"When we tell someone our story, we offer a little bit of power to the person listening"
This month is breast cancer awareness month and it is not just a time to wear pink and raise funds for B.C research, but it is a great time to have conversations that we would ordinarily avoid. Most of us don't think of B.C or even performing the regular tests and mammogram until we are in our 40s or 50s - a few in their 20s and 30s do, but by and large - we don't really think about it. I was one of those people that was until Fall 2012. For over a year now, I have debated if I would share this and how I would share it, if I decided to. I had given up on sharing until tonight.
To end the suspense - let me just clear the air, no I was not given a B.C diagnosis but there was a period of 11 months (and spots here and there to date) where I live with the fear. So, It is Sunday night - October 4th, the Saints V. Cowboys game is playing on TV (muted) while I multitask drafting the Portland | Grace christmas gift guide and watching season 4 of Seinfeld. I took a break to do some internet scrolling and I stumbled on the quote at the beginning of this post - something about it, got me typing this up. Here I am telling you this story , maybe you can draw some encouragement or wisdom from it.
My grammy died of B.C at the age of 45. I have known that for as long as I can remember, so when my doctor, while doing a routine breast exam, said "did you know there was a lump here, how long has it been there?" My heart sank a little bit.
I went in for a sonogramm a week after the lump was discovered and on a Friday afternoon, while waiting on my flight from Houston to Dallas I got a call from the Nurse, she said - "Miss ...we have received the result of your test and Dr. Monica (names have been changed to protect the innocent) will like to schedule an appointment with you ... The earliest they could schedule me was the following Tuesday and despite my plea and mild yelling and pleading again to get the results over the phone - I had to wait till Tuesday to find out the result. Without going into a lot of detail, it was a VERY long weekend. Fastforward to Tuesday - I went in and was informed the result were inconclusive and I would have to get a mammogram - which also came back inconclusive - at this point it had been about a month since the doomed lump was discovered.
A week and half later, I went in for a biopsy. A thin needle was poked through me into the lump and a sample was pulled (the size of the needle was intimidating, but it turned out to be quite painless). I got the results a week later - it was benign. I refused to acknowledge its existence and went about my life for the next year or so - until one spring morning in 2014. While getting ready for work, I noticed something poking through ... the grain sized lump had grown considerably and was now visibly poking through the flesh.
I tried to ignore it for about 2 weeks before scheduling a doctor's appointment - Another mamamogram - the doctor reveiwed the Mammogram and told me "we should have the results in a few days, but given how much it has grown ... but I hope not" This was two days after I turned thirty. The results came back on Tuesday and it was inconclusive, but given how much and how quickly it had grown he suggested getting removed and then another biopsy.
On a July afternoon in 2014, wearing a boldest pink lipstick I own Nars Schiap (because that was the only thing I could control), I checked into the hospital to have the lump removed. It was an outpatient procedure. The anesthiogiologist, called me sunday evening to talk me through the process (including not eating ahead of the surgery). Overall, the procedure was seamless, I am not sure how long I was under, but I got to go home the same day. Surgery pains was minimal and the stitches were removed about a week and half later. The lump that was removed was tested and it was benign.
I am incredibly lucky that the result was non malignant. Many others were not that lucky - some have fought and won, some are still fighting and so many have lost their fight. For those who have received a B.C diagnoses, there are so many variables in the treatement plan for B.C. and what works for one may not neccesarily work for the other. The one thing that is universal and everyone agrees on is that early detection increases the survival rate. According to the American cancer society , "When breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100%"
There is not a month that goes without my doing a self-examination and I schedule annual mammogram. Prior to that Fall day - I never even considered self checks (or mammograms) - but now I make those a priority. A lot of articles recommend mammograms starting at age 40, but given the history and the experience - I get it done annually. If you want more information on mammograms (and when to schedule one) or how to perform self-examination or if you want to help with the fight against breast cancer. You can find valuable information here, here, here, here and here .
Thanks for letting me share.