Many of us have been touched in some way by cancer. Whether it be our own diagnosis or that of a loved one, cancer has reared its ugly head and found a way to infiltrate the fabric of our lives. My personal fight has always been with breast cancer. For 30+ years this beast has ravaged the lives of people around me. Some have unfortunately lost their battles, while others have been lucky enough to win the fight. As recently as four years ago my fight became very personal. This is my story, it’s a long one and not yet over.
In early July 2014, I did the right thing and went for my annual mammogram. Like everyone else, I was nervous but not overly so. I was preparing for a vacation with my husband to visit family and friends and looking forward to a great summer and birthday. The results came back shortly before we were to leave on vacation and I was told that they found something in my left breast. A mass of some sort and they didn’t like the looks of it. The doctor said that I would need to go for an ultrasound and probably a biopsy.
My family and friends helped me through the fear, although it was never truly abated. I was terrified. I just knew that whatever the test results were, they would not be as simple as, “oh we were wrong, it was just a cyst of calcification”. So, the day after I returned from vacation with my husband (It was also the day after my 43rd birthday) I went for the additional test. Those results came back and I was told a needle biopsy was the next step. So, I went for the needle biopsy, which is rather uncomfortable to say the least. Picture me, laying on a table, naked from the waist up, face down with my boobs hanging through a hole in the table. The doctor used some sort of imaging technology to guide a needle to the location of the mass. She took a sample of the cells and left in their place, an infinity symbol shaped clip that would mark the area should further testing or surgery be required. When the pathology report on the cells removed came back, I was diagnosed with ALH (Atypical Lobular Hyperplasia) and LCIS (Lobular Carcinoma In-Situ).
Skip ahead to September 11th, 2014 and I was in the hospital awaiting my excisional biopsy. During the surgery, they removed a 4cm section of tissue from my breast along with the infinity clip and sent it off to pathology. Five days later I would go in for my follow up with the breast surgeon where I was essentially diagnosed with stage 0 cancer. Really these are precancerous conditions and increase my risk factor for developing invasive cancer later in life.
Let me tell you, this two month period from July to September was the scariest time of my life. I don’t have a familial history of breast cancer and I was not expecting these results. Now, I did not have invasive or late stage cancer, but my chances of developing invasive breast cancer increased because of my diagnosis. The doctor assured me she got all of the precancerous cells, but that I still needed to make some decisions about my future treatment. She suggested I confer with an oncologist and consider taking medication as a preventative measure. With the diagnosis in my left breast, I was informed that I would likely experience a similar issue in my right breast at some point.
So, I followed her suggestion and spoke with the Oncologist. He gave me the option of taking preventative medications such as Raloxifene or Tamoxifen. In theory, these drugs were to decrease my chances of developing invasive breast cancer, if taken over an extended period of time. The problem came in when we discussed risk factors. Since I started my menstrual cycle at a young age (11), I have never been pregnant or breast fed and I had yet to experience menopause my risk of developing ovarian cancer, if I took either medication, increased exponentially. Yeah, not an option. Next!
Since the drug therapy was off the table for me, I went the only other route available to me, frequent testing. Every year I have a mammogram, then an MRI and somewhere in there an ultrasound. I have been a good patient and followed the doctors orders for four years. Each test that has come back negative I consider a win. This August 27 was supposed to have been my third year with a clean bill of health… Yeah, that didn’t happen.I went in for my MRI, like a good girl, and within two hours received a call that there is a “suspicious” mass in my right breast. FUCK!!!! Here we go again.
The nurse that called, told me I would have to come in for an Ultrasound. She said that if they were able to find the mass on the ultrasound I would have to an ultrasound guided needle biopsy. But, if they were unable to detect the mass, I would have to undergo an MRI guided biopsy. Hearing the word biopsy was enough. My mind went to the dark place of four years ago. The what ifs and why mes. I cried for a couple of hours. Whined to anyone that would listen and generally spent the day feeling sorry of myself.
My husband was right by my side through it all. He took the day off with me to get the MRI. Breast MRIs are horrendous and last forever. To get through it, I have to take a valium, so I can’t drive myself. He held me when I cried. Offered comforting touches and empathy when needed and was just there for me, with me. My Mom tried not to cry on the phone, but I heard the tremble in her voice. My brother’s wife, or my big sister as I like to think of her, offered understanding (she too has had her own experiences with bad tests as well as a dark familial history with the disease), and support, alongside her love. And then there are my friends, each offering their own form of support. Each one encouraging me and sharing with me, their strength.
I woke up the next day and realized no matter what the test says, I am already beating cancer. By being diligent with my testing, I am being proactive and catching it before it becomes a major problem. I hope. So, I just gathered my strength and moved on to the next step. On Thursday, August 30th, I went for my ultrasound, again with my husband at my side. At the end, the radiologist came in and told me she could see the mass on the test and was recommending ultrasound guided biopsy. I won’t lie, I shed a tear in that darkened room, but it was quickly washed away. I immediately scheduled my biopsy for September 6th and settled into the fact that I will most likely receive the same diagnosis as the last time and excisional biopsy will be my next hurdle.
As I write this, it is 5:14 am on September 2nd and I am anxious about the test, but more so, I am angry. Why? Because breast cancer is still so alive in our world. I am not stewing in self pity or cowering in a corner, I am poised to fight. To fight for myself, for the others who have come before me and for those that will come after me. Whether you have struggled yourself with breast cancer or have watched a loved one struggle, it doesn’t matter. Breast cancer affects far too many women and yes, men and we have to find an end, a cure and yes, even a vaccine.
It is only through early detection that I am sitting here, relatively healthy writing these words. Organizations like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation have made great strides in the advancement of testing and treatment for breast cancer. Without their efforts, many more women and men would lose the battle before they had a chance to fight. I implore everyone out there to please, GET TESTED. Do not put it off because it is uncomfortable or you are scared. Trust me, I get it. Nobody wants to hear the words “suspicious mass”, but early detection can be the difference between life and death! It is no joke. It is not to be taken lightly. Please endure the few moments of discomfort in favor of a long cancer free life!
That all being said, I am continuing the path that I have been on long before my own fight started and I am raising funds for breast cancer charity. Over the past approximately 20 years, I have raised funds through the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the National Breast Cancer Coalition and the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides campaign. I did not start out fundraising with the thought that I would one day be in the group of those affected. I started out trying to find a cure before my nieces would ever have to worry for themselves. Ironic that it turned out to be me that would be the first in my family to benefit from the advancements made in breast cancer research. This year I have chosen to make the Breast Cancer Research Foundation my charity of choice. I beg everyone reading this post to please, dig deep and and help me to fight for my breast health, my life and the lives of every person at risk or currently fighting like a girl.
My story is not over. I still have to get through my biopsy in the coming week and then I will go on to deal with whatever the outcome. Whether the tests come back the negative, the same diagnosis as in my left breast or, heaven forbid the unthinkable… I will not let this beat me. I will continue to Fight Like A Girl!
(I will come back and update my story as my results come in.)
How can you help? Well, I have a couple of options for you. First, all the proceeds from my ebook sales for the months of September and October will be donated to the BCRF. If you enjoy romance, erotica and/or poetry, click on one of the links below to buy my ebooks. If you already own them, why not gift a copy to a friend? I also have a fundraising page setup for direct donations to the charity. No amount is too small and all donations (be they through book purchases or direct) are appreciated. If you want to join in the fight, you can join my team on the BCRF site or if you are an author, why not join my Books for Boobs Campaign on Facebook, message me for details.
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