Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Taking Care of Me (is hard work)

How many people have touched or seen your breasts in the last few weeks? It was Valentine's Day after all, so probably 2. Or maybe 3 if you are still breastfeeding... My answer is 7 and that's not including me, my husband, or my son. But I'll get to that in a minute.

Like most new parents, I imagine, my health has taken a back seat since Dylan's birth. I haven't had any really big time-sensitive concerns, but I've had a few nagging physical issues (neck, back) and I knew I needed to get back into breast cancer monitoring, so I finally made appointments for myself a few weeks ago; one with my regular doctor and one with the Breast Clinic.

The appointments went well and I'm so happy I went, but...they weren't the end.  I needed to get x-rays and a blood draw, a Breast MRI, breast ultrasound, AND mammogram and I was even referred to physical therapy.

But I had to follow-up to make most of the additional appointments and it took a full two weeks to get the next round scheduled.  I still haven't done the x-ray so I haven't been able to call physical therapy, but I am getting all the breast stuff done which does make me feel responsible! : )
ETA: both done since initial draft!

All in all, I've gone to 4 appointments in the last few weeks, plus a blood draw and radiography and I go to physical therapy starting this afternoon.

I'm BRCA2+
I've written this before, but I have one of the "breast cancer genes," a mutation on the BRCA2 chromosome. Did you know that there are actually tons of different mutations in BRCA1 and 2? That surprised me.

Since my mom got breast cancer at 41 and my aunt at 44, I have always known I was at very high risk even before I did genetic testing 3 years ago. It seems to really throw many people for a loop, but my sister and I both took it in stride (both positive for mutation) since we knew our risk and wanted to have a reason for greater monitoring.

The current suggested paths are either monitoring (alternating Breast MRI and mammogram every six months) or prophylactic surgery (removal of breast and/or ovaries). My sister and I both initially chose monitoring since we were both still planning to have families, but now that I have Dylan, I'm thinking more and more about prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. But I am definitely not comfortable with the oophorectomy since it causes premature menopause and there are lots of nasty side-effects to that (BRCA2 has less risk of ovarian cancer than BRCA1, but the incidence is still one in my family has had ovarian cancer).  I reserve the right to change my mind down the road, but that's my decision for now. I'm thinking I'll do the PBM in a couple of years when Dylan is a little more independent.

*     *     *     *     * point is that it's a lot more work to take care of myself now than it was before. it's easy to see the need to proactively manage my cancer risk - for Dylan's sake. But it's a lot harder to spend the time to go to physical therapy once or twice a week. Sure my neck locks up for about a week every other month, but...

Also, in the interim, I quit soccer and am working on getting back into yoga. Did you know your first week is free if you've never been to Corepower? I just want the yoga to cut into school time rather than Dylan time and it's really hard to fit everything in. Sometimes taking care of Dylan is the easy part. But we really do need to take care of ourselves too.

So did I inspire you to call and make an appointment? Do it!

Also do your monthly breast self-exams! One week after the start of your cycle is the best time. I'll have another post for that soon.


  1. I had a bilateral mastectomy three weeks ago today, partly to address some issues of concern (I was believed to have a rare kind of tumor called a Phyllodes tumor), and partly because of my personal history and my family history (I have not had BRCA testing done on the advice of my oncologist). It is a big surgery, but the relief I feel is profound. I am certainly not saying I would encourage people to seek it if not necessary, but for me it was absolutely the best choice. I am 44 and have a six-year-old son, and did not want to live in the shadow of further worry for the rest of my life. I also have Lynch syndrome, a constellation of genetically-linked cancers (I have previously had colon cancer), and my surgeon and I will be discussing prophylactic removal of my ovaries at my follow-up this week. Having watched my mother fight cancer for 13 years prior to her death last June, I am willing to give up any part I don't need for survival.

    Whatever you decide, I hope all goes smoothly.

  2. Has your doctor said anything about getting a colonoscopy early? My mom had breast cancer and my uncle had colon cancer and her doctor said there is a link between the two. So now I will be monitored for both early. It's hard to find time to take care of ourselves but having the baby is also more of a motivation to be healthy!

  3. No I haven't heard of a colon cancer connection although there are many other correlations...melanoma, etc. I'll ask!

  4. Like you, I also knew I was high risk before I had BRCA testing. My sister got tested before I did and she was negative. I remember when she called to tell me her results it took my breath away...I was elated that she didn't have to carry the weight of the "family cancer". It was like her Get Out of Jail Free card. I wasn't expecting to have such a strong reaction about her results, but once I did, I wanted very much to experience that relief for myself. Oh well...