Two weeks ago I had a mammogram. I’m thirty-six.
It started with something that looked off. I noticed it while I was in Chicago, though if I am honest with myself I noticed earlier and just brushed it off. When it didn’t go away on its own I decided to make an appointment with my primary care physician. I adore my doctor. I’ve been with her for a decade and she knows me very well, not only medically but personally. She’s one of those doctors that takes the time to get to know her patients and understands us a human beings, not just illnesses. She knows I have a tendency to worry about nothing, but also not take my medication like I’m supposed to. She’s a whip-smart straight-shooter and I trust her implicitly. I also know that she is an excellent doctor and I fully expected her to take one look at me and be able to either identify the issue or have a damn good idea of what it was.
That isn’t what happened. She looked me over, asked some questions, got a little handsy in a professional way and told me that she simply didn’t know. This was going to require further testing, namely a mammogram and an ultrasound. Her office would communicate with insurance to get it approved because a mammogram before the age of forty is kind of a non-standard thing. By end of business that day the office called me to tell me that everything was a go and the breast center would call me to set up the tests. They called me the next business day, getting me in bright and early two days later. Once at the breast center they decided that they needed to run tests on both of my breasts and not just the one initially prescribed, a little worrying for me but useful for them. The mammogram itself was painless. The ultrasound was a little uncomfortable. The doctor and tech in my appointment both felt pretty confident my results were clear, though the sobbing down the hall reminded me how lucky I was.
Before I left, though, I was asked about family history and some risk factors. I made a phone call to my mother and answered as best as I could. Then I went home, got the official results that afternoon: nothing on either test so now we needed to move on to dermatology and a breast specialist because we still don’t know what the heck the issue is. That’s kind of where things still are, though my major fears and worries calmed down massively. I had sort of let everything fade from my mind (more pressing issues popped up) until I got the mail yesterday.
It was a letter from the breast center.
I’ve known this was a possibility for some time and genetic testing has been on the horizon, though various insurance concerns when switching from one carrier to another created issues. This is different, though. This is a letter from doctors treating me very straightforwardly informing me that I have an increased risk. This isn’t my mother’s doctor suggesting the test on some maybes or my own fears. This is directly about me and my situation and it is the first step in a journey that I never wanted to be on. It may not end in cancer land. It may just dead end somewhere in a mess of tests that don’t tell me much of anything. It may never matter. It’s a journey I’m now on.
I’ll call the genetic counselor tomorrow. We’ll figure out next steps and what we need to send off to the insurance to go from here. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m here. And I’ve got this.