an eye on the tumor and come back in six months to see if it had changed. That would be the normal protocol for someone that didn't have the history that I have in my family and my body. So, the nurse practitioner wants me back in three months for a biopsy. She does not think it looks like cancer, but she wants to be certain. Had they suspected cancer they would have done a biopsy right then. Honestly, I wish I would have just done it last Thursday. Now I have to go three months dreading another needle!

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