On Sept. 4, 2013 I will have another annual mammogram or as I prefer to call it "my annual schmooshing." It's where a tech takes my two breasts (one much larger than the other) and literally "flattens" them to the same size within this big, cold machine. The "plates" of the mammo machine are cold -- and although technology has greatly changed over the years and the "pain" endured has also greatly lessened over those years -- this is not something I look forward to doing. However, this test did save my life!
Back in Nov. 2000 when I had my annual mammogram, little did I know that I would leave that test center "a very different woman" than when I entered. I entered happy and feeling just find. When I left after having numerous "extra" films plus a sonogram - as well as a complete check over by the radiologist that included a thorough exam of my breasts -- let's just say I was "confused." I still did not realize there was a potential problem. I was told my GYN would get the results and that, after she received the information, I would most likely need a follow up. Okay, that wasn't too scary. But why all the extra images? Why the sonogram? And, why the actual physical exam? That part really scared me more, especially when the doctor asked me, "When did you first feel this lump?" My reply, "What lump?" She took my fingers and placed them onto a "lump" she felt -- trust me, I consider myself a relatively intelligent individual. That night, even with my husband's help, neither of us could find "that lump." I never did find it. But the doctor's sure did!
On Dec. 4, 2000, I signed paperwork that allowed for a biopsy and if necessary, a lumpectomy. Well, when I woke up and was in recovery at the Ambulatory Care Center at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando, I learned that of the two lumps they ultimately removed, one was benign - the larger of the two was malignant. I was now a breast cancer survivor. My life had changed in an instant.
I am a big supporter of the mammograms because like I stated above, I never felt the lump that was there. (The bigger of the two.) That is terrifying! Plus, I know that although self exams are very important, the mammogram did find a much smaller growth that was also removed. (That one was benign.)
Every year, like clockwork, I do my annual "schmooshing." Now that my "boobs" are really different in size, shape and (whatever) -- I have a much stronger belief in this technology and its importance. And, since my annual test is on the eve of the Jewish New Year, it is taking on a much stronger meaning. (I'll be having it done early afternoon.)
I have been so fortunate that since 2005, my breast cancer has been in a "maintaining course." My oncology team at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando led by Dr. Nikita Shah, MD is the best! I am able to see -- from PET scan to PET scan and from visit to visit -- that maintenance treatment works. I was on Herceptin for nearly 10 years. I am still on Zometa plus I still take Aromasin on a nightly basis.
As I enter a New Year -- as Rosh Hashanah begins, I see a whole new year ahead. One I intend to fill with happiness as well as good health. I don't take my health for granted. Every aspect of my life is essential -- from breathing to simply waking up each day -- it's all a wonderful miracle that I greatly appreciate.
I want to wish all of my family and friends (and readers of Marilyn's Byline) a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. May you all be written into the Book of Life in the coming year. L'Shana Tovah. (And I will let you know all about my "schmooshing" in a future blog.)