Mammogram and a mother’s responsibility

It’s been quite an eventful last quarter of the year for me, at least from the health point of view. For the past 3 months, I have made 3 visits to 3 different specialists in National University Hospital and even more visits to my family doctor but I have to say the most nerve wrecking one came from a routine mammogram I did in late October.

I had decided to do my first ever mammogram, since October is Breast Care Month by the Health Promotion Board, the screening is heavily subsidized. The results came in a letter on the day before we were due to leave for a short break to Krabi, Thailand. I didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary so it was a bit of a shock when the letter stated “… there are changes that are noted… you are advised to go for further tests within a month…” The first words that I told hubby was, “That’s no good”.. which was really an understatement to what I was feeling.

So I called up the Breast Care Centre in NUH who told me that the earliest appointment was 2 weeks later. Called up the insurance to see what was covered because in the worst case scenario, I wanted to make sure I did everything right for insurance claims and after that decided that I want things to move faster and waiting 2 weeks was way too long for me (I have a very active imagination), so I made arrangements to purchase the films (by doing so, you automatically take yourself out of the screening program, a repercussion I was alright with since I had insurance) and 3 phone calls later, I had talked to my family doctor, gotten a recommendation for a specialist and made an appointment for the next week.

That night, I dreamt that my lungs were covered with white spots.

So it was just as well that we were off to Krabi. It turned out to be a great trip but for the first time, I truly understood how hard but important it was to really live and appreciate the present. Not replying to smartphone messages and what not is a good good way to truly being present. We always talk about limiting smartphone usage for kids but really, we need to limit their usage for ourselves to really be present with our children.

That night, as I looked at B’s sleeping form, the rising and falling of her gentle breath, I thought more of how devastating it would be for a child to grow up motherless than how worried I was about my own mortality.  When we went snorkeling on the first day and white water rafting on the second, I savored the normalcy of the experience  while trying to douse the anxiety that this could be one of her last carefree memory of having a family holiday.

So when I stepped into Dr Phillip Iau’s office the next Thursday, I found myself liking his affable nature and how he didn’t beat about the bush by telling me “I don’t think you have cancer.” but let’s do further test to make sure. He laid out the statistics ( a lot of them) which basically was out of 1000 mammograms, 100 would have abnormal results. Out of the 100 abnormal results (which would require further tests), 10 would have to go for biopsy. Out the the 10, 4 would have cancer. “So..” he said, “lets get you ruled out.”

The radiologist decided on an ultrasound because the initial mammogram showed a white spidery area but an ultrasound would show whether this was normal tissue. As I laid on the table, she came in a asked, “Do you have any concerns about your breasts?”.  It seemed like a logical yet weird question – obviously I was mightily concern about them and my longevity –  So I said, “Well, I wasn’t before I got the letter but of course I am worried about them now.”

If I weren’t feeling so ostrich egg fragile (I wasn’t egg shell fragile), I would have added the thought in my head that said, ” Yeah, maybe, sometimes,  I wish my breasts were perkier.. ” but given the seriousness of the situation… it didn’t seem quite right.

So I looked on, as the technician swept the ultrasound device over my breasts and I looked at the images that looked like the patterns on a beach after the tide has receded and kept wondering – was this what normal tissue looked like? About 10 minutes later, she called the radiologist to take a look and they both linger over it for probably 2 minutes although it felt a lot longer to me.

“It’s normal.” the radiologist says.

“The tissues are normal?” I echoed. Just to get what the Singlish definition of  “double confirm”.

“Yes, they are normal.” She starts walking out of the room.

“Excuse me! What about the the white mass? Is that normal?”

She walks back. “Yes, the ultrasound showed that it is normal”

I think I ask another time. She must think I am nuts.

When I see Dr Iau for the concluding consult, he explained that sometimes the breast doesn’t get laid out all flat for the mammogram and folds occur resulting in the images that look like some white mass.

“Ok. You are alright. Get yourself checked in 12 to 18 months again.” he says.

I am greatly heartened by the results. I am generally a healthy person in most ways but I have been neglecting to exercise  regularly. This health scare has highlighted an important point :

Because I have a young child and I am not a young mother, I have a responsibility to keep myself as healthy for her sake, if not for mine.

The next time I put off exercise because of work, laziness, just don’t feel like it, I am going to have to remind myself that exercising is a deposit in my health bank account. It will pay off dividends later.

I have been ding dong-ing about getting a personal trainer  (because it doesn’t come cheap) but now I am thinking, it’s a small price to pay to increase my time with my family and once I learn the techniques properly, it will complement my cardio activities.

Having  a clean bill of health is  truly the best Christmas ever.

Merry Christmas to all.



2 Responses to “Mammogram and a mother’s responsibility”

  1. Hi Ceci, I’m sorry to hear about the scare, and I’m so happy that it was only a scare! You’re very courageous during this ordeal. Now relax, and have a wonderful holiday! Worry about exercise after you’re done with all the eating. 🙂

    • Hi Yan, Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I am really glad that it all turned out well. I liked the latest pictures of the boys!

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