Have you ever had a moment of panic that stopped you in your tracks?
That moment when catching your breath seems impossible because it feels as if someone just sucker punched you in the gut. My moment happened on a seemingly average March morning.
My mom was currently undergoing chemo and in the fight of her life, determined to conquer breast cancer. To defeat a beast of that magnitude my mom was having to take some pretty strong drugs on top of chemo, one of which created some nasty little side effects, such as heart dysfunction. No big deal right? That day, my husband and I drove over to my mom’s house. She had finished yet another round of chemo the day before and we wanted to help however we could. We knocked on the door, waited a bit, but no one answered. We could see the lights on in the kitchen and the dogs were indoors, a sure sign that my mom was home. The fearful thoughts slowly started whispering in my ear that something was wrong, as I dug through my purse for my keys. No keys. Where were my keys?! The fear became a steady pulse as we booked it around the back, praying the sliding door was unlocked. No luck. My shaking fingers dialed her phone. I pressed my face against the window, I could hear it ringing, but she didn’t pick up. Just then, my other line rang. My dad was calling me from work. “Have you heard from your mom, I can’t get a hold of her?” I started to explain we were there and she wasn’t answering. The panic in my dad’s voice, a voice that was always so steady, so reassuring, confirmed my own worst fear.
“Get in the house, tell him to break down the door, just get in the house, it could be her heart,” he screamed. My husband could hear my dad’s command and ran to work immediately. In seconds, he had busted down the door with the frame in tow, thanks to all those years of football and firefighting. He began shouting for my mom, moving methodically from room to room. Just then a car pulled in the driveway. A friend, had stopped by on a whim and took my mom out for a quick drive, just to get her out of the house. There she stood in her driveway, and the sight of her alive and well, was more than I could handle. All of my worst fears mixed with the most relief I had ever felt in my life, literally brought me too my knees, and I wept uncontrollably.
My mom’s battle with cancer brought on a whole new life for us. We changed our eating habits and began exploring our family history, something we had never thought twice about before. All of the women beyond my grandmother have been deceased for quite some time, and I don’t know about my mom, but I just never really thought to ask why. In all honesty we were clueless. Needless to say, it was a shock to discover, a HUGE family history of breast cancer. In fact, every woman on my maternal side of the family, with the only exceptions being my grandma and an aunt, have had breast cancer. This dates back to my great, great, great (yep, that’s three greats) grandmother, who died from a lump in her arm pit, way before they even knew what breast cancer was. Each of these women got their cancer in their 40’s. Each of these women died from their cancer or a death related to their cancer. My mom and her cousin are the only ones to survive. Thank you modern medicine!
All of this information and a quick visit to a genetic counselor taught me that I have a brand new title. Previvor. I am predisposed to breast cancer. My risk is high. It used to be there was not a whole lot one could do about this. But times a changed! Knowing my high risk to the beast that is breast cancer, I sat down and did some research.
I talked to my breast specialist and she gave me two options.
1.Yearly mammograms/MRI’s for the rest of my life!
2. A prophylactic double mastectomy
OR, I also did my own research and found a third option.
3. Thermography, a naturopathic heat based detection system.
Knowing my options, I felt empowered in the decision making process. I prayed a little a lot. I ugly cried Kim Kardashian style. I leaned on my husband for support, but my answer was clear. I am having a prophylactic double mastectomy. This decision was hard to make. And I still have anxiety. What if something goes wrong? What if my children hate me because I can’t pick them up during the extremely long recovery? What if my insurance company doesn’t even want to cover this and all this worry was for not? I am anxious, but unwavering. I will have these surgeries, I will squash this issue before it even becomes a problem.
I made this decision for myself. I am a self diagnosed worry wart. I worry about everything. The “did I’s” and “what if’s” are a constant movie reel playing in my brain. I am 30 years old, do I really want to worry about breast cancer for the rest of my life? Do I really want to expose my body to a yearly dose of radiation from mammogram/MRI? Plenty of people have told me I need to stop worrying and just pray about it. I pray. A lot. Me and God, we’re tight. But, I live by an idea financial guru Dave Ramsey put rather eloquently, “Pray like it all depends on God, but work like it all depends on you.” God is in control of my life, my days are numbered and he knows how my journey will end. But, God has also given me the gift of choice and these surgeries will bring me peace of mind.
I will do this for my husband. I watched my dad struggle on as he cared for my mom during chemo. I saw the concern on his face as we watched nurse after nurse struggle to start an I.V. in my mom’s tired veins. He was exhausted. He was overwhelmed. These surgeries will be taxing on my husband, but I will have them because after a cancer diagnosis I would have to have these surgeries followed by chemo or radiation, it would only be worse.
I will do this for my kids. I have three, two girls and a little boy. My love for them is undying. If, by having this surgery, I can somehow spare them the pain and terror I felt in all those months my own mom battled cancer, or in that split moment one March morning when I thought I lost her, I will do that. My own girls are previvors too. Thanks to those fancy genes their mama passed down, they too have a genetic disposition to cancer, and someday they may have to face these tough decisions. That is something that haunts my thoughts on a daily basis. These surgeries are going to be hard on them, I won’t be able to pick them up for six weeks. Six weeks seems like an eternity. But, I am giving them assurance that I will do whatever I can to be in their lives for as long possible.