25 Years Later: Reflecting on Mom’s Cancer Diagnosis

[00:00:00] Adam Walker: This program is supported by Amgen. Amgen strives to serve patients by transforming the promise of science and biotechnology into therapies for patients with serious illnesses. Learn more at Amgen.com.

From Susan G Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.

A cancer diagnosis is never easy, especially on the children of the family. Today’s guest is my friend, Sindhu Giedd. Her mother was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer when she was in ninth grade. Now as a mother herself and near the age that her mother was when she was diagnosed, Sindhu reflects on her experience with her mother’s diagnosis, how she thinks about her health and the health of her family, and gives us some advice for how families can include their older children in the breast cancer conversation.

Sindhu, welcome to the show.

[00:00:58] Sindhu Giedd: Thanks for having me.

[00:00:59] Adam Walker: Well let’s start with your relation to breast cancer. I understand your mom had breast cancer. Tell us about that and tell us sort of where you were in age at the time and how it affected you. And let’s kinda have a conversation.

[00:01:14] Sindhu Giedd: Yeah. I was 14. I was in, I think, ninth grade.

 When my mom went in, I think she was 40 went in for like her very first routine mammogram and was diagnosed through that. So, yeah, I think it was like, so try to, you know, remember what year that was. It was 97, 19 97. So I think when like mammogram technology was still really pretty new and it was really a new thing too, to like at the age of 40.

To just start doing this thing routinely, like every couple of years or something like that. So I think she definitely went in for that. Not expecting anything at all, just breast cancer, as far as we know, did not run in her family, our family, so.

[00:02:00] Adam Walker: And what happened next? She was diagnosed you know, do you remember how severe it was? And what was her process of going through that like?

[00:02:07] Sindhu Giedd: Yeah, I do remember. It, wasn’t actually very severe at all, which is which is incredible. So even in 97, when they were coming out with this technology, the mammogram technology. They found, gosh, I’m trying to remember the wording of it, calcifications. That’s what I remember. So they found calcifications in one of her breasts and I think it might have been two calcifications. I could be wrong about that, but so it was still very early on in, they caught it so fast. So has the mammogram technology not have been available? I mean, she, or had not had maybe been available, but not have been recommended just as sort of a like precautionary thing.

 They may not have found it until way later. And so she was really lucky in that they found it so early and they were able to do, I think they did radiation, they didn’t do chemo. They did radiation and then they did a lumpectomy. And then it ended up, so she did all that.

And then I guess when she went for like a follow up maybe six months later or something like that after the surgery found that they didn’t either, they didn’t get it all I got it’s, you know, hazy now it’s been got, I don’t know, 25 years. So they either didn’t find it all or they didn’t get it all.

Or there was like a small piece that had been left behind. And so. Something grew out of that. So then they ended up having, so she was diagnosed a second time after that.

[00:03:38] Adam Walker: OK. Gotcha. And you were, so you said you were in ninth grade, which is pretty young to have your parent diagnosed with a major illness. I mean, talk to me about that. What was that experience like for you? Was it, I mean, was it a huge burden or was it something that was sort of on the periphery of your life at the time?

[00:03:57] Sindhu Giedd: So I would say maybe a mix. When I was 14, I was very worried. I felt really anxious about the whole thing. She either wasn’t anxious or just hid her anxiety really well.

 They didn’t involve us. I mean, they told us what was going on. My sister and me, my sister was 11 at the time. So they told us what was going on. But they. They didn’t really like, we didn’t have, we didn’t go visit her in the hospital. I mean, she had her surgery, it was all like outpatient. So because they caught it so early, at least in the beginning.

Yeah. It wasn’t like like a really traumatic thing or a traumatic recovery. It was scary. It was unexpected. So I did feel some anxiety. I remember I went to school the day of her surgery and wanted to call my mom at lunch and we didn’t have cell phones then. And so I needed money for the payphone to go call home to see if she had, she was home yet or how she was doing.

And I remember I didn’t have any money and had to ask somebody, you know, do you have 10 cent? Because I feel like it was only 10 cents. Can you gimme 10 cents for the phone? And they’re like, why? And I’m like, well, my mom had, you know, breast surgery today for breast cancer and I wanna check on her.

So yeah, I mean, it was kind of front and center, I guess for me.

[00:05:10] Adam Walker: Okay. And so I’m just curious, like you said, you were worried about her. I’m curious. What role, if any, did you play as far as caregiving or support or did you not really have that opportunity because it was sort of hidden from you?

[00:05:25] Sindhu Giedd: Yeah. I didn’t play very much of a role in caregiving. I mean, I think I made it clear that I was concerned and worried and then they, but both my parents did a lot to help us feel pretty good about it. I mean, I remember my mom kept saying it’s so early, it’s so early, they just need to do this surgery and I’ll be fine.

So there was, you know I think mostly for me, I just wanted to make sure that they got it all that the surgery would was successful. Because she did end up, I mean, having that recurrence pretty like within the, I think the first six months.

[00:05:58] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:05:59] Sindhu Giedd: That second time she opted for a mastectomy. So because she was like, you know what? I don’t even wanna have to worry about this coming back, just take it all. And so she just kept making it clear, like once I have this should be over. I don’t think we’re very helpful.

[00:06:15] Adam Walker: It sounds like they kinda shielded you which is fine. I mean, that, that was their approach. So I’m curious, I know you’re the oldest in your, you know, you and a sibling, you’re the oldest, and this happened to you in ninth grade, which is kind of that interesting transitional period into sort of growing up. So I’m curious have you thought about how this event might have forced you to grow up more quickly or shaped kind of your maturity during that time?

[00:06:41] Sindhu Giedd: Yeah, I’ve thought about that. I guess it did sort of force me to grow up, although she had ha you know, a battle with other illness as well. So this was not the first time. We, as a family were faced with. Difficult news with her and having to sort of rally around her and take care of her. So when I just a couple years before that, yeah.

She had been diagnosed with some other stuff that was scary. And so I did feel a sense of having to grow up and especially because I, like you just said, being the oldest, even being the oldest of just two feeling a sense of, okay. I need to make sure. I’m here to take care of my sister, if she feels emotional or scared or worried to like help her feel better.

So I definitely I had already felt that way for a couple of years. So this just felt like a continuation for sure of that.

[00:07:32] Adam Walker: Yeah. So I know that your mom’s still here still doing well. You’re now a mother, you’re now an adult. How does this experience affect how you think about your health and sort of even thinking about your girls and just kind of general health for your family?

[00:07:50] Sindhu Giedd: Yeah. I mean, I’m pretty aware of it. So I’ve now had two instances, so I’m 39. So I’m just a year younger than my mother was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. And I think the guidelines have actually, they actually changed. So I’m not even sure that they’re recommended at recommending it as early as 40, unless you have a history.

I can’t remember. My OB GYN had mentioned all this stuff, but I have had two instances where I had like a suspicious lump and because of the history there, I. Immediately nervous doctor was immediately like, yeah, we, because of the history we need to get it checked out. So I’m definitely highly aware.

I will say my mother had the genetic testing done and she doesn’t carry the gene. So, I mean, we really don’t know. How this happened. It was sort of random. So I feel, I mean, she just had it done for the sake of my sister and me and our daughters. Okay. Right. And my, is this something that you all need to be worried about for your future?

And so having that be negative was a huge relief for us.

[00:08:53] Adam Walker: And when did she get that test done? I’m curious about that.

[00:08:55] Sindhu Giedd: She just had it done recently. It was a couple of years ago. And I’m not even sure what prompted her to do that, but she did. And so yeah. So I’m, I mean, it’s definitely one of those things that I’m hyper aware of.

If, and when something happens like a lump or, and both times it, it turned out to be a cyst and benign and nothing to follow up on or be concerned about. But because of the history, I mean, the minute I feel concerned about something, you know, Letting the OB GYN know, and then they immediately refer me, you know?

[00:09:27] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:09:27] Sindhu Giedd: Over to the Emory Breast Cancer Clinic to go get ultrasound in and I did end up having a mammogram done shortly after my youngest was born four years ago, there was a suspicious lump, and I had my first mammogram done. And so yeah, I will definitely be doing those, the routine checkups and all that.

[00:09:46] Adam Walker: So you mentioned that you are you’re 39, you’re almost the age your mother was when she was diagnosed. Having the perspective of having, you know, been a ninth grader with a parent that’s dealing with this and now being a parent that’s at that same age, what advice would you give to anyone that has been recently diagnosed that has kind of those teenage children?

How, like, like what do you, what should they tell them? Or how should they, how do you think they should approach it?

[00:10:17] Sindhu Giedd: I, gosh that’s a tough question because my parents were, I feel like they handled it really well, considering that it was such an early diagnosis with such a good prognosis. And they just told us that they just said, yes, this is scary, but she’s likely going to be just fine.

I mean, I think with any surgery, Now as an adult, I realize with any surgery, even something routine, even something, you know, outpatient, there’s always risks and anything can happen. But they didn’t tell me any of that when I was 14. And I’m glad they didn’t because I think I would rather not. I would RA I as a 14 year old, didn’t want to feel scared or worried.

Needed to be able to go to school, focus on my studies, do what I need to do. I cared about my mom. I was concerned about my mom. So I wanted to call her after her surgery was over, but they were so cleared with us that it wasn’t likely to be a bad outcome. That I didn’t feel, yes. I felt a little anxious, but I believed them.

[00:11:21] Adam Walker: Right.

[00:11:22] Sindhu Giedd: And so I don’t know what advice I would have for anyone that may have a more difficult diagnosis than what my mother had.

[00:11:30] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:11:30] Sindhu Giedd: Because I, you know, well.

[00:11:32] Adam Walker: I think you may have just said it actually. So I, I mean, you said as a 14 year old, you needed to be able to go to school and you needed to be able to have that routine while also checking in on your mom. And it strikes me that’s probably true for most teenagers. Like there’s this balance of needing to have that regiment, that routine, that certainty. And also being involved in the process as well, right?

[00:11:57] Sindhu Giedd: Yeah, exactly. Again, I definitely think the idea like of a 14 year old feeling like they’ve gotta grow up all of a sudden, especially as the oldest.

 I think my advice to a parent. I mean, I think if I were to go through this now I wouldn’t want my oldest to feel that sense of responsibility. I would want them to be able to have the space, to be a kid and be scared and have all the feelings and, you know, ask any questions or anything like that and not feel like they have to help.

As parents shield the younger ones or help them understand it, or I don’t know. But then on the flip side, I think that there’s just something that comes with being the oldest that, that just comes naturally. So I don’t know that I would be able to curb that anyway, but I think I would like, I would wanna try.

[00:12:46] Adam Walker: Yeah. Yeah. That’s fair. That’s fair. I think that’s good advice. I think there’s a balance there. I think between letting your kid be a kid and, and involving them in a very difficult and complex thing. And for each family, it’s just gonna be a little bit different, but I think that’s the balance that you have to hold.

Well, Sindhu, this is great. You know, thank you for sharing your story and your experience and your mom’s story. And just thank you for joining me on the show today.

[00:13:09] Sindhu Giedd: Yeah, you’re welcome.

[00:13:11] Adam Walker: This program is supported by Amgen. Amgen strives to serve patients by transforming the promise of science and biotechnology into therapies for patients with serious illnesses, learn more at Amgen.com.

Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.com. For more on breast cancer, visit Komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, AdamJWalker.com.