October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Awareness, education, and funding are key to identifying, diagnosing and fighting this disease. I don't know many people who have not been affected either directly or indirectly by breast cancer. Myself included. This is my story.
I try to be diligent in my self care routine. This includes self examinations. If I'm really being honest most times I ask my husband to do it for me. He does not object! One month I felt something that was a little off. I asked the hubby to feel and he remarked that it didn't feel like anything to be concerned about but if I was worried I should follow up with my doctor. Now I should have prefaced this by saying my breast are generally lumpy and at this stage in life I'm familiar and know whats normal for me and what's not. I brushed it off and let another month go by. Once again during my monthly self examination I felt the lump only this time it was a little larger. The husband confirmed and no coaxing was needed. The next morning I was on the phone with my GYN booking an appointment to get me in as soon as possible. I learned that lumps are not taken lightly and every effort is made to get you in with either a physician or a PA as quickly as the schedule will allow. A few days later the PA confirmed that there was a mass but said that the size and shape did not fit the norm. Before I could protest this declaration of "normal" and push for testing beyond her fingers, i.e., a mammogram she then says "BUT we take any and every confirmation of a mass seriously which means an automatic diagnostic mammogram. And I will write an order for an ultrasound during the same visit should the mammogram results call for it". A couple of weeks after that I went in for my mammogram which consisted of several images of my breast from various angles. The mass was confirmed and I was whisked away to another room for an ultrasound. The results? Abnormal with the recommendation of an ultrasound core biopsy. I want to say I was scared. I want to say I was nervous. Truth is I was that and more. Some emotions I can't even recall. But it was a very unsettling time in my life. I will not bore you with the remaining details but the results of my biopsy were normal and the mass was found to be another one of my normal lumps. But one that I had to have rechecked 6 months later and will be closely watched year after year during my annual mammograms.
I'm thankful that my story has a happy ending but there are too many women who's stories take a much different turn. Women like my mother-in-law and my friend Nicole and my friend Lisa's mom. Women who've had to fight this horrible assault against their bodies. Women who've had to tap into unknown reserves of will power and strength and determination to triumph over breast cancer. Women who are still fighting and women who may have lost their battle but knew that the war will be won. For those women I share in hopes that this story encourages one more woman to take a few minutes each month getting to know their bodies. To follow-up with their doctors and not let a month or two pass thinking "it's probably nothing". (I took a gamble doing that. Please don't play the fool like I did.) To donate to cancer research. To join the fight so eventually there are no longer any stories to share.