A week ago I went in for my annual mammogram. Because of a family history of breast cancer, I had a baseline mammogram at age 35. At the age of 40, I began getting my routine mammograms every year.
I received a notice in the mail yesterday letting me know the results. All looked good. The only thing they noted on a separate pink slip of paper was that my breast tissue is considered dense. It went on to say that “dense tissue is common and not abnormal. However, dense tissue can make it harder to evaluate the results of a mammogram and may also be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.” I wasn’t sure what “dense” actually meant, so I did a Google search for more information. Here’s the answer I found:
“Breast density is not a measure of how the breasts feel, but rather how the breasts look on a mammogram. It compares the area of breast and connective tissue seen on a mammogram to the area of fat. Breast and connective tissue are denser than fat and this difference shows up on a mammogram… High breast density means there is a greater amount of breast and connective tissue compared to fat.”
While looking for this information I, unfortunately, found this statistic too: Women with high breast density are six times more likely to get breast cancer. After that I looked around a little more and that number dropped to 4-5 times more likely depending on what site I visited.
My mom and her mom both had breast cancer. When my grandmother was diagnosed she was treated and ended up living the rest of her years on earth cancer free. My mom was diagnosed in 1986 when she was 50 years old. She had a mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. But, unfortunately, due to a rather late diagnosis, the cancer returned and metastasized into her bones. In 1991, after a long battle, my mom did pass away.
It’s interesting to me how I approach the idea of breast cancer. Ever since my mom died, 23 years ago, I feel like I’ve carried with me (in the back of my mind) that matter-of-fact understanding that one day I might get that dreaded call from my doctor’s office with that diagnosis. It’s not like I’ve lived my years in fear of it, it’s just that a part of me would not be at all shocked if a doctor were to one day tell me I have it. The family history is there. I’m not being pessimistic. I just tend to look at things rationally like this.
One reason I don’t live in fear when I think about this is because I know that every case is different. Being diagnosed with breast cancer is not a death sentence. I know that in the last 23 years, awareness and prevention, early diagnosis, and incredible advances in medicine have greatly increased survival rates. I also know many woman who are living in victory today. I am so thankful for this too.
Still, I have to say, the closer I get to the age my mom was when she was diagnosed, the more often the idea of maybe one day being diagnosed with this disease crosses my mind. I even thought about it again today while out for a run.
This is one reason I felt compelled to read Margaret Feinberg’s new book Fight Back With Joy. Over the years, I have read several of Margaret’s books. I’ve been encouraged by all of them too. They tend to show up in my life right when I need to read them.
In Fight Back With Joy, Margaret takes us along on her battle with breast cancer. On the day she receives the dreaded call from the doctor’s office she bravely tells her husband, Leif, her desire is to fight back with joy. Through her difficult journey, Margaret teaches us that joy is a weapon. And we are encouraged to wield that weapon during the most challenging seasons of our lives.
There’s a chance I will develop breast cancer one day. There’s also a good chance it will never be a part of my story. I, like each of you, have no clue how my days will play out.
But one thing I do know for sure is that I want to be spiritually prepared to fight any battle that may be waiting further up the road. I want my arsenal of weapons to be fully stocked and loaded. And, the best way I can do that is to fill my mind and my heart, on an ongoing basis, with much-needed truth.
Personally, that’s what Margaret’s book has given me…more ammo to fight life’s battles with!