I did and it caught my cancer
It’s October. It’s time for Breast Cancer Awareness month. For me, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month every month. It’s been that way for the last 8 months.
So here’s your PSA: Check your boobies. I did and it caught my cancer.
I had a mammogram 16 months prior. I was given a clean bill of health and told that I didn’t need to return for a couple of years. Sixteen months later, I’m in the shower soaping up my armpits and I felt the pea-sized hard lump in my right breast.
I looked at all the websites trying to compare signs and symptoms. Nothing matched. In retrospect my irregular periods and migraines may have been my warning sign, but I can’t get a definitive from any of my doctors. I had experienced them for months before I found the lump.
Full transparency, I was lousy at checking out my girls. I would try for a couple of months, be really good about it, find nothing, and the habit would fade away until the next round of October PSA’s to “Check your Boobies!” and the slew of go pink advertisements.
By the way, don’t go pink for me or call me a warrior or tell me I’m battling cancer. I’m just following marching orders: get a lumpectomy, get a port, go for weekly chemo treatments, go to daily radiation treatments, continue with monthly Herceptin treatments, get more frequent mammograms, and meet with both my medical and radiology oncologists. Half the time I feel tremendous mom guilt that my kids have to go through this with me. The other half I’m too fatigued to feel guilty.
Here’s the thing, DO a breast self-check every month. Mammograms can only do so much. I thought for sure that mammogram would catch any cancer before I did. I was wrong. So wrong. I caught my cancer simply by thoroughly soaping up my pits during a shower.
DO follow-up with your doctor. I went to my gynecologist. As my friend reminded me, gynecologists know more about the female body. Very true. Mine listened to me and immediately scheduled a mammogram for the next day. He also put in an order for a breast ultrasound and sent me for lab work. The labs didn’t show anything out of the ordinary. But my mammogram and ultrasound did indicate an inconclusive mass that needed a biopsy. Within four days my biopsy results came back with HER2+, ER+ PR- cancer cells.
DON’T put off scheduling an appointment with your doctor. I wanted to ignore the lump. I wanted it not to be there. My cancer is aggressive. But I didn’t delay and we caught it before it became bigger and spread. It did not go to my lymph nodes. I’ll take Small Miracles for $200, Alex.
DON’T ignore other health issues: irregular periods, regular/intense headaches, unexplainable pain, or weight gain/weight loss. This may be your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv, but seriously, if something’s not right SEE YOUR DOCTOR. You know your body. You know what is typical for you. When something is off or atypical, get it checked.
DO find a doctor who is willing to listen to you. Mine didn’t hesitate to schedule a mammogram. I started to worry and back peddle. He gently and firmly pushed me to get the mammogram. I was scared. He knew I was scared, he supported me and got me the tests I needed. He also helped me with next steps even though my diagnosis meant that someone else would take over my healthcare and treatment.
KNOW that there may not be a genetic predisposition or any real answers as to why you have cancer. I worked with a geneticist and did more lab work. The good news: there’s no genetic markers to indicate a predisposition for cancer. The bad news: they don’t know why I have cancer. I.just.do.
I’m a runner. I eat whole foods and make most of our meals from scratch. I use clean beauty products. I use natural deodorant. I use laundry detergent free from most chemicals and dyes. I use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. I don’t eat a lot of sugar. As far as I’m aware I haven’t been exposed to any toxins. We eat less red meat. And yet, here I am. With cancer.
Early detection caught my cancer before a mammogram did. So if this does narrative does nothing for you but make you check your breasts right now, then it’s done what I needed it to do. It’s encouraged you to pause and do a self check. So go ahead and check your boobies. What are you waiting for? You’re welcome.