This is an edited version of my first blog about breast cancer which I wrote last year and explains how while timing is everything in life just how lucky I am.
Coming Clean About My Breast Cancer
I am a breast cancer survivor, an almost 16 year breast cancer survivor. It is only one story of survivorship in my life but because I have spent a lot of time preaching about the importance of early detection, getting annual mammograms, and taking better care of your body, I thought it was probably time to tell the truth about my breast cancer.
I had my first mammogram afer I turned 40 as is advised in Chicago where I lived at that time. It wasn’t unpleasant but it also wasn’t a lot of fun either, so when the recommendations came out that it was “OK” to go every 2 years if you were in your 40’s, like other women I embraced that idea. Well we know now that was a really bad recommendation. That recommendation has been discarded and changed back to getting an annual mammogram because it is all we really have at this time for early detection.
I went every two years after that. In 1990 I was living in Richmond, VA.and it was time for my mammogram. This time upon exam I had to add an ultrasound to the event because something was not looking quite “right” in my left breast. Scared the you-know-what out of me and I had a flight to catch. I was dating a one of the owners of a major league baseball team and I was edxpected at a dinner in Baltimore with all the team owners. I was going to miss my flight for an ultrasound. We tend to think that way when we are younger – our social lives came first.
The relationship did not survive my scare though, it seems baseball was more important than the fact that I was a little late because of a health matter.
It was September, 1990 and I was single and loving it. I lived in a great area of Richmond a couple streets over from Monument Avenue in a historic area known as The Fan.
I was into my medical auditing career at this point and I loved Richmond. I am a history buff and I especially really like the Civil War era. Living in Richmond gave me so many opportunities to enjoy the South I grew up learning about in school.
While living there I was hired into the Hospital Corporation of America medical auditing team and as my career grew there I was offered a traveling position to fill in where needed when there was a backlog of auditing work to be done.
I was on the road 5 days a week all over the United States. In life we learn there are not really many valid excuses for not doing something. I was in and out of hospitals all day, every day yet my 2 year mammogram appointment went undone and before I knew it, three years had passed.
One Saturday I was walking at one of Richmond’s local malls and one of the local hospitals had a mammogram kiosk set up. They advertised Saturday mammograms. I made an appointment for the following Saturday.
Let’s think back for a moment. I had been going every 2 years as was recommended (then). I was due for a mammogram in 1992 but did not get one till 1993. Here is the miracle in all of this and here is why I am a pain in the ass to every one I talk to about mammograms. If I had stayed on schedule my breast cancer would probably not have shown up in 1992. How do I know that? I know that because of the size it was in 1993. If it had not shown up in 1992 and I would have remained on schedule I would have gotten my next one in 1994.
Many people would think well I could still have been treated and probably been just fine. I am not sure about that. My cancer was Ductal Carcinoma in Situ and I also had infiltrating DCIS. It was moving out of the duct and starting to run amok in my breast. It could have been in my lymph nodes, coursing through my body, possibly burying itself deep in my bones, my brain, or elsewhere waiting to pop up several years later and maybe take my life.
I never told that story about putting off my mammogram to anyone before because I am always preaching about getting an annual mammogram. The truth is it wasn’t my time. I was meant to go on and do many more things yet in my life.
When I was first diagnosed my oldest son sent me a card in which he wrote “Mom, please don’t die.” I had no intentions of allowing that to happen – but I thank God every day I was a year off in getting my mammogram
Here it is everyone – I cannot tell you strongly enough that mammograms are an annual necessity. They do save lives. So tell me why do so many women not take 30 minutes once a year to check things out? There is not one good reason – not one.
When are you due for your next mammogram? I believe in rewarding yourself afterwards. Lunch with the girls, a glass of champagne, or a trip to the mall. As Nike says “Just Do It!” Do it every year. Do NOT skip a year.
Do not fool yourself into believing that breast cancer happens to older women in life. I was not quite 47 when I was diagnosed. My pathology report clearly spelled out that I had a low grade tumor and my Oncologist believes it was there in my breast dividing slowly for at least 8 years. That means it began when I was 39.