Five years ago today . . . at about this exact time, I received a phone call that forever changed my life. I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Needless to say, I was shocked. 21 years prior, my brother had died from cancer at the early age of 14. Getting this phone call brought back all those memories, and my fear level sky-rocketed.
Since this time, I have been involved with the Lance Armstrong Foundation quite a bit. Survivorship has become an important part of my life. So here is one of my ‘soap-boxes’.
Women (or men, actually)… If you ever notice a mass in your breast that is palpable be sure and have it checked! At the age of 35, my gyn was the first one who noticed a mass. I admit – I did not do regular self-breast exams. She sent me for a mammogram – which came back fine. No big deal. She retired that year, so for the next 5 years I had my annual check-up with my regular doc. Each year, we went through the same thing. “Hmmm… there seems to be a ‘thickening’ – we should have this checked”. The doc would send me off for a mammogram, and it always came back fine.
For some reason – mostly a gut feeling, I decided to go to a different doc for my next annual. This woman also said the same thing, sent me for a mammogram – but also ordered an ultrasound. The mammogram – once again – came back normal. The ultrasound, showed some ‘suspicious’ areas. A core-needle biopsy was done. And then – five years ago today, I received the phone call. I had breast cancer.
The tumor was not small – it was 3.5cm. That was not the reason it was not found through mammography. When women are under the age of 50 or 60, our breast tend to be dense – which can lead to missed things with mammography. I am very grateful this last doc was wise enough to request and ultrasound as well.
After being several months into treatment, I went back and spoke with the doctor who I had been seeing for the previous 5 years. I explained the situation – and that, in my case – the cancer could have been diagnosed at least 5 years prior. Most likely, it would have been a much smaller tumor, and with better prognossis. I told him my only purpose in coming back to speak with him was to ‘educate’ him. I asked if he ever again was in a situation where a patient of his had a palpable mass – to ALWAYS follow up with multiple diagnostic tools – not just mammography. He seemed to listen. That was all that I asked.
All I ask of each of you is awareness. If you or anyone you know is in a similar situation – share this information. It could save their lives.
If you have a chance, get involved with the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Lance’s goal is that cancer is a ‘non-issue’ by 2015. With your help, and support from our government, we could make this happen. For more information about getting involved and becoming a part of the ‘LiveSTRONG Army’, check it out online.
I complete chemo and a bilateral mastectomy about 3 1/2 years ago, and am currently on Tamoxifen.
Today, I am healthy – and I am living! Today, on my 5th anniversary as a survivor – I celebrate life!