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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Self-Examination and Mammograms

These are two of the most important changes that will come from the socialized medicine that represents itself as a Senate health care bill. Stop self-exams – they aren’t that important. Stop early mammogram screenings – they aren’t that important. If I had lived my life that way, I would not be here to tell this story.

Sarah Palin is right when she speaks up for the people about the idiocy that is being forced on us by a group of people who could not even see their own noses in front of their faces if their political life depended on it. And believe me, it does!

I am going to tell you more about me than you probably want to know, but I want to tell you so that it might help you save your life or the life of a woman you love.

I had a hysterectomy in 1980. I was 31 years old and never had children. With my history of marital success, I had come to thank God for not having given me additional lives to be lived in the turmoil of my own. I had two step-daughters I loved as though they were mine. I still do even years after that marriage ended. I am blessed.

In those days, women were still modest enough to refer to our “monthly visitor” as a “curse”. In my case, I was lucky if my “monthly visitor” visited every three or four months and with each visit, my discomfort level grew. I never gave a thought to the possibility of cervical cancer. That kind of thing happened to someone else; not to me. Thankfully, that was true in my case.

I hated the pap smears as much as any woman did. New technologies may have improved that situation but even so it took doctors much too long to come to the conclusion that warm protected areas did not accept cold metal as willingly as they thought.

I still look at that decision as one of the best I ever made.

A decade or so later, I arrived at a new juncture in my road of life. Nothing I did was right. That worked out well as nothing anyone else did was right either. I had less than no energy. I felt sick and tired every day of my life, and unfortunately, so did everyone who came in contact with me. It was obvious there was something physically wrong but I had no idea what it was.

I was fortunate to have a doctor who cared enough to listen to the things I was saying. My symptoms could have been caused by any number of things from thyroid problems to menopause. I still think no one but a man would have said it this way, but after months of blood work and other tests I received a letter from my doctor’s office stating that my body was in “a menopausal state.”

My point is this: If he had not been willing to submit me to the barrage of blood tests and other medical tests that he did, and if someone in the federal government had told him that he couldn’t, we might never have known that my symptoms could be cured so easily.

I remember sitting in his office as he explained to me all the possible side effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) including the possibility of breast cancer. That was another one of those “illnesses” that happened to someone else besides me, but I did listen to him carefully because I recognized that this decision could affect the rest of my life. When he finished with all the “could happens,” I asked him if the medication he was discussing would make me feel better and give me enough energy to at least be able to go out to dinner on a work night.

This may be the hardest part for you to understand. Given everything he told me could happen, including breast cancer, that wonderful little pill he gave me restored me to the happy person I had been. I was able to smile not only at my co-workers, but at myself as well. My whole life was better from my attitude to my health.

I have done breast self-exams for as long as I can remember. In fact, I don’t remember when I didn’t do them. Every month around the first of the month faithfully I checked my breasts for anything that didn’t feel as though it belonged there. My doctor had told me that it was important to continue that habit.

Eventually I noticed a pattern. I began to notice when something didn’t feel just right, or felt as though it didn’t belong. I decided that I would handle those situations by waiting 2 weeks, doing the exam again, and if it still didn’t feel like it should, I would go to the doctor. That plan worked very well for me. I didn’t have to go to the doctor after that second exam until years later.

I was involved in a training class for a new job. If I missed even one class, I would have to drop out, wait for the next class and start all over. If you’ve ever been through a mentally-challenging, intensive training course for any of your jobs, you understand why I had to put that first. Even after noticing something that didn’t change after my self-imposed two-week waiting period.

My instincts told me this was not like the usual lumpy mass I had felt on pervious exams. Since I couldn’t get to my doctor right away because of the training class, I watched it very carefully. I could tell that it was growing quickly. Luckily for me all the things that needed to happen did. The new job was working out well, the insurance had kicked in, the training class ended, and I went to the doctor.

One month after I saw my primary care physician to be sure I wasn’t misdiagnosing my problem, I was having a mastectomy. That too is a decision I have not regretted. I’m alive. My cancer is gone and so are my worries of recurrence.

During that one month period, I was at my doctor’s office three times, I had a mammogram and a follow-up one week later, a sonogram on the breast tumor, a biopsy and a visit to a surgeon’s office. What if I had been told that I had to wait several weeks or months to any of those follow-up tests? What if I had had to wait for a year or more to see the surgeon? After seeing the surgeon, what if I had had to wait months or a year for the actual surgery?

That is exactly what women will be facing with Harry Reid’s incorrectly named health care plan. You know – the one he and Obama are pushing down our throats. The one that will kill more people than it will help.

In May 2010, I will celebrate (yes, I'll celebrate!) my fifth anniversary of survival after breast cancer.

I know I am only one example. There are thousands of others out there. Do all the women you love as well as yourself a big favor. Share my story with everyone you can. Get it into the hands of your Senator – especially your Democrat Senators – and tell them how this story would have ended if I had had to deal with the monstrosity of their health care plan. The result if I had is a simple one.


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