Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Breast Cancer; a family affair

You know it's really funny that I chose today to write about the breast cancer story.  See, my sister, Kelly, is recovering from a double mastectomy; and she has been so amazing during the entire process she deserves a book all her own.  So when I wrote about her "journey", I really wanted the post to be all about her and what she has gone through; her family and what they have been through....and really to teach people a few things in the process would be wonderful.

But, what I hadn't realized is how her cancer would affect our ENTIRE family so deeply.  My parents have never had to deal with a life threatening illness in one of their children know the regular stuff growing up and even what some would consider pretty scary stuff as a parent, but nothing like the big "C" word.  And they too, have handled things with grace and dignity.  As a matter of fact my Dad has a blog also and has chronicled Kelly's "Journey" on his blog...well worth the read.

If I am totally honest, one of the reasons that had been holding me back from writing this article is my different opinion than my Dad's....Gee what a surprise, eh Dad????  As you will read in his blog, Kelly found her cancer with an annual mammogram and they are strongly encouraging folks to get their annual mammos.  Well, sorry, but I felt that that might be a bit much radiation exposure for my liking.  What about every couple years...that would cut a persons exposure to radiation in half in their lifetime and not make it too long in between screenings, right?
I also have another sister, Lisa.  Between us three girls we have four daughters (Kelly has 2 and Lisa and I each have 1), so breast cancer in the family scared the s**t out of us.  Lisa, ironically had had to have a second mammogram done the same day as Kelly's (second mammogram); and they had her scheduled for the ultrasound in case they needed more pics.  Thankfully they didn't.  So, I scheduled my damn mammogram.

Now, this is where the story gets a bit interesting.  I would like to point out a difference between organized healthcare and private insurance.  I am a Kaiser patient (organized).  My first mammogram was 5 weeks ago, I just had my second mammogram and ultrasound yesterday and found out I need a biopsy.  In the 5 weeks following Kelly's (private insurance) first mammogram she was already preparing for surgery.  Just sayin'.

Thankfully due to some testing that Kelly had done, we know that our family (or at least Kelly) is not genetically predisposed to breast cancer.  This to me, is a big relief...for ourselves, our Mother and our daughters.  But why then, are 3 out of 3 girls suddenly needing second mammograms?  And what about the biopsies?  Is the medical field getting so far advanced that almost everyone is getting called back?  And what does that say about our radiation exposure?

Even the gal who was taking the second pics yesterday kept apologizing to me if she had to retake the image.  I finally asked her if it was due to the radiation and she said yes.  Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe that we need testing like this to save lives, I am just wondering if there might be a happy medium.  But, on the other hand, I have not had any imaging done in about ten years; the stuff that they will biopsy on me is a mass, while my sister who was good about getting hers done, caught hers at the calcification stage.

Okay, so what the hell is your point Judy?  Check your breasts.  Do your self exams and get the mammograms done as frequently as you are comfortable with (you know, probably more frequently than every decade!).  Bottom line...they are there to save lives; that is what they are doing all over the country and they have just done so in my own family.  As melodramatic as it sounds, it is true.  We are all so appreciative of the fact that Kelly's cancer was caught early....

Cancer is a family affair, whether it is genetic or not.  To watch my sister's family go through what they have been through is amazing (and heart wrenching); because I know that they will only be a stronger unit after this is over.  It has brought us all closer in a I'm sure it would in most families.

And No, I'm not too worked up over the biopsy thing (75% of all biopsies are benign).  Not that I'm really looking forward to having a needle in my boob, but I do feel confident that the news will be fine.  At least it got me writing about it....And I am very interested in your opinion on this matter.  What do you think of annual testing and its risks/benefits?


Tiffany said...

My mom was just telling me about some research that indicated that women who go bra-less for 70% of the (24 hour) day are 70% less likely to get breast cancer. That's just 16 hours or so. Can I limit myself to 8 hours or less of restraint? You bet! (-:

Royal Ranch said...

Yes, thanks Tiffany...this is exactly what I was hoping for; dialog of ideas and input about this.

So funny about the no bra thing...I have been trying to go without a little more lately...with my weight loss I have no boobs it seems like so it is much easier now-ha! But seriously, it would be worth a shot...

Thanks again,

Tiffany said...

Apparently it has to do with the bra restricting the flow of lymphatic fluid. As you probably know, we have a ton of lymphatic tissue in the breasts and armpits. Makes sense to me...

Jim and Pat Shepherd said...

Hi Judy. Yes, we have disagreed a couple of times over the years {grin}.

Your blog got me to looking for information about the radiation danger. One of the best I found was straight from the horses mouth:

I shudder to think where we would be if Kelly did not have a routine mammogram. Her cancer was considered "angry" (not sure what that means, but it does not sound good).

Based on a couple of postings on various forums and my blog, I was amazed at how many women (and men) have been diagnosed with cancer at a very early age. One lady was diagnosed at 26!

I wish I better understood radiation induced disease. However, I continue to be amazed at folks living fairly long lives after big exposures. Think Chernobyl and Nagaski/Hiroshima. Folks survived for many years after HUGE exposure.

In the 1920s, it was popular to take radium baths - there were several in Denver. Then there is radon gas and radiation treatment today.

Seems to me that the radiation from a mammogram is well worth it.


Royal Ranch said...

WOW!!!! What a wealth of information that link is Dad, thanks so much for sharing. I just got a chance to check it out and as I! Lots to process...

Daisy said...

My dear friend Sara found her lump through self-exams. It didn't show in her routine mammogram. I bring this up only to emphasize the concept that we all need to take responsibility for our preventive health: mammograms, self-exams, pap smears, and all the rest.

Royal Ranch said...

Dear Daisy,
Oh, please excuse the delay in replaying to such an important comment because I absolutely agree! I also wanted to point out how important clinical exams can be for masses that are not found in mammograms...again in preventative appointments. Thanks again.