Whenever I changed doctors and had to fill out new medical forms, I was always proud of my family’s health history. You know the forms I mean. The ones that have you check off any surgery you’ve ever had and when you had it. I don’t know about you but as I’ve grown older, I can’t remember all my surgeries a total of five or six when I had them. I’m much better at answering questions about all the diseases I’ve ever had and whether or not my parents and siblings had or have them too.
On the health history part of the forms, I was proud to say that I didn’t have diabetes, or heart problems or high blood pressure but I did have arthritis and I was missing a gall bladder. My parents had their gall bladders along with high blood pressure and heart problem but they didn’t have diabetes. My father had prostate cancer by the time he died at 85. I wasn’t worried because I’d read somewhere that a high number of men had some evidence of prostate cancer after 75 or 80-years old. Neither of my sisters or I showed any evidence of breast cancer. We sisters, shared dense breast tissue which we inherited from my mother along with the ability to form fibroid cysts and fatty but benign tumors.
We were all cancer free. My medical forms proved it. I could checkoff “no” under the “do you have breast cancer column” for my grandmother, my mother and my sisters.
I breathed a relieved sigh until late September of last year. My cousin called me to say my 98-year-old aunty found an irritation near her right nipple. It was sore and bled for a couple of weeks. It stopped hurting and bleeding. She didn’t want to bother anybody with something so minor she didn’t mention it for another month or so. My cousin who lives nearby took my aunty for an annual physical. Her doctor felt something in the same breast and wanted further testing.
The tests showed invasive and non-invasive breast cancer in the area around the nipple and part of her breast. Her oncologist prepared us and her for a complete mastectomy of affected breast. I say “prepared” as if one can ever prepare for the loss of a body part. We did the best we could to convince my aunt to go through with the surgery. She wanted to get the “infected part” out of her body so we didn’t have to do much persuading. After the surgery, her oncologist came into the room smiling broadly … always a good sign.
My aunt’s cancer wasn’t nearly as invasive as first thought. She had a lumpectomy that removed the nipple and small part of her breast. With a bra on, I couldn’t tell which breast had the recent surgery. Even with her bra off her scars weren’t shocking or disfiguring. My aunt got lucky for the second time. She didn’t have to do chemo or radiation. Her doctors felt at her age the treatments might do more harm than good.
In case you’re wondering my aunty will be celebrating her 100th birthday very soon.
Thanks for reading this during Cancer Awareness Month