I wish I had known. I wish someone would have told me. But no one did. I had to figure it out for myself, and it took a mountain to convince me.
At the age of 35, I began to experience what I considered to be strange physical symptoms. When one nipple turned dark brown and fluid began leaking from the nipple, I went to the doctor.
I always trusted my medical community. When I went to my doctor with breast cancer symptoms, and my doctor told me there was nothing wrong, I immediately believed him. I even felt stupid for being concerned. Maybe I was just “too young” for cancer or maybe it was that I looked so healthy. Either way, I was completely dismissed, while on the inside, I felt my body screaming at me that something was very wrong.
Two months passed. I had not brought up my concerns again to anyone. I happened to have my annual checkup scheduled at that time, and with a doctor I trusted implicitly.
At my annual checkup, I told my doctor about my experience. She immediately sent me to the Breast Center. I had a mammogram, then an ultrasound, then a biopsy. I was sitting in my doctor’s office, waiting for her to come into the room. The appointment time was inconvenient for me, and I was ready to ask her why they didn’t just mail me my test results, as they had in the past.
What I remember most about that day is how annoyed I was. We were having guests for dinner that night, and I hadn’t gone to the grocery store yet, nor had I been able to do any cleaning. And I somehow had to get both boys to karate class; my youngest was testing for his orange belt.
When the doctor came in, it was clear why I needed to be there in person for the results. I had breast cancer, and the cancer had spread to all four quadrants of my breast.
I don’t think anyone forgets the first time they hear the word ‘cancer.’ I did not tell the doctor that I needed to buy groceries or that I needed to get the boys to karate. I did not tell her how inconvenient this appointment was. I asked her how long I had. I wanted to know how old my children were going to be when they would lose their mother.
I really don’t remember much of the next few days. But about a week later, I was reading to my son before bed. He looked up at me and told me that I read books the best, and I needed to teach his daddy to do it better. Right then, I realized that there was no reason whatsoever to let cancer dictate my life.
Cancer was not going to tell me how much time I had left with my children. I was not born with a pre-determined expiration date.
I was right to be concerned when I first experienced issues. I was right to ask for help. And I was right about my body the entire time. I wish I had known to listen to myself.
I fought every step of the way, through four surgeries, and treatments and months of not being able to hug my own children, but I can’t take credit for anything. My family won this battle. I wasn’t going anywhere.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.