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  • Writer's pictureKate

Stages of Guilt

I have been fairly diligent about getting yearly screening mammograms and MRI's since I was 25 or 26 years old. Because my mom was diagnosed at such a young age (34), I was always deemed "high risk" and screening was recommended when I was 5-10 years younger than her diagnosis age. Also, I have extremely dense breast tissue, which means mammograms just aren't the best at finding potentially dangerous cells whereas MRI's are better- so I have been getting both. I have also undergone ultrasounds following routine screenings when they find suspicious looking regions- which is one of the downfalls of MRI's- they are VERY sensitive.

Since this all started, I have come to the realization that I missed my annual mammogram last year and I didn't even know it until I sat down and thought about it. With the start of a new job, buying/renovating a newly purchased home, grad school, and a change in insurance and primary care provider, I guess it just slipped my mind. I remember speaking to my new primary care provider about it, but then never got around to making the appointment. And here we are in 2018! I can't believe I completely forgot! I also can't help but wonder if I would have gotten that mammogram, would I have caught this earlier? I know it doesn't matter now, but I was pissed at myself when I looked back at my online medical records and didn't find a screening report from 2017. This also stresses the importance of following screening recommendations exactly, because the second you become complacent, that's when something sneaks up on you. Within less than a 2 year timespan, I went from nothing showing up on the mammogram/MRI to a locally advanced (spread to at least one nearby lymph node, but not to distant organs) and a palpable/painful cancerous tumor. Crazy.

I have been feeling guilty and a bit ashamed about this since I realized it, since my public health and working medical background assures I am aware of the extreme importance of screenings, especially in high risk women like me. The only consolation is that the tumor made itself known when I woke up in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in my left breast and I felt the hard lump for the first time. I found this weird because I perform self-exams all the time! It was like it was warning me, and luckily I had the common sense to listen. I made an appointment shortly thereafter to have it checked out and the rest is history.

That's all for now. I figured I should get this off my chest because writing has always helped me move on from things which weigh heavy on my mind. Thanks for listening. I feel lighter already.

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