Earlier this year I went for a routine mammogram and got a breast cancer scare. A few days after the examination I got a letter from the Diagnostic Center to say that there were abnormalities in both my breasts but they could not say for sure what they were. The letter told me to go and speak with my doctor who would give me further feedback. She in turn told me that I needed to have a breast ultrasound. She reassured me that there was nothing to worry about. The ultrasound was necessary to give us a clearer picture of what was going on inside the cysts that the mammogram could not see.
My doctor’s speech did not help one bit. While waiting to go for the ultrasound, and consequentially a biopsy, my mind went into a whirlwind of thoughts and questions of what could be the worst possible scenario for me. What if they find something bad? What if its cancer? What will I do? How will I manage? Suppose I die? Unrealistic, don’t you think? Well, not really. You see cancer likes to visit families, including mine.
My sister had breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy. I remember how she suffered during the entire ordeal. My aunt had ovarian cancer and because it was diagnosed in the late stages, she died. My father had prostate cancer and I remember how uncomfortable his life used to be. My brother had lung cancer and his life was cut short in his prime. A dear friend has cervical cancer and at 46 years old was taken from us. Another had pancreatic cancer. His smile, laughter and generous spirit left a gaping hole in many of our hearts.
A very close friend went through breast cancer treatment last year. I remember the different emotional phases she went through as chemo and radiation therapy took its toll on her body and her sanity. I could not feel her pain because I never experienced it, but I did try to imagine what she was going through. When I had my scare, my friend was the first person I called to share how I felt. She had gone through the process. She was able to put my mind at ease because she had firsthand knowledge.
I was fortunate. My abnormalities were benign. Two were liquid-filled cysts and the other was a hardened lump. However, this does not mean that I am out of the woods. During the biopsy the doctor inserted a small chip in the area where he had performed the procedure. This is important because when I have my next mammogram the radiologist will know to pay closer attention to the area. It also means that I cannot miss any mammogram appointment.
Another good outcome from the scare was my realizing how important it is for me to continue to educate myself on ways to prevent cancer from attacking my body. The best prevention are to eat healthy and moderately, exercise on a regular basis, and eliminate the stress factors before they even make an appearance. All this may sound easy but we all know it is not. Nevertheless, it is doable if you make a commitment to yourself to keep sickness and disease from coming your way.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. This month I challenge you to learn more about cancer. I also challenge you to educate yourself on how to live a healthy lifestyle that keeps not just cancer away, but diabetes, high or low blood pressure, and any other illness that takes away from your living an abundant, fearless, healthy life. My final challenge is for you to do something to help with the cause. It doesn’t have to be drastic. Something as little as helping someone who needs, but won’t ask, for your help. Trust me, being available with a patient ear and a little time goes a long, long way. As for those ladies who have not yet gone for their mammogram exam this year, now is as good a time as any. Kick Fear Now and go and get that exam.