Just the idea of breast cancer sends fear shooting through every woman. We have all heard story after story of suffering that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer go through. Well...here is mine.
After changing physicians, for some reason I actually listened to my new doctor and went for a mammogram, a test I had neglected for some 6-7 years. I wasn't worried as I had felt no lumps nor noticed anything at all unusual. I was then informed that the radiologist saw something "suspicious" on my films and I went for a breast biopsy, a procedure I was ill-prepared for. As I lay on the table completely immobile, I couldn't stop myself from quietly sobbing with dread. I went for 2 more biopsies and on March 5th of this year I was diagnosed with stage I DCIS breast cancer. During the course of my conversation with my physician I mechanically and dutifully wrote down everything my he told me as he was well aware that after I heard those fearful words "breast cancer," I would hear nothing else. And I didn't. I was dumb with shock while being terrifyingly aware that breast cancer killed both my mom and my grandmother. I remembered my mom's fear, her utter panic, her chemo and radiation treatments. After a few days I also remembered she survived for 20 years more.
DCIS means ductal carcinoma in situ. It is restricted to the milk ducts and was not an "invasive" form of cancer in my case. I don't know if that is it's nature, ie, non-invasive, or not. Anyone reading this needs to check with their own doctor to be sure. Non-invasive or not, cancer needs to be treated and treated I was.
To make a fairly long story shorter on May 30 I endured 19 hours of grueling surgery for a double mastectomy with immediate trans-flap reconstruction. I was in intensive care for 3 days and was then judged to be well enough to be moved to a regular room where I stayed an additional 2 days. I was off work for 2 1/2 months often in a great deal of pain. My mid-section is still numb. So is part of my back and my breasts will never have feeling in them again. But I'm alive. I did not have to endure the horrors of chemotherapy nor radiation. All traces of my breast cancer were removed with the mastectomies. My surgeon did find some invasive cells and removed all of it. I do have an oncologist who takes care of my medication that I will need to take for the next 5 years. I will have the last of my reconstruction done sometime this month.
I remember the night before my surgery as I sat in the bathtub I sobbed my heart out like I had never done before. All I could think of was, Well, this is the last night I'll be a "real" woman, no man will ever desire me or love me again. I won't be worth anything anymore. Ever. Since that time I have come to realize the shallowness of that thought process. Having "breasts" large or small, real, fake or reconstructed does not make me or anyone else a "real" woman. What makes me a "real" woman is what is inside my heart. It's a question of perception in it's finest form. What is important in life and what is not. How I live my life, do I make positive contributions to my God, my family and my community? Do I consider and have compassion not only and just for my wolves but for people? Can I somehow make a positive difference in people's lives? I believe I can answer those questions honestly by saying yes. If I can help convince even one woman to get her mammogram, the fear, pain and suffering I've gone through will be well worth it.
Remember, I had absolutely NO symptoms of illness. No lumps, no unusual changes, nothing whatsoever. I had breast cancer and never even knew it.
Do not procrastinate, do not rationalize. Medical advancements are tremendous. Breast cancer is NOT a death sentence! One of my favorite phrases now is: Cancer a word, not a sentence.
Please ladies get your mammograms! It can save your life...it saved mine!