Life is too Important to be Taken Seriously! Oscar Wilde
We now interrupt this fairy tale with a very important announcement.
I have always lived a charmed life. Not without strife, but with an amazing resolve, a God-given ability to forget the negative, and a conviction that the universe is unfolding as it should.
What did I have to make me question that? At 31 years old, I had been married 6 years to the world’s best husband, had a successful career, I was bright and healthy despite a few health “bumps in the road”...
One warm summer night, in the throes of passion… or the beginning of passion I should say, my husband’s hands landed squarely on my breasts and he calmly and gently said “what’s this lump?”. Passion ended…
Now, I was healthy, had no risk factors, no family history and no reason to think that this “lump” was breast cancer, right? But that did not stop the screaming in my head, that feeling in my “gut”. After spending the night reassuring each other that it was perfectly routine, I went to my family doctor (also a 31 year old woman) the very next day.
I went into her office and announced with confident naivety… “I have a lump and I need a prescription for a mammogram. I want to have this looked at today.” After the longest conversation I had ever had with her, she finally stopped trying to convince me, even after she felt this lump, to wait three to six menstrual cycles and track any changes and wrote my script. Perhaps it was my threat to not leave her office or let her see any other patients until she did so? Whatever the case, I left triumphant, being a woman who is used to be able to forge my own path, create my own destiny, yadda, yadda… and I went home and started to make calls to schedule my mammogram for that day.
So, if you’ve ever tried to schedule a mammogram… layer on top of that being a 31 year old woman with no personal or family history and being told repeatedly 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancer. I finally begged a woman for an emergency appointment the following week.
My mom came with me. After all, I had accompanied her on many a mammogram. The condescending mammo tech asked “Why are you here honey. You are too young to start down this road?” I took her hand and placed it on my robe clad cleavage as we walked down the hall, oblivious to how long this road was going to be and where it would take me.
After the seventh time of being pulled in for retakes of my offending breast, I thought I would pass out. Then off to the ultrasound room, where a radiologist (medical doctor) and technician both assured my mother and me that what they were seeing was a fluid filled cyst. Nothing to worry about. IF it would made me feel better, I could have it drained, but not necessary. I knew right away that my next stop would be a surgical oncologist, so I went to get my records, only to be told by the clerk that I was going to be selfishly wasting the surgeon’s time that he could be spending with people who had cancer. Boy, do I wish she was right.
Because of the radiology report, it took me several weeks to see the surgeon and my tumor had nearly doubled in size. He wanted to do surgery that week. I pushed it back due to a conflict with my boss’s vacation schedule (ahhh, to be able to make that decision over).
One year, three surgeries, 6 chemo treatments, 37 radiation treatments later, my breast cancer experience was over, or so I thought. My husband and I sold our house, quit our jobs, and moved 1,000 miles away from friends, family and cancer to live our dream in sunny Florida.
It’s been four years since that move, and I write this with no evidence of disease and with the overwhelming knowledge that you never leave cancer behind. With each decision you make, test you take, headache you feel, friend you lose, friend you make, sunrise and sunset, cancer is with you forever.
Advocate for you. Advocate for research and never take someone else’s word on your health.