It’s that time of year for me. I’m talking about that appointment that I don’t like to schedule but do because I know I should. Yep. I’m talking about the yearly mammogram.
I don’t remember when I started having yearly mammograms. It was way before the “recommended” age. But my mom developed breast cancer when she was just 42 years old. It metastasized to her bone marrow, and she died when she was 45 years old. With the history of my grandmother also having cancer, there was a strong predisposition for me to develop it as well. Thus, the yearly-without-fail mammograms, and the starting-before-the-recommended-age schedule.
I’ll be honest here. Because of my family history, I’ve always thought I would eventually develop breast cancer. Perhaps I was just preparing myself for what I thought was inevitable so that “when” it happened I wouldn’t be surprised or devastated. It became part of my psyche.
In the late ’70s, I spoke to my physician about being genetically tested for the BRAC 1 (cancer) gene. At that time insurance companies had the legal right to cancel your insurance if you were found to have the BRAC 1 gene. We decided not to proceed with testing. It just wasn’t worth the risk.
Although I don’t know when the law was changed, I recently discovered that it is illegal for insurance companies to cancel policies for BRAC 1 positive patients. I called my insurance company right away and made an appointment to speak to a Genetic Counselor.
After the counselor took my family history and genetic testing was approved by, I just had to submit to a blood test. And wait for the results.
It took about a week before my counselor called me. Good news, she said. I do NOT have the BRAC 1 gene. That means that my chances of developing cancer are not any higher than anyone else’s. Nor is it higher for my children.
I’ve let go of my “belief” that I would be facing this disease in my lifetime. Perhaps it will happen, but now I know it’s not inevitable.
There have been so many developments in cancer detection and treatment in the last 40 years. I’m as certain as I can be that if my mom’s cancer been detected early enough and treated, I wouldn’t have lost her.
It’s been hard to go through life, since the age of 23, without a mom. I don’t say that to make anyone feel sorry for me. I say that to make you think…… “Hmmm… maybe I should call and make that appointment myself.”
After all… it’s time.