My Story in Pink
This is Breast Cancer Awareness month, Ladies. Have you had your mammogram? Oh, I know they aren’t high on our “fun to do” list. I’m sure many have heard the old joke about exercises that prepares one for the ordeal:
1) Open your refrigerator door and insert one breast between the door and the main box.
Have a stranger slam the door as hard as possible and lean on door and hold that position for five seconds.
2) Go to garage at 3 a.m. when temperature is below freezing. Naked, lie down on the concrete floor with one breast wedged under the rear tire of the car. Ask a stranger to slowly back up the car until breast is sufficiently flattened and chilled. Turn over and repeat for other breast.
Think of these, men, when you waltz in for your PSA tests!
No, mammograms are not a pleasant experience, but I urge you to get it done as I tell you my personal story in “Pink.”
I had my yearly one done in early December, 2005, while busy with Christmas shopping and an upcoming family celebration at my house. I’d been faithful in checking my breasts for lumps while showering and had found nothing. No worry! Just get one more thing “out of the way.”
Four days before Christmas, while tending to last minute details, I received a letter from the hospital saying that an abnormality had shown up in my X-ray. I have fibrous breasts and had received many of these calls/letters. I was only frightened the first time. Nothing later proved serious and I then began to take them as being almost routine. I put the letter aside. I’d arrange for a second scan after the holidays.
Freemon and I went for a few days of R&R on the San Antonio Riverwalk after the guests left. The letter was forgotten and thrown out (I guess) with cards and used wrapping paper.
I received a phone call reminder two weeks later and I went in for the scan. In my pink cape, I stepped up to the machine and placed my arms in the proper position. Bzzzzzz. Then the nurse said, “Wait here for a moment before dressing.” I’d heard this many times before, as well. But this time when she returned, she was accompanied by a radiologist who showed me something I could not see (but pretended to) on the picture and said he would call my doctor. Still not worried, I stopped for a burger on my way home.
Dr. Chorens office called with a request to do a biopsy. I’d had one of these done years before, too, with non-malignant results. He was a VERY exacting surgeon (all the nurses were afraid of him!) and had three wires inserted in my right breast to be sure he could accurately mark the small mass. After my relaxing pill and being rolled into surgery, the last thing I remember saying was “Dr. Chorens, if I turn just right , I think I can pick up a Spanish station out of Del Rio!” A nurse told us later it was the first time she’d ever seen him laugh. This was the first week in February. A week later, his secretary called and said Dr. Chorens wanted to see me in the office, along with Freemon. Uh-Oh.
It was a Thursday. When he joined us in his office, a written report in hand, he didn’t begin talking sports about the Razorbacks and the Houston Rockets with me as he usually did. He didn’t beat around the bush. “It is cancer. And I need to talk to you about some options.” I was stunned by the actual words. I was scared. No…petrified. Options were weeks of radiation, a lumpectomy, or a complete mastectomy.
I quickly said no to the first two options and said I’d prefer the mastectomy. “Can YOU do it?” He said he could though he thought I might prefer M.D. Anderson in Houston (where we’d lived for 23 years) or possibly a surgeon at U.T. Medical in Austin. “NO!” I replied, “I want YOU!”
The surgery was done on Valentine’s Day, 2006. The surgeon felt he got “all of it.” I chose not to have reconstruction done. I opted for a special bra with gel inserts. It is now nine years later and I remain cancer-free. I have NEVER regretted my choices. Please. Get your mammograms. And pay close attention to any changes.
There has been only one minor scare over the years and this one happened at the airport the first time Freemon and I flew after my surgery…it was also the first time we’d flown after 9/11 and you know how stringent the security precautions have become in recent years. We were almost up to the trays where we were ready to deposit our meds in their plastic bags, my make-up in its plastic bag, our change, cell phone, belts, shoes, etc. when I thought, “GELS!!!”
I whispered loudly to Freemon, “Do you think they’ll make me put my right boob in that little basket??” The woman behind me howled with laughter…they did ‘scope’ me but allowed me to board.