Monday, November 10, 2008

Serious Cause for Thanks

A year ago this month I was recovering from a lumpectomy.

It was my first time participating in NaBloPoMo, and I chose to participate specifically because I thought writing everyday would be a good diversion from whatever I might need diverting from, and perhaps a helpful therapy device.

As a diversion, writing about the experience wasn't always successful. As a form of therapy, I was grateful for the outlet.

My story from last November (which is accessible by clicking on the "November 2007" link in the archives section, just to the right) has a happy ending. The surgery, performed on the 6th, was textbook perfect. The results, which I received on the 9th, showed that my breast was cancer-free. My recovery was rapid; I never needed all the pain-killers provided in the prescription.

For all of these things I am deeply thankful.

I am also thankful for preventative medicine measures such as mammograms. Having said that, I should explain that my mammogram did not find my lump. I found it while in the shower. (Soapy water is the best method of discovery!) In fact, after I found the lump, neither mammogram nor ultrasound could definitively find it, although the lab techs were very able to confirm that it was there.

That was a terribly, profoundly, disgusting moment!! I had to admit to a small amount of relief that someone else was able to find the cause of worry that I had, yet it confirmed for me that I really did have something to worry about!!! The machines told me there was no lump. The humans in charge of the technology agreed (with me, not their tech-toys) that something was there. At least the humans were able to laugh with me and relate with me about the emotional conundrum I faced: "The good news is that we know you're not crying 'wolf', however, the bad news is that you may have something life-endangering growing inside you."

Again, that ended up not to be the case. I DID learn that the greatest benefit of preventative medecine is not always the procedures used, but the contact and reassurances one receives. I felt well-cared-for at each turn. That made a tremendous difference.

I have an obligation and an opportunity to get a mammogram every year. While I still must do my own self-exams, I feel like this clinical reminder is as helpful as anything else. It's as official as doing taxes and renewing license plates and voting. By putting that appointment on the calendar, I am making a commitment to my health.

I check my husband's breasts now and again, too. Breast cancer runs in his family. Never forget that men have breasts, and can be vulnerable to breast cancer! Because breast cancer awareness is not as promoted among men, it tends to be more lethal when it is finally detected, as it often goes undetected until a late stage of growth and has metastasized.

I celebrate my grim and joyful anniversary much as I spent my recovery: snuggling on the couch with my pets. Just for a moment, though. Life marches steadily forward, so I cannot stay here long! I embrace the activities with which I will fill the rest of my day.

I do enjoy this quiet moment as a gift.


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