Today was a long day at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to meet with both my plastic surgeon and the genetic counselor. Lucky me! George W. Bush was visiting the troops today at the hospital so the whole place was crawling with secret service agents and guards at every turn. Many elevators were closed and detour hallways were used to direct patients to their appointments. I heard that he even got an MRI there – bet he’s glad I got that place cleaned up and in tip top shape a few weeeks ago! Ha! Tim came on the metro train to meet me for the session with the geneticist. I found out that not every breast cancer patient there is automatically given the test for the genetic mutation (it is very expensive). You must meet a series of given risk factor criteria first. Because my father is an only child (we don’t know if he may have had a sister with it) , and because he had two aunts (both paternal and maternal) die of breast cancer in their late 30’s, and because I developed breast cancer at a young age, and two different types, both lobular and ductal, I meet the criteria. He then took me into a blood draw room where two different nurses attempted to get my blood, but the veins kept rolling and they finally gave up. Since I am having a port installed Monday morning before my chemo therapy begins, they said they will come there and retrieve the blood test from the port which has a two way valve. I should get the results around the 3rd week of January. The results, if possitive, indicate that I am at a 50% higher risk of developing breast cancer again, and a significant risk of developing ovarian cancer. Most doctors recommend, at the very least, the removal of the ovaries. Our children and immediate female relatives would be at risk as well, and would be recommended tested in their twenties. These tests also help researchers learn how far back a family history carries. My feeling is that information is power, and what we choose to do with that information once we have it gives us a sense of control. Surprisingly, though, only 7% of the breast cancer population carries the genetic component.
This week we have a house full of college students while we try and prepare for Christmas Day, they are planning for the funeral of a friend. We fed 8 of them dinner tonight and now have about 15 in our basement drinking hot chocolate <-here’s a photo of the mugs they brought up after I had gone to bed to let them soak – what great kids! ) and gathering together to comfort each other following the candlelight vigil, and trying to feel a sense of family. It is a week of reflecting upon what matters most and being there for anyone who needs a shoulder to lean on, including the sister of the teenaged victim . It is a good distraction for me facing chemo in just 7 days, a way to give and “care for” while I still can.
Artwork by Barking Bird Art at Etsy.com