The Actual Dance is a play that presents the events of the year 2000 from the point of view of the spouse of the woman going through breast cancer. From diagnosis to her life as a survivor, Susan Simon, my wife has endured. She is an unlikely survivor, at least according to her doctors. What is presented in The Actual Dance is the story of that experience from my perch. The husband. A man whose experience with breast cancer has been that it never turns out well. Moreover, death has been somewhat of a constant companion in my life. My memory of loss goes back to when I was 4 years old, with grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings, as well as parents, being lost to various diseases, but mostly cancer. My reaction to Susan’s diagnosis in retrospect is not surprising. Of course, in my mind, it never was going to end well. But I’m getting a little ahead of the story.
Day 5: Dense Breasts: “Don't worry. ... Remember, you had a mammogram just two months ago and it was normal." The Actual Dance
These are my words after Susan tells me that her internist "felt something funny" in her right breast and wanted Susan to have that “something funny” biopsied.
Not to worry, right? Susan at that time had three previous biopsy tests. She had been watching herself closely. Doctors had been testing her tissue for about a decade. We were doing the right thing. What was there to worry about, and there was not even a lump! And yes, she had a mammogram just two months previously.
So yep, there was me telling Susan not to worry. I think I was really talking to myself.
What we didn’t understand then was that Susan had what is known as “dense breast.” The trouble was with the technology. There was not good technology to see her type of cancer as it was growing in the 80’s and 90’s. Yes, there were suspicions. I can even remember that the test results from the 3rd biopsy several years earlier were sent to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion and they bothered to say: “very interesting, watch closely and keeps us informed.” Her doctor then remarked that this was unusual. The truth is standard mammography can miss up to 50% of the cancers in very dense breasts, and Susan had very dense breast.
The good news is that today there is new technology that can much more accurately see dense breast tissue and to see breast cancer when it first appears. Women need to be Aware of their breasts in terms of their make-up and risk profiles. Most importantly, they need to be checked and tested and what to ask for based on your unique physical make up. And so do their husbands! The theme of this months’ posts is the role of the man in her life, though it is really about the whomever the life-partner might be in that person’s life. We need to know the intimate details of our mate’s body and health as well as the things they think and like.
Stats of the Day: High breast density is common. In the U.S., 40-50 percent of women ages 40-74 have dense breasts. And almost 8% of women aged between 40-74 years have extremely dense breasts. ScienceMag
Task of the Day: October is time to get your breast exam scheduled, if not performed. When you do make sure YOU KNOW if you have dense breast and what the latest technology is to look at YOUR BREASTS. There has been some news lately about technology Molecular Breast Imaging for dense breasts. Ask about it. In some States the law requires that your doctor inform you if you have dense breast.
Resources of the Day: Here are two great web sites devoted exclusively to dense breast. One. Two.
The Actual Dance: Performances. Donate.