Thursday, January 26, 2012

Heart of the Matter

Today Kwiatek picked me up at 9:00am to take me to Reston Radiology for my echocardiogram. When I went into the imaging room the technician asked why I was having an echocardiogram. I responded, “I have breast cancer.” There was a pause and she looked at me in utter disbelief. She said, “But you’re so young.” I responded “One in eight … one in eight women will be diagnosed with cancer in her lifetime.” I realize now how powerful my experience is to not only bring awareness to the cause, but to perhaps remind someone to make that appointment with their ob/gyn, get a mammogram if they have a family history of cancer, or simply to go get checked out if they just don’t feel right.

The actual echocardiogram wasn’t a difficult test compared to everything else. It is basically a sonogram or ultrasound of the heart. It uses standard ultrasound techniques to image two-dimensional slices of the heart. The latest ultrasound systems now employ 3D real-time imaging (as seen on the right). In addition to creating two-dimensional pictures of the cardiovascular system, an echocardiogram can also produce accurate assessment of the velocity of blood and cardiac tissue at any arbitrary point using pulsed or continuous wave Doppler ultrasound. This allows assessment of cardiac valve areas and function, any abnormal communications between the left and right side of the heart, any leaking of blood through the valves, and calculation of the cardiac output as well as the ejection fraction.

The technician told me that my heart looked very healthy and incredibly strong. I started crying and reached forward hugging her. “I just really needed some good news,” I explained as I pulled away from embracing her. I realized that she had started crying, too. “Anyone who gives me good news gets a hug these days.” As I left I noticed the other technician who looked at me with sad and empathetic eyes. I guess cancer really does affect us all.

Today is a good day. I know my heart is strong and can sustain chemotherapy. Now my oncologist will have a baseline of how my heart looks pre-chemotherapy. They will continue to conduct these scans during chemotherapy to ensure my heart is not being damaged. I am hopeful and optimistic. Tomorrow is my PETscan that will ensure that my cancer is contained in the breast and lymph nodes. This should be the last test prior to my mediport surgery and chemotherapy. Please, God, let the cancer be contained.

1 comment:

  1. This is good news, Jennifer! And I'm sure you were relieved to finally have some. A heart as big as yours must be strong and healthy!! One prayer answered. May the PETscan answer another prayer.