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Can I Get A Baseline?

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Stuttering Shell: Can I Get A Baseline?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Can I Get A Baseline?

Friday’s appointment with the genetic counselor went well. The most difficult part of the whole appointment was the homework I had to do PRIOR to my appointment. I was required to bring with me to my immediate family's medical history - more specifically, whether or not anyone has been diagnosed with cancer. A few phone calls later and after I had copied some of my mother's paperwork (she's been there, done that with this whole genetic counseling/testing thing), I knew more about my family’s health history than I ever thought I would want to know. I suppose it’s a good thing because it IS pretty damn important to know what types of illnesses have afflicted or are currently affecting your family.

Anyway, my mother & I went to the oncologist’s office…I normally go to the 2nd floor where the gynecologic oncologists hang out, but this time I stayed on the 1st floor where everyone else goes. It was pretty humbling sitting in the waiting room. There I was sitting with my mother while people are being brought in and out on wheelchairs, reading the newspaper wearing pretty scarves on their heads or walking in clutching the arm of a loved one. Some looked rather tough and others were quite frail looking. Being there made me thankful that I still had my mother sitting next to me and that her cancer was caught early enough that my mother fought back aggressively (I mean, a single mastectomy is pretty darned aggressive in my book).

When we met with the genetic counselor, we went over my family history starting with my children, then my parents & sister, then my parents’ parents & their children, cousins, nieces, nephews and so on. We even talked about members of my extended family. After about an hour of talking, asking questions and nodding heads, the genetic counselor entered my information into the computer and basically read me my cancer fortune, if you want to call it that. Based on my mom’s “no mutations found” result of her genetic test, it was determined that my mom’s breast cancer was sporadic and not hereditary and, therefore, I would not need any further genetic counseling/testing. The computer basically told me that I was right on track for any other normal female of my age and that my chances of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer were in the “normal” range…meaning, as I get older, my chances for developing the cancer becomes greater, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. While these computer-generated results do offer me a sense of relief, I am still a bit skeptical because it’s just a statistical model. My mother’s sister passed away from breast cancer 12 years ago. That’s two out of five sisters from the same family who were affected. Could there be some hereditary significance? Maybe, but we’ll never REALLY know because my mom had genetic testing done that said there was nothing wrong and her sister passed away long before any tests could determine one's destiny with breast cancer.

At any rate, it was suggested to me to go ahead and start the screening process. I mean, monthly self-exams can only tell so much, right? (My mom's cancer was detected after two mammograms...a self-breast exam didn't detect the cancer...and it was only at the insistence of one of my mom's doctors that they re-did the mammograms and they actually found something...not everyone is lucky enough to have a doctor who will actually advocate for the patient.) The genetic counselor recommended that I get a baseline mammogram this year since I’m only 10 years younger than the age of my mother’s sister when she was diagnosed. If all goes well, a normal baseline will give my doctor’s a good gauge of what my "normal" is and I won’t have to get another one done for a couple years. The easy part is getting the mammogram scheduled. The prospect of smashing my itty, bitty girls between two cold slabs of metal is the part that stresses me out. Of course, the inconvenience and the temporary discomfort is just one of the necessary evils us women have to endure in order to make sure we’re staying healthy. Surely a digital picture of my boobs is much more comfortable than going to the va-jay-jay doctor for a well-woman exam, right?!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that your mother had cancer & had to go through that and I pray she's stays healthy and free of cancer! How brave! And I pray you stay healthy and cancer free!! Good luck with your mammogram! Haven't had one yet so I can't give any good advice but you're can't be as bad as going to the gynecologist! LOL I like your wording better! Have a great day!

May 12, 2009, 9:42:00 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Thank you, Holly, for the prayers...I fully believe in the power of prayer!

May 16, 2009, 9:27:00 AM  

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