Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Being Prepared. For Mammograms, Good News and Good Health. (Gingered Spinach and Mushroom Soup)

As I write this, I'm sitting in the waiting room of The Presbyterian Breast Center in Charlotte NC.  Because of an as-yet-unexplained abnormality in my mammogram of last week, I'm here for a "diagnostic" mammogram and, depending on that outcome, perhaps some other tests.  I've been assured that I will not leave here today without a fairly definitive reason for my abnormal mammogram.

Coincidentally, October was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  The event's distinctive pink ribbons were aflutter all month long -- at NFL games, at the kids' school, in doctors' office, and perhaps, most visibly, at an abundance of Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure events throughout the country.

Oddly, as I read the many breast cancer articles and reminders in The Charlotte Observer in October and listened to the advice of expert radiologists, gynecologists and oncologists on The Today Show, it occurred to me that I don't currently know of any instances of breast cancer in my circle of friends.  That's saying something, because it's a fairly extensive circle, including neighborhood friends, former co-workers in Boston, RIchmond and Charlotte, newly re-discovered classmates from Charleston and Columbia, and lots and lots of moms (particularly those of seventh and ninth graders, Boy Scouts and cross country runners).  The American Cancer Society estimates that one in eight of us will develop breast cancer in our lifetime.  My slightly superstitious side couldn't help but wonder and worry -- about all of us.

Sure, I've known women with breast cancer, and sadly, some who lost their lives to it.  The ACS reports that nearly 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in American women in 2009.  Over 40,000 U.S. women are expected to die from breast cancer this year.  Lung cancer is the only cancer more deadly among this population.  A stunning 2.5 million U.S. women with a history of breast cancer were alive in January 2006.

I've heard these many facts over the years.  And now, I'm the one in the waiting room.

Despite recent blog posts about my Boy Scout-like desire to "be prepared," there's no way I could prepare for this.

I can't worry about something I don't know about, of course, and this is clearly something I don't know about.  I don't know what "it" is. That's why I'm here.  I suppose my abnormal mammogram could be attributed to any number of things, but the one I keep coming back to is cancer.

I won't keep you in suspense.  After an easy diagnostic exam, which was no more uncomfortable than any other mammogram, my radiologist reported that my breasts were clear for now.  (And yes, she actually did say, "for now," which I believe is the prudent thing to tell a patient.)

It appears that my original mammogram indicated a shadow of what was likely some folded over tissue.  I was reminded, of course, to continue scheduling my regular annual mammograms and monthly self-exams.  And I was reminded, of course, that it's never a bad idea to take good care of myself -- limiting alcohol and fat, getting plenty of exercise and enjoying a healthy diet with lots of veggies.

As luck would have it (and believe me, I already feel plenty lucky today), I'd made Gingered Spinach and Mushroom Soup just yesterday.  For a low-fat dish with lots of veggies -- and good taste -- I think it fits the bill.

Because as great as the folks were at The Breast Center, I don't plan to be there again next year.  Instead, that'll be me in the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure.

To get a free annual mammogram reminder, visit The American Cancer Society website (click here) and tell them which month you'd like to receive your e-mail reminder.  You can even sign up a friend!

Gingered Spinach and Mushroom Soup

3-4 cups flavorful, homemade chicken stock (for recipe, click here)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil ("regular" sesame oil doesn't have enough flavor)
3 cups (about 4 ounces) raw baby spinach, rolled up and sliced into thin ribbons
6 button mushrooms (I used cremini), sliced very thinly
1 tablespoon miso paste* (or to taste)
2 teaspoons lemon juice (or to taste)

In a large saucepan, heat ginger and sesame oil until fragrant.  (Just a few minutes.)  Stir in chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and stir in spinach and mushrooms.  Cook until spinach is completely wilted, but still bright green.  Stir in miso and lemon juice.  Adjust seasonings and serve hot.  (If I'd had it on hand, some firm tofu, cubed, would have been perfect in this soup, too.)

*Miso paste is a Japanese ingredient, found in the international aisle of the grocery store.
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