Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My breasts and I...

...will continue to have one another's company, it seems.

Over the last few weeks, the Romeis household has been waiting to hear whether or not I had developed breast cancer - the scourge of the women on my father's side of the family. There was reason for concern after a recent mammogram, and an ultrasound confirmed the presence of cell clusters, but the biopsy results have returned with the good news that I am in the clear.

I learned something about myself during this time, and that is that I am unafraid to face death.

Because of my family history, most of us feel as if we live under the sword of Damocles anyway. A few have opted for prophylactic subcutaneous mastectomies. I have occasionally toyed with the idea, but that is as far as it has gone.

In South Africa, with the joys of private medical care at my disposal, I was able to have screening from an early age whenever I felt the need.

When we moved to the UK over 10 years ago, I lost this safety net. Screening here is only available to women between the ages of 50 and 64, and only every three years. For a decade I tried to persuade doctors that I should be screened earlier, to no avail. They only changed their minds recently, when HRT was indicated (for obvious reasons) and I declined on the grounds that it increases the risk of breast cancer. The doctor concerned (a student, as it turned out) asked myriad questions and sent me to a geneticist who concluded that I certainly have an increased risk in comparison with the rest of the population.

She set the wheels in motion and the very first screening in more than a decade took place a few weeks later.... and revealed shadows.

We now know that the shadows are no cause for concern. But while I was waiting for further tests and the results of those tests, I realised that I was utterly calm about the whole thing. Whatever transpired, I would deal with. My faith was tested - not for the first time - and came through with flying colours.

For those who already knew about this and have expressed support in various forms, I thank you.

3 comments:

Janet Clarey said...

I'm glad things turned out OK Karyn. I've gone through that same wait-and-see twice now (both my grandmother's died of breast cancer in their 40s). The only positive that came out of that was a forced look at priorities. Day-to-day stuff we worry about seems well, silly. In the US last week, a bit of a controversy broke out the the American Medical Association saying mammograms were only needed when a woman turned 50 - and then every two years. The American Cancer Society says it should be at age 40 (which it has been). Waiting to see how this plays out with the insurance companies. Thankfully I've had the opportunity to be screened at minimal cost during my 40s.

Karyn Romeis said...

@Janet Thanks for the good wishes. With a history like yours, you would have been put onto the early screening programme here in the UK from a pretty early age, regardless of what the standard provision was. If it looks as if the blanket screening is to be changed in the US, I'd seek special dispensation if I were in your situation. They must make exceptions... and you don't want to lose that safety net! In any case, its in the state's best interests to keep people like you healthy, earning and paying taxes ;o)

Doug Belshaw said...

Karyn, both sorry and glad to hear about this at the same time. My mother was successfully operated on for breast cancer a couple of years ago and it was rather traumatic. I'm glad you've been spared that. :-)