This blog is the first of a series in which I will share my personal journey that brought FLAT OUT TALI to life. It will include my thoughts and feelings following my encounter with breast cancer and bilateral mastectomy, my decision to stay flat, some research and information, and other relevant inks. While everyone’s experience is unique, I do wish mine will reach out, and hopefully, make a difference in someone else’s life…
In March 2015, my eldest daughter got married. It was one of the happiest days of my life - pure joy, fulfilment, and uplifting spirits! Well-hidden, deep at the back of my mind, was a little niggling thought that hadn’t been allowed to surface.
Two months earlier, I’d been invited to a repeat ultrasound for my right breast because in a previous visit, while a mammogram didn’t show anything (as I had dense breasts), an ultrasound that followed, showed cysts (nothing new, had them before), but also for the first time revealed a tiny lump. Because the lump didn’t appear suspicious, I was asked to do a follow up weeks later to see if any change occur. So, I came and had an ultrasound which showed the same lump on the same position. The doctor said it didn’t change in size or shape, and still didn’t appear suspicious but when I questioned what she would do if she was in my place, she said that while it looked 99% benign, to be on the safe side, she would have a biopsy done.
I have always trusted my gut (and boy, in regards to other matters, have I regretted it when I didn’t); there was no urgency here; so, I decided to have it done, but to postpone the biopsy until after my daughter’s wedding.
I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable with things that relate to my health and to that of my loved ones; however, despite going through mammograms and ultrasounds that followed because of cysts that were found, I never realised the significance of my breasts’ density, and the important role of the ultrasound screening for women like me.
“no one method of measuring breast density has been agreed upon by doctors. Breast density is not based on how your breasts feel during your self-exam or your doctor's physical exam. Dense breasts have more gland tissue that makes and drains milk and supportive tissue (also called stroma) that surrounds the gland. Breast density can be inherited, so if your mother has dense breasts, it's likely you will, too. Research has shown that dense breasts:
- can be 6 times more likely to develop cancer,
- can make it harder for mammograms to detect breast cancer; breast cancers (which look white like breast gland tissue) are easier to see on a mammogram when they're surrounded by fatty tissue (which looks dark).
- In the United States, about 43% of women aged 40-74 years are classified as having dense breasts.
- As of September 2015, 24 states had passed legislation requiring that women be notified of their breast density along with their mammography results.
- Because mammograms don’t always find cancers in dense breasts, researchers have been studying the effectiveness of other screening methods for dense breasts.A study has found that by adding 3-D mammography (also called digital tomosynthesis) or breast ultrasound to regular screening, mammograms can detect more cancers in dense breasts. Ultrasound is slightly better at detecting cancers in dense breasts than 3-D mammography, and both screening methods have similar false-positive rates.
The study was published online on March 9, by the Journal of Clinical Oncology and was presented on March 9, 2016 at the 2016 European Breast Cancer Conference”.
On Wednesday April 29th, I had my biopsy at Mercy Breast Clinic in Auckland (little did I know then that I was going to see so much more of this place). Because of my health insurance, I was told they would call me with the results the following day. It’s funny, but while deciding to do the biopsy, I was so positive I didn’t have cancer. No one in my immediate family had it, and we have always had this tendency to grow “good” tumours.
The next day, the call came at 4 o’clock. The lovely doctor rang and I was sure he was going to say that all is good. Instead, he said he was very sorry, but they had found something in a very early stage. He had already booked me for an appointment with the surgeon a couple days later.
Well, I’m sure most of you remember the place, date, and moment when you were told of such news. You never forget it. Ever! I was in utter shock and shattered. I hadn’t expected this phone call…I told him I had to sit down; and then I started to ask questions…
Till next time,