Friday, July 18, 2008

My Boobs Are Not My Friend -- Maybe

I've been talking about my boobs a lot lately and I'm sorry about that, but, well, they've been on my mind a lot. A couple of you expressed hope that my MRI from last week would turn out well and I thought I'd give you guys an update. And I'll just pretend that I don't have any male readers, mkay?

So anyway, my test results were normal. Whew, right? I wasn't really expecting them to find anything, but you just never know. Especially considering my family history. My mother had breast cancer 10 (11?) years ago and my grandmother died of breast cancer. Of course, my grandmother had it back in the 1940s and if I'm remembering the story correctly, she refused any type of treatment because she was pregnant with my mother.

Frankly, I'm fully expecting to deal with breast cancer myself at some point in my life. My doctor told me once that it didn't bother him so much about my mother's history -- he felt she had it when she was "supposed" to, in her 50s -- but my grandmother's history did concern him a little bit since she was only 37 when she died. That's only a year older than I am now. You may think it's defeatist to "expect" to have cancer, but I think it makes me prepared. I think when or if I'm ever diagnosed I won't fall apart (maybe!). I think that I will be ready to fight, ready to do whatever's necessary to win.

I have had different doctors suggest different paths we could take. One doctor suggested prophylactic mastectomy and as radical as it sounds I have considered it in the past. I held off making any kind of decision about that until after I had my children. I wanted to try to breastfeed and did, successfully. You might think "Gee, that seems sort of radical. How can you take such a rash action against "the girls"? Especially when they fed your children?" But if your lifelong best friend suddenly pulled a gun on you and you were pretty sure she was going to shoot, I don't think you'd let that shared history get in the way of protecting yourself. Right? That's kind of how I think about it. Plus, my boobs have never really been that great. This would be the prime opportunity to get myself a perkier set (positive thinking!).

That same doctor suggested genetic testing before I made any decisions about mastectomies. My mom discussed it with her surgeon and he cautioned having the test done, lest it be used against me in the future if I needed to apply for insurance. He suggested that my mom get tested instead. If she had the gene, then I would likely have the gene. But we never did it.

Then last week my mom took me to lunch and said that on Friday she was having a needle biopsy. They had spotted something on her most recent mammogram. Whatever it was wasn't even palpable, but with her history they didn't want to wait. I went into quiet panic mode. But on Friday when she went in for the test, they couldn't find the something. At all. So they made her an appointment for another mammogram in six months just to be safe.

But the really cool thing about all of this is that she now been referred for genetic testing. She has an appointment with a counselor on Monday and this could be the moment of truth. If she does have the gene, chances are very likely that I do too. But if she doesn't, chances are very slim that I do. And then the likelihood that I'll ever have breast cancer diminishes greatly. Also, a law was passed this spring (I believe) that makes it illegal to refuse to insure someone based on genetic testing. These are all very interesting developments. And I can't wait to see how it all turns out. Neither can my boobs.

18 comments:

Karen said...

Hopefully that test will come back in everyone's favor. How great would that be?

But I'm kinda liking the mastectomy option for myself. Taking my boobs off for a day or so here and there so that I don't have to wear a sweaty bra in the heat and humidity would be kinda nice. And perky hasn't been spotted on my chest since the early 90's.

Mir said...

Oy. That's a lot to have to think about. Here's to your mother's continued health and a negative gene test, too.

(Though I'm with you. If I had that sort of family history and it looked like I was positive for the gene? I'd have that bilateral mastectomy faster than you could spit. Frankly, my immediate health issues were only half of why I had my hysterectomy so young -- my grandmother died of ovarian cancer and my mom had similar issues before opting for a hyst fairly young, too. Out, out I say!)

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

Hmm. I didn't realize we shared this little bit of life. My Mom died of breast Cancer at 45, after battling it for six years. I just sort of bumble through life assuming that I'll wind up in the same boat. The distance between here and 39 isn't very far at all. The really fun part is that our insurance doesn't seem to care about that little bit of history because they will not pay for a mammogram until 40. It's the dumbest thing of all time and I've been battling them over it for two years already.

Anyway, I hope things to well for your Mom. It's scary stuff no matter what.

Becoming Mommy said...

I don’t think it’s defeatist to expect to have cancer. Shoot, I do.
Every. Single. Member. Of my Father’s family has skin cancer. They all go in every 6 months to get things burned and cut off. As I’m over 30, I really need to start seeing a dermatologist about it too. I inherited that coloring, rather than that of the Spanish side. And I’m pretty sure I have a few “bad” moles.
And several of the women on my Mother’s side have breast cancer. But they get it post menopausal so I’m not overly concerned at the moment. Just keeping it in mind for the future.

Here's hoping that the test turns out negative. .

Leslie said...

I'm glad your test was normal. I'm thinking of you and your mom and hoping for the best.

AndreAnna said...

It's scary but I'm glad you're gonna get some answers.

AmyM said...

MQ--I know this isn't a funny subject but I kept finding myself smirking while I read. "This would be the prime opportunity to get myself a perkier set (positive thinking!)." made me giggle out loud. I admire you for maintaining your humor.

Fannie Mae said...

We've stared the genetic testing demon in the face and it's some scary shit. We came out on the "better to know" side. Even when the outcome was "bad", I'm glad we know. Information/Knowledge = Power.

Anglophile Football Fanatic said...

I've actually known someone who did go through it due to her family history. I wish you all the best.

1blueshi1 said...

all good news! I'm soSoSO glad they didn't find anything to biopsy on your mom. just trying to consider the thought that anything might happen to my mom...and of course someday her time will come...makes me mentally regress to pre-kindergarten, screaming I WANT MY MOMMY.

Jonny's Mommy said...

The line about your boobs being your best friend and holding a gun to you...classic and perfect.

I hope this all works out and you find out what you need to. It can be scary, I'm sure. You'll be in my prayers through it all.

Very well written post, by the way.

calicobebop said...

It must be scary to have that kind of family history. I hope you break the pattern!

Susie said...

I too have a family history but one thing I have to keep in mind is that my mother smoked, had a hysterectomy at 32, used PremPro which has been found to cause cancer and she was an alcoholic. So, lifestyle was more of a risk than genes. Still, makes me worry and try to take really good care of myself. I spent the first half of my life wishing for boobs but if I felt that they had the potential to hurt me - off, off, off!
But the other point I wanted to make is that with your grandmother, since back then people just didn't discuss such things - there is no way to know exactly what type of cancer she had. And because she was pregnant, it probably grew very quickly. And there were less treatment options available - even if she chose to take them. Screening, diagnosis and treatments is a whole new world compared to just 10 years ago - let alone when your grandmother was 37.
Hope you get good answers just the same.

ekbetsy said...

Isn't it great to live in a time when getting breast cancer doesn't have to mean dying? Not even close. Sure, it happens to some people, but I know TONS who've made it through. Back in our grandmother's day, it was a death sentence. Seeing that kind of progress just further convinces me that they ARE going to find a cure!

Colleen said...

My mom's a nurse and shared with me that there is some correlation between breastfeeding and a LOWER risk of breast cancer. So while I barely have any breast tissue left to be affected, I feel a little better knowing that I not only fed my babies the best food I could, but also might've lowered my risk w/breast cancer.
I hope that's the case with you, too. I would be more inclined to wait for your mom's results (I hope they're good!) before taking off the girls...though getting a newer, perkier set that fills out the sweaters a little better wouldn't be too bad. ;) Either way, I know you'll make the best choice.

Susan said...

Definitely keep us posted. That's heavy stuff to be thinking about, but you have a great, factual attitude about it -- even about getting the perkier set. My fear is that if I got a perkier set of boobs, then I'd have to get every other saggy part of me worked on. Kind of like decorating the house. "I'll just paint this one room..." Not.

Lulu said...

I do hope that the test comes back very, very positive! GR's sister died of breast cancer too at the age of 37. She left behind 2 small children. It's all very sad...

Lulu said...

Wait...I mean positive in a very, very good way! Not positive as in yes, you have the gene!! These positives and negatives confuse me considerably!