I’ve been a little MIA, but there’s a good reason why.
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***I am not a medical professional, but this is my journey. I recommend consulting with your doctor for guidance for your own journey.***
I grew up in a family of smokers and I was a social smoker for a brief amount of time. It all stopped when I found myself in the hospital at the age of 24, with a pulmonary embolism. A fancy medical term for huge blood clots in my lung. According to the doctors and nurses, I was extremely lucky I came to the hospital when I did.
I had just finished running and developed what I chalked up to as pain from not breathing properly. As the day progressed the pain got worse. Courtney, my now hubby but then boyfriend, suggested I go to the hospital, but I brushed it off. I ended up sleeping in the recliner that night because the pain was so freaking bad. That next morning I drove myself to the hospital thinking they would tell me I pulled a muscle and send me on my way.
They didn’t release me, it was more complicated than that.
After 9 days in the hospital, a bunch of tests, and a lot of blood draws, it was determined that the blood clots were most likely caused by my birth control. I was on the Nuva Ring after just switching from Depo Provera. After a little more research, discovered the Nuva Ring was causing an alarming rate of blood clots. Blood clots typically start in your groin and travel. Some get stuck in the lung like mine, but if they break off can kill you if they reach your heart or your brain.
Initially I had to give myself blood thinner injections to get my levels where they needed to be, and continued Coumadin (blood thinner in pill form) therapy for 6 months. Being faced with my own mortality at 24 scared the living daylights out of me.
What that meant for my future, no more birth control. Estrogen can increase your risks once you’ve had a blood clot. I had to follow up with a hematology and oncology doctor to find out if I had any other clotting disorders, I didn’t, and to stay away from risk factors. (No smoking, no birth control, watch my weight etc.) It also meant that with both pregnancies because of the natural increase in estrogen, I had to give myself the blood thinner injections during the entire 9 months. The injections continued for an additional 6 weeks because I had C-Sections, and surgeries can also increase your risk of blood clots.
I’m not perfect, but definitely try my best to live a healthier lifestyle.
Unfortunately, after my dad passed away I gained a bunch of weight because I wasn’t handling things very well. By the time they discovered his cancer it was stage 4 metastatic lung cancer and we only had 14 months with him even with treatment. His too late diagnosis scared me and I started getting yearly exams and blood work just to establish a baseline. It’s also the time that I discovered Orangetheory and finally got my weight under control. Eight years later on the same exact week dad was diagnosed, we found out that my mom had metastatic breast cancer. Three weeks after that, she was gone. Two parents who found out too late that there was anything wrong.
What can I do now??
Thankfully I was able to get into a high risk breast cancer doctor a few weeks later. Mind you, I had just turned 40 and had my very first mammogram only 6 months prior. After discussing my health history with the blood clot and my mom’s recent passing, I qualified for a breast MRI. I also requested genetic testing. The most common genetic mutations associated with breast cancer are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. I know of women who tested positive and had a prophylactic double mastectomy to wipe out the probability of being diagnosed with breast cancer. I had already prepared myself to do the same course of treatment.
The breast MRI, just like my mammogram, came back normal, but the genetic testing came back positive for the CHEK2 gene. This particular genetic mutation not only puts me at a high risk for having breast cancer, but also an elevated risk for colorectal and other types of cancers. Later this week I’m scheduled for a colonoscopy, so I guess you can say 40 is the new 50.
The day my test results came back, I was all the feels.
There was a point when mom said she wasn’t going to get the biopsy and thinking back to that day, I instantly became pissed. Thank God my mom changed her mind about the biopsy, because otherwise I don’t know that this door would have been opened for me. Her diagnosis, while didn’t save her, could potentially save me and save my girls. I’m scared because both of my parents died at relatively early ages, I can’t accept that a fate for me too. Do I get a double mastectomy? Will they find anything in the colonoscopy? Where do we go from here? I went between crying, being mad, and trying to calm the girls who over heard the conversations.
Trying to find the positive.
I let myself have that day to work through the emotions because it’s been one hell of a couple of months. I cried, I screamed, but the very next day I made myself switch gears. My mom’s diagnosis DID open a door for me, a huge one. Now I have information that will help doctors monitor my health closer. Sure I’m getting a colonoscopy 10 years ahead of schedule, but it’s better than too late. I see this as an advantage not an inconvenience. My blood work is great, my weight is under control, my scans are coming back clear, I exercise… I’m thankful that because of my blood clot I haven’t been on any estrogen based birth control, which can increase risk of breast cancer. One of the scariest times in my life may have actually help to save my life.
What does this mean for you?
Early detection is KEY and I can’t stress this enough.
Get a yearly physical, make better choices for your health, stop smoking, start the exercise program, and get your mammograms. If something has been bothering you, get it checked out because ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your health. Don’t say that you don’t have time because you know what you don’t have time for, being sick. Nothing will derail your plans like an unexpected illness. I remember going through my mom’s calendar shortly after she passed. Mom had plans marked down, hair appointments scheduled until the end of the year, birthdays to celebrate… No where on there did it have the day she would find out she was sick or worse yet, the day she would pass away. I’m not trying to scare or induce panic, but sugar coating something as serious as this does no one any good.
Understand it’s coming out of a place of love and I promise you, people who love you too would agree.