Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Yesterday at M.D. Anderson was different for some reason. Every year following my treatment there from 1998 - 2001, the first quarterly, then bi-yearly, then yearly exams have become easier.
And yesterday I was damn near chirpy, looking around for my favorite parking places (for my butt, not the car) and watching how beautiful the pink everblooming roses were in the grey planters outside the Mays Clinic Building. I even met for coffee with Jennifer Texada, who I had the good fortune to meet at the Social Media conference earlier this spring in Austin. Just saying hello to her is an upper.
But I have to confess. For the five? six? seven? minutes I was hanging outside the mammography suite while the radiologist reviewed my scans my thoughts went right down the tube. Just like an instant replay, I mapped out what I'd do if a potential malignancy was spotted -- and who'd I even talk to this time that I had not consulted before. Before the first sixty seconds had elapsed I'd signed on for a skin sparing mastectomy w/implant to avoid five-six weeks of radiation. Good, I thought, I'm all done. I have a plan.
Then I lucked out in two ways. A lovely volunteer (who'd actually helped me find coffee earlier) stopped by and she sat down and chatted. She was awesome, and told me her story, about how and why she traveled to MD Anderson from DC when she was diagnosed two years before I was. In the next moment the tech popped her head out the door, and grinning from ear to ear said that the doctor said my views were "perfect, no change."
After that I had a follow-up appointment with a nurse practitioner and even better news: I was being demoted, in a sense, from being followed by specialists in the breast clinic to the cancer prevention center, from diagnostic mammogram, where the image is read right then by a radiologist, to a 'screening' mammogram. In essence this means I'm falling back to a much more normal risk for breast cancer. I graduated. You can't ever say never, but let me tell you, this is one graduation I never aspired to but am immensely grateful I didn't miss, either.
What yesterday left me with was a greater than ever urgency to continue advocating on behalf of all women -- of all ages -- for better, more effective treatments for all cancer affecting women. I want all of you here with me so we can celebrate our victories together.
What about you? Do you worry about breast cancer when you go for your annual mammogram? Do you think you always will?