I am Healthy . . . . for My Age
I grew up a tall and very, very thin child in a not so tall, not so thin family. My mother would take me to our family doctor to find out why I wasn't gaining weight. And after examining me and running tests, the doctor said that, although he agreed that I was very thin, I was otherwise healthy. So to appease my mother, he sent me home with vitamins and iron pills to see if they would help. They didn't. And to this day I can still remember the awful taste of those pills and syrups.
In my 20 and 30s I had good health insurance but seldom used it except for the years I
remembered to schedule annual checkups. Then in my mid 30s, the first breast lump
appeared. I had surgery. It was benign. Great. After that, I remembered to schedule yearly
mammograms. And it wasn't long before fluid filled cysts in both breasts started appearing. I was given the option to either just monitor them or to have the fluid removed with needle aspirations. I opted for the latter not knowing it would become an annual ritual for about 15 years. Sometimes the cysts in my breasts totaled up to 25, if not more. My doctors were amazed. Doctors said my cysts were fueled by estrogen and they would probably stop with menopause. That did turn out to be true. When they found calcifications, they said they seldom turned into cancer. This turned out to be true for many years.
In April 2012, I had a mammogram and was notified that all was clear or in their terms the
results was "uneventful". Then in October of that same year while reaching with my left hand to turn on a lamp, I felt a strange sensation on my left breast. I did a self exam and felt a small lump. This started me on my trajectory into the land of cancer, a strange foreign land. When I told my primary doctor about my cancer diagnosis, she put her hand on my shoulder and said, "I have high hopes for you because you are very healthy." I really hoped that was true.
After three horrible appointments with what I felt was a brash, uncaring and unsympathetic
young female doctor, my family doctor recommended I switch to a surgeon who had recently operated on her mother. As it turned out, he was one of the many surgeons who had treated me for cysts while he was part of another medical practice.
Even though he confirmed the previous surgeon's diagnosis and treatment options, he added the caring support and calm demeaner that I so very much needed at that time.
With my long history with breast cysts, I felt it was best to have a double mastectomy. The
surgery on my cancer breast went smoothly but it did not on my non-cancer breast. Due to continued infections, I had to undergo about 4 outpatient procedures until all was resolved nearly 12 months after my initial cancer surgery.
Since that time I have been trying to educate myself on cancers, the language of cancers and both current and future treatment options. I may never need to know this but who knows. Maybe yes. Maybe no. Oh God, I hope not. So now, as I am approaching 10 years since that day I was told "It's cancer", I go to as many follow up appointments with my doctors as they and my insurance will allow. I attend as many women and cancer health fairs as I can and do all the free screenings. When WellMed calls me in every year to do additional screenings, I always say yes. Friends and family just shake they heads as they think I have gone completely overboard with all the testing. Maybe they're right.
WellMed assures me that they send all my extra test results to my primary doctor but she says she never gets them. The WellMed doctors take time with me and are very patient, even asking, "Anything else you want to talk about before you leave leave?" Finally I have found a place that understands my need to know.
Recently I saw a new doctor to discuss my latest blood work. After listening to my concerns and discussing them with me, she patted my hand and said "I have high hopes for you because you are very healthy . . . for your age."