I Think My Body is Trying to Kill Me

I am starting to wonder if the cells in my body are conspiring against me. I was supposed to have a nice restful week after my 50 mile race last weekend. As expected, my hamstring has been bothering me, as has a hip flexor. I went for a few short, easy walks this week to loosen up. I also scheduled a couple of doctor appointments because I realize it is important for me not to take my health for granted.

I had a screening mammogram on Monday, had a physical on Wednesday and a port flush on Thursday. I am not an alarmist about things like breast cancer. I do not have any immediate blood relatives with breast cancer, so I have assumed that my risk was pretty low. I also know heart disease remains the number one killer for women. I figured cholesterol and blood pressure checks were a more important part of routine health care in my life.  I went for a baseline mammogram the year I turned 40. I am now 45 and have had three or four mammograms. Honestly, I cannot remember how many times I have gone in for that particular screening, only because I have not been concerned about it. I think I may have skipped one when I was 41 and then went the next two years. I skipped last year because I was dealing with my pancreatic cancer. I figured I should go this year, though I was not concerned about it at all.

My relaxed attitude towards mammograms changed when I got a call on Thursday saying that I needed to come back for the diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound because of a spot the radiologist was concerned about. I know there are many, many false positives. I know this very likely to turn out to be nothing. But last year I was completely convinced that the spot on my pancreas was nothing. I wanted to skip follow up testing, until a friend in the medical field convinced me I needed to go in.

So I felt disbelief when I got the call, and then fear, and then anger. I never, ever got angry after my pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Getting the bad news phone call this time around just made me furious. I told my husband, more than fear, I am just pissed off. I do not want to have to go through this uncertainty again. I do not want my family to feel fear again. I just heard the words “no evidence of disease” at the very end of August. My family’s very tenuous sense of security and safety is thrown into doubt once more and it just infuriates me.

I know this will most likely turn out to be absolutely nothing. My oncologist called to reassure me of the very high false positive rate. But until I hear for certain on Tuesday when I go back in for testing, I just do not know for sure. I have heard from so many women who have been called back for extra screening that turned out to show all was well. Of course, there are many women who got called back and it turned out to actually be cancer. While one missed case of cancer is obviously devastating, the number of false positives concerns me. It seems like many women are going through a whole lot of stress and anxiety over things that show up on their screening tests that turn out to be nothing. I am glad there are diagnostic tests for breast cancer, but I just wonder why the screening process is not more accurate.

Of course, I am all for screening, and I really wish I had been sent for further testing many years ago when my pancreatic cyst first showed up. That was determined to be nothing of clinical significance, when it turned out that it was actually quite significant. I am hoping that the over abundance of caution given to my mammogram will turn out to be unfounded. Given my recent history, I cannot afford to take anything for granted. So I will have extra testing done on Tuesday and hope that my suspicions are correct and that the mammograper will tell me my breasts look awesome and send me on my way.

The good news for the week is that according to my physical, I am in great health. I had a heart rate of 43, my cholesterol was excellent, and other than slightly elevated blood glucose, everything was fine. Since I only have part of my pancreas, I will have the blood glucose test repeated to see if this was a one time thing or if it is part of a trend. My hope is that I get good news on Tuesday so I can focus my energy on healing up and getting back to running. Are the cells in my body conspiring to kill me? Of course I do not actually think that, but hopefully I will know for for sure on Tuesday. For now, I will just remind myself that I have already looked the monster in the eyes and fought it off. I can handle whatever gets thrown at me this week.



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