There are no Mulligans* in Mammograms
*The basic definition of a mulligan, a term most associated with golf, is a “do-over,” a second try after your first has gone awry. …
Let me tell you about my day . . . I have a mammogram appointment at 11:00 a.m. because it was the first appointment I could get after several on-again, off-again lockdowns. I am not at high risk for breast cancer, so I was low on the list to make an appointment.
When the time came — I jumped at the chance to get my yearly screening test, now long overdue.
Segue into trying to get my Covid vaccine
Here in Illinois, we have All Vax. It is a website that you put your info into, and they call/email when it is your time — especially if you have a friend like M.E. who tells you about it and gives you the website. They (All Vax) periodically send out emails to let you know if you need to update information. They sent me an update request — I forgot to update it. I ran into a friend at the grocery store, and we chatted; she asked if I was subbing, did I get vaccinated, would I? blahdity, blah, blah, blah. Thank you, S.S., for the small talk because, at your insistence, I updated the All Vax website.
In less than 24 hours of my update, I was sent an email to schedule a vaccine. Like many of my life decisions, I spontaneously took the first boat to knock into my shore.
In my gut, I knew it is the best choice. My intuition challenged the timing — after all, I was making salmon for dinner, and that just can’t be entrusted to a novice in the kitchen. Since the salmon turned out just fine without my careful eye on the broiler — I thought this must all be working out in my favor.
Back to the girls
10:00 in the morning quick walk the dogs because you never know how long an appointment will be …
10:15 leave for the hospital because you never know how many trains will delay the trip, how long the intake line will be, and let’s not forget the parking!
10:40 I check-in. 20 minutes early, just like the nice text requested.
11:00 appointment time comes and goes. More time to read, I think.
11:20 I overhear a conversation in the waiting room between the intake lady and another patient asking her if she has had the covid vaccine and how that might affect her results. She didn’t ask me that . . .
11:29 I’m called back, and the first thing I ask, even before going into the locker room, I tell her I’ve had a covid vaccine. We talk in the hallway about my options. I’m pissed but hold in most of my passion for informed health care.
They can’t tell me to get a mammogram or not but what they can tell me is that new information has come out suggesting the vaccine can mimic cancer. The very nice woman tells me I have two choices — go ahead with the mammogram, but if I test positive, I go down a rabbit hole to rule out cancer
wait 4–6 weeks after my second dose.
Or, I ask — why can’t I get another mammogram. Well, apparently, I can’t request a mammogram. Did I know that already? I mean, they are my girls. Women who actually do have cancer get more than one mammogram a year, don’t they?
I’m now confused, pissed, hungry, and just spent 2 hours of my day in this weird place — because just the idea of a mammogram is a little anxiety-producing, and now all of this. And I got the non-shaming nurse! My stars were so aligned. Until they weren’t.
I come home, make an emergency Facebook live broadcast because I wanted as many of my friends as possible to have this info . . .
I eat. Then begin writing. Researching. Now I’m here with you at this moment.
He noted that about 16% of clinical trial patients had enlarged lymph nodes after their second shot of the Moderna vaccine, and the Pfizer vaccine produced a similar effect.
“I actually had a palpable axillary [armpit] lymph node following my vaccination,” Parkinson said. “It happens in men as well.”
A series of case reports published online recently in the journal Clinical Imaging detailed four women who got the COVID-19 vaccine and then sought breast screening.
Some were concerned they might have breast cancer. For example, a 59-year-old woman with a family history of breast cancer received targeted ultrasound to evaluate a lump in her left armpit, nine days after getting the Pfizer vaccine, according to the report from a team in the radiology department at Weill Cornell at NewYork-Presbyterian in New York City.
Others received a false positive. Such was the case of a 42-year-old woman who had a routine mammogram and was found to have multiple swollen lymph nodes in her left armpit. She then had to return for a follow-up ultrasound exam to rule out cancer. https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2021-02-11/covid-vaccine-reaction-can-mimic-breast-cancer-symptoms-but-doctors-say-dont-panic
16% of patients is a significant number (IMHO)
I’m not one to talk about my resume from a million years ago before I retired from “working” to begin my career as Mother — but in this case, it is actually relevant. I worked for several years in research and clinical trials — mostly cancer research — in the lab, as a writer, on the Institutional Review Boards for Texas Oncology, then as Director of the Cancer Clinical Research Center UT-Southwestern. Then I went on as a freelance writer writing protocols, package inserts, expedited FDA use, and FDA investigational use drug approval. I was kind of like the dishwasher that moved its way up to Head Chef over the course of many years.
16% of the population tested had enlarged lymph nodes. Ok, that is a big deal. A red flag. To look at it closer. And they did — but that part never made it into the package insert or the piece of paper I received when I did get my Mederna vaccine.
What I can tell you is that 4 days after my shot, my arm is 80% mobile. I still can’t brush my hair with that arm or reach in the cupboard for a coffee cup — I need to use my other arm. Not a big deal. But, getting a potential cancer diagnosis is a big deal.
Not having a choice about my healthcare when the data was available irritates me. My “in the moment” choice today was to get the mammogram or not. Had I known, I could have planned. I could have talked it over with hubs. I was already thinking to myself : Why didn’t you research this yourself rather than jump the gun on getting the vaccine? Bottom line: what will die from Covid or breast cancer? Maybe neither because both are masked and are socially distanced . . . but that is not the point.
My voice was taken.
Your voice was taken.
Our choices are taken — and I’m just seeing that now.
We can do better
In my venting Facebook live, I made a plea for Mederna, Pfizer, and now Johnson and Johnson to call me if they want me to write for them. I would include info like don’t get a frigging mammogram or get it before getting a vaccination.
I would need a pot of good coffee, some no-bullshit doctors who have set their egos aside to work with me, and just a day or so. We could get many things cleared up and get a lot of good information out into the public.
Of course, they would need to come to me because I have a Zingerman’s Bakehouse Detroit Classics class coming up, and I AM NOT RESCHEDULING!. I’m sure they could work around my schedule. Remember, I’m a Mom now but would sneak out of retirement for patient advocacy.
- Renee, I love your vivacious spirit that gets shit done. Yes, once again, you acted impulsively, and now you need to wait to get a mammogram. Big deep breaths as you embrace this part of your being, know that it is there, and maybe next time you get that “Oh my God, it is now or never” feeling — just stop and use your own meditation/mindfulness tools you teach and ask, “Is this really now or never. What else should I consider.” (and yes, I do talk to myself in the first person.)
- When we (the companies)know better, we do better. We had the lymph node/mammogram data during the clinical research trials; what did we do with it?
- We (me and you) need to have choices in our health care. One option is not a choice.
- We (me and your) need information ahead of time. I’m working on that now.
I’ve had my cooling off period before I hit publish on this article. FYI, my culinary class was fantastic and I can now make a fantastic Detroit Style Pizza.
I still want everyone to know that getting the vaccine, like any other health care treatment, needs to be factored into a long term wellness plan.
Wellness planning is a little more complicated the older I get.
The older I get, the more alive I feel!