Tuesday, October 18, 2011
It was an ordinary day in January of 2009 when I went for my annual mammogram. I sat with a friend in the waiting room - he was there for blood work and we ran into each other by chance - and we passed the time of day. It was a day like any other. But then a few days later everything changed. I got the call. Not only did they want me to come back for another mammogram, they wanted me to come to the hospital for it, and also scheduled me for a sonogram at the same time. I knew then it was what we all fear.
A week later I had gone through another mammo, a sono, and had spoken to the radiologist who confirmed my fears. I saw a breast surgeon a few days later. What I remember most from those days the fear. There's something about the unknown that is way more frightening than what we already know to be true. I spent the next weeks wondering if I would live another year, another 6 months, to my next birthday...there were so many questions. I hated the unknown. ((At least when I know what I'm dealing with I can work on a plan - formulate an action - mentally deal with it all.) But for awhile I had to wait. There were more tests - too many to remember - and I sometimes felt like a petri dish under a microscope. Those were difficult days.
It was March before I had some of the answers, and even later to find some of the others. I underwent an entire day in the operating room, having first a mastectomy and then a reconstruction done all at the same time. The lymph nodes were clean - a big answer! But still, they recommended chemotherapy and in May I began the regimen that would define my life for the following months. It was October before I began to feel good again and December before I could stop wearing wigs. It was another year before I felt like myself completely.
In January it will be three years since that initial mammogram, and this month, this breast cancer awareness month, I feel compelled to share my story and say this: please, please, please do not neglect yourself! Not only women, but 1% of breast cancer patients are men. Everyone please take a few minutes to do a self-exam, and women, without hesitation, I beg you to get a mammogram every year. My cancer would not have been found without that mammo because it could not be felt, and I would probably not be here today had I not had mine done.
I hated going through cancer treatment and I hate having cancer hanging over my head. But I love the new appreciation for life that my cancer has given to me. I feel as though in some ways I've lived more in the past two years than I had my entire life before. Every sunrise is more beautiful, every full moon more spectacular, every fire at the beach, and every hug from a loved one is more appreciated now than ever before. And I smile a lot more too. It's difficult to regret anything that brings that kind of joy to life.
But I don't wish cancer on anyone and hope anyone who reads this will either encourage the people they love, or make sure they themselves, schedule a mammogram. It could save your life too!