Life offers us no guarantees. It’s a moment by moment affair. We are guided by custom, experience, or education . . . which gives us a rich wealth of knowledge to inform and influence for how we live our lives. In this health conscious era, we have an abundance of sources to turn to, a maze of information to navigate through; everyone giving hints on how to get and maintain a healthy life. Yet, many people, including myself, hate to heed the advice to do annual mammograms, pap smears and other tests we fear a negative result of, or we fear the tests in themselves will harm us.
Personally, I dislike mammograms. They usually leave me sore for months. Consequently, I avoided them as much I could. I was very hesitant when my doctor ordered one early in 2017, and I did not get it done until May. I have a history of fibrocystic breast and always had to follow up my mammogram with an ultra sound. So when I was called to do a second mammogram I was not perturb. What devastated me, was the voice on the phone telling me that some calcification were detected in my right breast that warranted further analysis. I was totally blown. The words used to explain the issue to me communicated that I had cancer. I immediately died a thousand deaths. I saw my funeral. Yes, fear literally crippled and almost killed me.
I had to command myself back to life and mustered the strength to go tell my husband that, ‘I’m dying’. He was reassuringly concerned. He assured me that it was just like old times. I objected on the point that this time I was being asked to do a second mammogram, not an ultra sound. I was referred to an oncologist to analyze my mammogram and decide on the next step. After viewing my 3D mammogram and deliberating with a colleague, he told me that what he saw was so tiny, I could wait six months before making a decision for further analysis. I asked what other option I had and immediately decided to do the biopsy.
I waited the longest two weeks ever for my appointment for the biopsy results; then another forever for the doctor to come into the examination room in which I was waiting. . However, I was very calm. I had the peace of God. Then the doctor hurriedly entered the .room, offered his apologies and said, ‘you are not going to like it’. I took a deep breath, but I was not blown away. I was mentally prepared for the worst.
The doctor drew a diagram and used it to clearly explain my Ductal Carcinoma diagnosis, which is cancer that is contained in the duct of the breast – my right breast.
As I thought about my diagnosis, I recalled that Cancer is one of the hottest topics in every media outlet. It’s the topic I truly hated and wish an advertisement about it would not cut into the movie I am enjoying. It’s so negative, cold and life threatening. It seems every death now a days is cancer related. So, it is the last word I wanted in a sentence with my name.
The reality at that moment in the examination room was my reality. The oncologist explained my treatment options. I opted for total mastectomy. I was fortunate to find a plastic surgeon to work in collaboration with my oncologist within a three weeks window, although it seemed like forever to me.
I did the entire process, mastectomy, breast reconstruction and lifting of the left breast, and went home the very same day! The recovery process was slow to me but I was encouraged as at each of my follow up visits, the doctors were very pleased with my progress. Today, I am so very happy I did my mammogram when I did.
Without reservation, I encourage ALL women to do their annual mammogram. Early detection saved me. Early detection is the key. It might save you too.