Repeat Mammograms Suck

After getting a mammogram last week, I learned that I needed to have a repeat one done. These are not words that any woman wants to hear, much less one who is a cancer survivor. Once you have heard the dreaded cancer diagnosis, everything feels like borrowed time—even those of us who are 30+ years out.

For the last four or five days, every time I started to think about it I found myself sucking in air, but never fully exhaling. I’m proud that I didn’t obsess – an old pattern of mine for many years. Basically I gave myself permission to think about it and then let it go. Meditating and mind discipline (another word for yoga!) is finally working for me.

Cancer screening is not fun or pleasant; it can involve moments or days or weeks waiting for results. Since my cancer was malignant melanoma in 1985, screening for me also means a full body check by a dermatologist. I don’t like going, but I sure like knowing. Head in the sand is not an acceptable option.

Some of my random thoughts as I was waiting to get in for my repeat mammogram were:

I thought about how my breasts fed and nourished my kids and how breastfeeding was an important tool in my mothering tool box for many, many years (yes, I was that kind of mother ;-).

I thought about the odds and how both my mother and maternal aunt had post-menopausal breast cancer. They say that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. I remember sitting on an all-woman Board of Directors for an international non-profit with 15+ other women and speculating that at least 2 of us might get breast cancer. These past several days I wondered if it was going to be me.

The good news is that all is fine and the problem was a technical one with the mammogram and not at all with me. But I write this post to remind everyone reading it to get screened. Cancer happens. For years after my cancer in the mid 1980’s I stopped getting cancer checks. I was young and I didn’t want to deal with it. After my first child was born, I finally grew up and realized that this is a part of life.

So while I am doing a happy dance after getting the good news today, I know that I might be in for another round next month when I go in for my skin cancer body check. Odds are that they will want to biopsy something (they usually do) and I will get to spend another few days waiting and wondering. Such is life.

 



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

12 thoughts on “Repeat Mammograms Suck

  1. Kim A. Hazel

    I can relate. I’m an eight year breast cancer survivor and still get anxious when I get a mammogram. The first five years afterward, they did diagnostic mammos, so I had the results from the radiologist before leaving the building. Now, I have to wait for the results in the mail — or maybe a dreaded phone call — like everyone else. But, the good news is that even the wait like regular folks indicates that I reached a milestone.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you for the response–you have reminded me that it is really all about perspective. It is a much better to be in the pool of women waiting to hear the results rather than what you went through your first five years out! Even though this recent mammogram was okay, because of the density of my breasts they have now ordered an MRI. Hopefully that will go smoothly too. But I am holding onto my newfound perspective of not worrying about it until I hear otherwise.

      Reply
  2. Lorrie Goldin

    I am glad you are okay, and hope that the anxiety surrounding the dermatology visit will also turn into relief. But we never know, and I love your point that even 30 years out, it feels like we cancer survivors are living on borrowed time. I’m 3+ years out, but with the BRCA2 mutation, there’s ongoing surveillance and higher risk and anxiety. You’re right–that’s life. You’re also right to remind us about screening. As you know, what turned my 20-something daughter’s decision about getting tested for BRCA from denial to a readiness for knowledge was the report that women who work with someone with breast cancer are LESS likely to get routine screening. It is hard to know, but better to know.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thanks Lorrie for reading and responding. While for cancer survivors it always feels like we are on borrowed time, fact is all of us humans are really on borrowed time. Us survivors are just the reminder canaries in the coal mine. Our friends and family members go through it along with us and are reminded our our, and consequently their, mortality too. My husband and I still agree that as awful as it is to have cancer (his was in 1997), it is really extra hard to be the spouse of a cancer patient (and hopefully survivor). We are both glad to have passed through that fire in both roles and are hopefully done with that for many many many decades. Congratulations on being 3+ years out!

      Reply
  3. Susan

    I’m lucky never to have had cancer, or any other life-threatening illness to date. However, I’m constantly reminded of how fragile life is, and how it can be taken away in a heartbeat. It really does pay to live in the moment and find whatever joy we possibly can right here, right now.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and I hope everything goes well Holly.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      The coda to my repeat mammogram is that I am now scheduled for a breast MRI for next week. It took a lot of ‘teeth-pulling’ to get this going. Hopefully it will all be just a weird blip in my medical history when we get all done with this!

      Reply
  4. Cindy Bailey

    Thank you, Heidi, for this very important reminder to us all! I can totally relate to the heavy, weighted feeling of a health scare or the anticipation of one. It is a part of life, too, as you say, but information does give us power to make a difference for ourselves. Thanks for opening up and sharing this with us.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      You are right is is a heavy weighted feeling that descends on my chest when worried about some medical possibility. Thanks for reading and posting.

      Reply
  5. Alicia

    I can only imagine how hard it is to wait for answers. I’m so happy that it was good news! I’ll be getting my mammogram next week and while it’s not pleasant the alternative is so much worse!

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Good luck for your mammogram! And you are 100% correct. As unpleasant as the diagnostic tests are, the alternative is so much worse. Your comment inspired a new blog post for me. Look for it in the next few days. Many thanks!

      Reply
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