Have You Made Your Appointment Yet?

February 13, 2020

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.

My Mom, age 44, and her friend Ted.

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12 Comments

  1. Sue Ogden

    It’s hard trying to type through tears but they’re happy tears! Sometimes the medical knowledge we’re starting to ingest on a daily basis can just scare us to death. I’m so glad you were eventually able to have that testing. My mother’s brothers and dad all had cancer, no breast cancer. Yes, if you didn’t know, men can have breast cancer. My mother never had any kind of cancer but died with Parkinson’s so I too have my “wonder if it’s inevitable” worries. I’m a firm advocate of having a mammogram every year and doctor’s now stress that self examination is every bit possibly even more important. We women can help ourselves if we just “check”. It was an OMG as I read this and tears of sadness but then they became tears of happiness. It must have been terribly hard to lose your mom when you were still so young. I thought it was hard at 47, 23 would have been much worse. I wish you MANY, MANY long years of health and freedom from ANY kind of cancer! And don’t forget the other end LOL. That’s very important too!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Karen

      Thank you for your insightful comments, Sue. I think it’s always hard to lose a mom, and I know you agree; it’s just that losing our moms so early meant we have less memories than others might have. Yes, you’re right. Self-examination is Step #1. And LOL.. on the “other end.” That one I DID put off after the recommended age, but did get to and no problems. 😉

      Reply
  2. Dawnette T Muir

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I really appreciated it. I am a faithful mammogram believer regarding regular testing. I have survived to age 78 and even now I regularly get the test. Your story tells us how important it is to know our ancestor’s stories and to willingly share them with our posterity and others. Thanks again for all you do to help us in creating wonderful pages for our families. You have done a great work in this world!!

    Reply
    • Karen

      Thank you, Dawnette for your kind words. I so appreciate them. And I am also glad that you are a mammogram believer. You never know to whom you will serve as an example and inspiration.

      Reply
  3. fl_connie

    I can’t imagine what a relief those test results gave you! So happy to know you aren’t living with that worry any longer!

    Reply
    • Karen

      It was a big relief, Connie. You are absolutely right! 🙂 Thank you!

      Reply
  4. DeLoris Musick

    Karen, as someone who lost their mom at an early age, I can sympathize with you. No matter how old you are, you always want you mom. It’s good to know you do not have that gene! Everyone should make it a habit to be tested for breast cancer. Choose a date like your birthday or any other important day of the year to remind you to get screened!

    Reply
    • Karen

      You are so right, DeLoris! And it’s a great idea to select a special, important date as a reminder!

      Reply
  5. Mary

    Thank you so much for sharing this and for the important reminder. Yearly mammograms are not optional! They are necessary for all women. (PS Your mom was so beautiful and you look just like her!)

    Reply
    • Karen

      So true, Mary! That’s one of my favorite pictures of my Mom. She was so happy when that picture was taken. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Steph

    Thanks for sharing this information with us, Karen! It is way to easy to let those appointments slide by so it is a good reminder. I have one coming up in 2 weeks, ; – )

    Reply
    • Karen

      I’m glad you’re on schedule, Steph!

      Reply

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