Thursday, January 23, 2014


Just got back from picking up my mammogram images. Here in Mexico you pick up your own x-rays, and you own them. You can take them to whatever doctor you wish, and then store them under your mattress (they're big). When I got the images safely in the house I burst into tears. It's not that there's anything wrong with the results, they're normal, just as I expected them to be -- I'm not over weight, I breastfed my children, I don't smoke, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, I exercise. I do drink, and that's not good, but I only drink occasionally now, not every night like I did for 38 years. So why the tears? They're because my mother died of breast cancer, and mammograms are an emotional ride for me.

When my father turned 57 (I was 25) he announced to me, "I have now passed the age at which my father died and that is a tremendous relief."

"Really? You thought you might die at 57 because your father did?"

"Of course!"

Was it my dad's suggestion that has made me so conscious of approaching the age at which my mother died? She was 60 -- I'm now 58.  Or does everyone make that comparison? I know that my friends with mothers in their 90's do expect to have long lives, so maybe everyone considers the parent of their same gender a predictor of mortality.

Earlier in my 50's, as I put on a little more weight each year, I started to look like my mom. No matter what diet I tried or how much exercise I got my weight kept creeping up. I was particularly worried because when I was pregnant with my last child, I had gestational diabetes and was told that was a prediction of what was to come if I wasn't careful.

I did finally get my weight under control -- I am 132 lbs. as of my last check up, and I'm 5'5" (that's a normal weight/height ratio). I doubt I'll ever be fat again or have to worry about diabetes, but it took three years of trial and error to figure out what I was doing wrong. It sure didn't have anything to do with calories! It had everything to do with eating loads of vegetables, some fruit, cutting out wheat and dairy, and limiting grains in general. I have occasional sweets, not sweets every day, same with meat.

Do I feel deprived? Not at all. I eat whenever I'm hungry -- I'm sort of a grazer -- and I actually crave vegetables. Who would've thought? And as for my life-long love affair with wine, I don't need it anymore. I also never avoid exercise and seem to fit an hour or more of fast walking in each day just because I feel like moving. So how could I get upset about the mammogram? It's because now that I've figured out how to be fit, the idea that some picture on a screen could take it all away is scary! Also the memory of my mom finding out her own prognosis haunts me and makes me SO SAD!

When she was diagnosed with cancer at age 55,  I was in my mid-twenties and I had no idea how young 55 was. But now I do.

Over the last couple of years I've realized my mom may not have been a weak individual any more than I am. She ate what she was told was a healthy diet and it didn't work for her and she became quite overweight, got diabetes, and then cancer. Admittedly she did have a sweet tooth, but eating the right way can tame that too. To think that her suffering could've been avoided makes me a little angry and I don't like to be reminded of it. That's why it may be a long time before I go for another mammogram, although I will remain religious about breast self-exams.

The other reason I won't be going back soon is this: The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool which calculates one's risk of developing breast cancer in the next five years. My risk is around 2.6%.

And while we're doing calculations, want to calculate how long you might live? Here's a cool life expectancy calculator:

Of course nobody should take my advice about their health care. This post is more venting than anything else, but mammograms are more controversial today than they were a few years ago, so be informed when you make your own decision about having your next one.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.