I'm in the high risk breast cancer clinic at Mount Sinai (Toronto). A month ago I got a call back after my annual MRI because they saw something suspicious on my scan.
This morning I was scheduled for a follow-up mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy. After my first mammogram this morning, they asked me to do a second more focused one. The ultrasound that followed was long and quiet. I was uncharacteristically frightened and sad. Not really for me, but for the big WHAT IFs I might be leaving my children.
In the end, for now, the news appears good. We're going to run tests again in six months, and if this blip persists (or changes) we'll schedule my biopsy then.
Generally I try not to worry in the present tense. Although my mother and grandmother both died relatively young from breast cancer, they weren't diagnosed until they were in their late 50s.
But—IMPORTANTLY (and why I'm sharing this tonight)—most cases of breast cancer are NOT caused by inherited genetic factors. In fact, the doctors think my mom and grandmother had different kinds of breast cancer. The only thing I know is it appears breast cancer is not survivable in my family.
In my mom's case, they told her there was a 95% chance they would cure her cancer. They even gave her a certificate at the end of her treatment communicating (to some degree) she was cancer-free. She died less than 6 weeks later, a week or so before her follow-up appointment.
She also died fourteen years from my current age.
Cancer looms. There has been an urgency to my work and life because I know I have a high risk for a seemingly unbeatable cancer. I sometimes feel I'm running out of time to finish my art, my books, the quilting I've still never learned, but I also spend as much time wondering why I care. Why rush to get anything done? IT DOESN'T MATTER. But I can't help it. It's my nature. I am the scorpion, and I am the frog.
Today I am also the person telling you to get your genetic testing done. Ask relatives questions about familial health. And also be mindful, like breast cancer, many cancers occur spontaneously (or for reasons not yet known). If you're not feeling well, be persistent in advocating for your health.
And please join the clinic if you have a high familial risk of breast or ovarian cancer (and live in or near Toronto), and share their website with your friends and loved ones. I am endlessly thankful I am in such good hands. <3