Less than a year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Invasive ductal carcinoma.
I have had yearly mammos since I was 40. I never worried that they would come back irregular. In fact, a scant two months before that "fateful" mammo, I tossed one of those "You know your insurance now covers breast reconstruction" postcards, thinking, "That's nice, but I don't need that."
Since I had no history of breast cancer on either side of the family, I approached those yearly mammograms as a necessary, evil squishing exercise. I never even considered myself a "cancer candidate."
Yet, when I got the "You have an irregular mammo" call, I knew in my heart I had cancer. In fact, I told myself regularly, "Don't bawl when they tell you, you have cancer. You already know it."
It didn't help. Oh. I guess I didn't bawl, but I did start shaking visibly.
I didn't feel a lump. Neither did the doctors. That was the first thing I asked after the surgeon did the first exam after the cancer was found. "Did YOU feel it?" I asked pointedly. "No, I didn't," she replied. "Good," I said. "I thought maybe I really just sucked at self-exams."
I was not a candidate for a lumpectomy because it was not one spot, not two spots, but three spots, at 1 o'clock, 5 o'clock and 10:30. So the whole breast -- the right one -- had to go. And when they checked the sentinel nodes, one had cancer in it. So I was classified as a Stage 2A. That's still pretty good.
I finished my chemo treatments in early December. The 33 radiation treatments were finished on February 20.
I rang the special bell that they have when you finish your treatments at my last radiation treatment, but everything went so smoothly and I did so well, that I almost didn't feel like I deserved to ring the bell. I didn't have a lot of sickness, or weight gain or complications from either the chemo or radiation. And while I'm thankful, I also feel like I got off easy. So many people have to endure so much more than I did.
One of the biggest things post-cancer survivors worry about is: Will the cancer come back? I have to admit that thought occurred to me, but now that I'm a few months out, it doesn't even feel like I had cancer in the first place. Maybe it's a coping mechanism.
The real point of this page is to encourage all you ladies to please, please, please, get checked. A lot more than you think can happen in a year.I am a perfect example of that. (It's nice to be a perfect example of something, I must say!)
So make an appointment. That necessary, evil squishing exercise could just save your life.