29% Chance of Getting Breast Cancer
I had my first mammogram a couple weeks ago. It seems too early…I’m only 35. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was only 56. I remember the day she told us. We were sitting in my parent’s basement. I was a few months pregnant with my oldest. When she said those words, “I have breast cancer,” my heart sunk. I also immediately thought of myself — as selfish as that sounds. What does that mean for me? Is it a guarantee that I will get it?
So the year has finally come when I need to start screening. The mammogram wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. The “squishing” was uncomfortable but not painful. 15 minutes later I was done.
The next day my phone rang. I saw the number and instantly got nervous. It was the medical imaging place calling. The woman on the other end told me that I have two spots on each breast. I have to go back for more imaging.
It’s a nightmare coming true. Those are the words that I never wanted to hear. My first mammogram and these are the results I get! I am utterly terrified.
The second mammogram was worse. Much more squishing and pushing and pain. It felt like picture after picture after picture because she wasn’t getting what she needed. Finally, it was done and I went back to the small dressing room area with the curtain closed. Sitting there by myself I was praying to God that I would be told I could go home and everything was fine. What seemed like an eternity later, the woman who took the mammogram came back and said the radiologist wants an ultrasound. Tears immediately filled my eyes. “This can’t be good” I thought. Again I waited in that room by myself crying and wondering why this has to happen.
“Ultrasound” has always been such an exciting word. I saw my boys for the very first time with ultrasounds. I always looked forward to them and wished I could have them more often when I was pregnant. It was always so reassuring to see my babies moving around on the screen. Now here I was laying on a table having an ultrasound on my breasts. Not reassuring but terrifying. Tears were running down my face the whole twenty minutes that it took. The ultrasound technician came back after and said the radiologist wants to speak to me. Again, I thought, “that’s not good.”
My husband, mom, and I listened intently as the radiologist spoke. The first thing I remember her saying is that I am considered high risk and have a 29% chance of getting breast cancer in my lifetime. I know a 71% chance of not getting breast cancer sounds decent but I wish it was a 100% chance. The radiologist said that I have five spots total that came up on the ultrasound. Four of those are dense tissue and nothing to worry about. One of those spots, however, could be something. This spot has a 98% of being benign, which leaves a 2% chance that it could be cancer.
I chose to have a biopsy of this spot so I know for a fact what it is. I don’t have it in me to wait six months to have an MRI to see if things have changed. I need to know as quick as possible and with as much certainty as possible. A week of nerves and doubt later, I had my biopsy. It was uncomfortable and definitely not like anything I have experienced before. The pain was more of a discomfort but I was pretty sore for a few days following.
The call about my biopsy came at 1:00 the next day. As the radiologist expected, it is benign and nothing of concern. As relieved as I am, I still think about my future. With every mammogram and every MRI, I will wonder to myself if this is the time. I will wonder if this the time I hear the words, “you have breast cancer.” This will be a feeling I will have to live with for the rest of my life.
While this experience will be stamped on my mind forever, I am so very thankful for the outcome. I’m thankful that this is not the time I have to hear the dreaded words. I’m thankful for my health and will not take it for granted. When I think about the possibility of having breast cancer, I don’t think about myself and the hell I would have to endure. I think about my boys. I wonder about them growing up without me. It aches me to think about them without me and me without them.
So now I pray every night for my continued health, I get a mammogram and MRI yearly, I live my life to the fullest each day, and soak in every second with my family knowing there’s that 29% chance.