always get a full report on those mammograms!

One day soon I hope to have a subject to write about other than the formerly captital C word. From now on I designate the word cancer unworthy of a capital letter! But since I revealed my health concerns on Wintersong, I’ve had so many positive replies and helpful information through comments as well as emails, not only have I begun to focus on this in a more positive light, I’ve learned so many things–good things–others not so good–that I feel pressed to share with women worldwide.

WordPress adds links to other blogs at the bottom of each of  my posts that are similar to or on the same subject as the one I’m posting so those who’re interested can find them. I’ve found several interesting bloggers this way myself. Anyway, that’s how I came across some information about mammograms that I wish every man and woman would read, even if you’re not a cancer patient yourself.

A Day In The Life is a blog written by a 47-year-young woman in Virginia who was diagnosed with breast cancer BUT not until she accidentally came across some frightening information in a clerical error that seems on reflection to be divine intervention or an angel on her shoulder, whichever way you want to look at it. It was a real eye opener that may push you to be more aggressive on getting a complete mammogram report each time you have one. I am one of those, maybe it’s my generation showing, who never questioned the doctor or followed up after my mammogram. I just waited for the little card that usually came in the mail a week later to say the test was negative; be sure you make an appointment for another mammogram in a year.  I’d feel a bit relieved and go on about my life. After this experience, and especially after reading Koryn’s post “Don’t let it happen to you!” I’ll never be so complacent again and I hope you won’t either. To each of my daughters especially I’m asking you, please read this post. When Koryn read the first line on the page she wasn’t to have access to, the situation quickly became no laughing matter! If someone had read and properly responded to that earlier report from two years before, that clearly stated “an incidental mass found behind the areola, more pronounced on today’s images,” and went on to say “found nothing on imaging of the area where I felt the lump . . . findings? Benign. Case closed. And so the clock ticked on,” the cancer she was facing now may–no doubt should have been–not only detected but treatment begun fully two years before! Here’s how Koryn begins her story and here’s that link again:

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, 2008, I asked HOW COULD THIS HAVE  HAPPENED?  I had faithfully gotten my mammograms every year since turning 40.  I had my annual gynecological exams. I went to see a surgeon when I felt a lump. I was told everything was fine.  But when I had my first biopsy in September, 2008, and went to get the written pathology report at the nurse’s station, the nurse accidentally printed out all of the lab and x-ray reports I had at that facility for the past 2 years!  I told her that was okay, and that I had a long wait in the pharmacy so this would give me some “reading material”.  We laughed and I went on my way.

As good as our health diagnostic tools can be, outcomes still depend enormously on humans reading the report fully and the doctors accurately sharing that information with the patient in a timely manner. I’ve convinced myself that there’s probably a huge percentage of reports sent by labs that never get looked at until the day you show up at the office for another appointment, which could be months or even years later. There’s no one person to point the finger of blame to, but everyone needs to be motivated to do their jobs thoroughly and well–especially in the healthcare field!

Now for the positive stuff! My infusion nurse told me as I shared my feelings about losing my hair that she’d seen a lot of patients came through the chemo lab and one thing she’d noticed about nearly all of them: when all the hair is gone, the eyes seem to take on a clarity and vividness, the color intensifying and her word to describe the phenomenon was “beautiful.” It may sound vain, but that conversation began to make me feel better–even looking forward to seeing how my texture and color–maybe thickness too–might change for the better. One could hope.

Then this morning I received a comment from Koryn herself (blog writer mentioned above) after I’d commented on how young she looked to have gone through such an ordeal–and she shared with me that her chemo, which was much more intensive than mine, caused a natural chemical peel of her skin so she had better skin than she’d had in years. Thought that may have accounted for her younger appearance.

Nearly every comment on the wigs focused on wig #2 in the middle, so it’ll definitely be one I keep. Moe and I will still be checking out other wigs, hopefully longer ones that will feel more natural to me, tomorrow afternoon. Look for more wig photos in a day or two. My ideal wig would be an unstyled one that I take to my hairdresser and ask him to cut and style it as much like my current haircut as possible. I have a feeling that may be very costly but it can’t hurt to inquire. Grannymar in Ireland reminded me that a bald head may feel cold at night so one of those fleece caps I hate–and is available free at the clinic–will be added to my baldy wardrobe next treatment–by which time incidentally I expect to be completely bald. I want to add some stylish scarves, too, and learn to tie them so they won’t keep slipping off, and I’d like to have a sports cap with the hair hanging from the bottom, long enough that I can feel it, that I can wear when I go hiking (yes I hope to continue the summer mountain hikes–easy ones!) or to an outdoor casual event and every day. I think that would feel so much less artificial.

I see this post is becoming far too long as usual, so even though I have lots of useful information to pass along to others going through a similar experience, I’ll stop it here. Please, if you haven’t already clicked that link in the third paragraph, do so now. And again, thank you all for the comments that you’ve made. All the emotional and mental support I’m getting from so many mean more than I ever would have imagined before. I’m learning every day.

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9 thoughts on “always get a full report on those mammograms!

  1. Oh! I am so glad you have shared this information with your readers. If my awful experience can save even just one woman from not being treated early for breast cancer, then by all means I am glad to have gotten the word out!
    I meant to mention to you that when http://CrickettsAnswerForCancer.com sent me my wig, she also had them send me a “gripper”. This was a $30 item that was well spent by someone! It is also found in the http;//tlccatalog.com under wigs and supplies. It is clear rubber with velcro closure like a headband and will keep your wig from slipping. A must have!! I also did not wait for all my hair to fall out. It was about 13 days after my first treatment and it was coming out in the shower and on my pillow and into my food on the plate and I said “enough”! I shaved it all off and donated all 15 inches to a company that makes wigs for kids. It feels good that even something which was very traumatic for me has turned into the good for another cancer patient. And yes, your hair will come back and from what I have heard and from my own experience it comes in with way more body and curl than ever! Mine also came in gray which I quickly dyed! Too young for that, even at 47!
    Blessings on your day! Hope you continue to feel good!

    • More excellent information; thanks Koryn. I’m especially interested in the donation idea although my hair isn’t very long,I’ll look into it anyway. I’ll certainly pursue the links to the wigs and the gripper that I’d not heard about before. Again, thanks so much.

  2. Good post Alice – definitely thought provoking. One thing that I had wanted to do with my blog is keep it totally honest and if someone benefitted from my honesty and life experience than I had done a good deed all in all. Was thinking that you have very refined facial features and could wear a turban and then you could put a lovely broach in the center of the turban for evening wear. For day wear, a scarf tied like a do rag with a baseball cap on top or even a cap on top of one of those wigs that weren’t so attractive would give you the hair and hat concept you are looking for. I have a friend who shaves her head – she looks great – maybe your head shape would allow you to just go without anything if you could feel comfortable with that look. Anyway, thinking about you and thanks so much for updating.

    • I never thought of my features as “refined” Rachel, thanks for saying that. The turban idea is interesting. Hubby calls me Memsahib anyhow. Perhaps he should buy me a turquoise–real of course!–to bring out the color in my eyes? Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised and learn all kinds of new things to do with my hair when it comes back as they assure me it will. Hugs to T. I think of you all often and am so happy your life is finally turning out as you wanted.

  3. Great post!!!!!! I have never asked to see my reports either and feel sorta silly since I’ve been a freak about having mammograms as my mom is a breast cancer survivor because they caught it early. Next month when I see Dr. Maria, I’m going to ask to see my report and ask questions. Thank you!!!!

    I’m glad you have a positive dedication to this whole process. Then again, I know you are a fighter and will do everything necessary to beat it. That you have an excellebt support system will help.

    Know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. Thanks for that link Alice, it was well worth reading.

    My friend was rather in shock when on waking one morning her pillow was covered in clumps of hair. Nobody had told her it might happen that way. I had forgotten to mention about shaving your head when the hair begins to drop. It certainly helps and gets rid of the odd straggly hairs that might catch on the inside of the wig.

  5. Yes, positive thinking and positive writing really result in a new way of thinking. Now you know why I suggested writing through this experience. there will be many of us out there that will add bits to your days now.

    Yes, shave your head now. You will like yourself later. Why not just wear a ball cap too. Comfort. That will matter.

    Many hugs…….I’m gone for two days, but my thoughts will be with you.

  6. A friend of mine who went through chemo for breast cancer (she’s been given the all clear now) started wearing scarves and they looked GREAT! She now keeps her hair very short (and it is curlier and thicker than it used to be, I think) and still wears scarves on occasion. They look pretty. In fact, I’m now wondering if I could get away with trying some just because.

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