When I was growing up, I always went to my older sister for advice. I always looked up to her as a great role model and friend, wishing I was half as smart as she was. She allowed me to tag along as her shadow for many years.
Now, the tables have turned; it is my turn to show her what a positive attitude and healthy lifestyle can do to aid in recovering from breast cancer. My story begins six years ago. I was a healthy 46 year-old with no family history of breast cancer. After coming home from the gym I noticed in the mirror while doing a breast self exam, that one of my breasts seemed to pucker when I lifted my arm.
I never noticed that before and thought that was certainly unusual. I realized I must call my doctor even though I knew that within the past 3 months I had a complete physical and mammogram. I was sure this could be nothing but new I must let the doctors make that decision. The following day I called my doctor’s office, they told me to come in right away. A lump was found on breast exam, so an appointment was set up for biopsy.
What was everybody worrying about, don’t they remember, nothing unusual was found on my mammogram? Biopsy day came and went, still I remained calm. People around me started to worry. That night my youngest sister called me and asked “what is the worst it could be?” and I replied “I guess it could be breast cancer,” it was at that moment that I felt my heart sink to the ground. Results day came so quickly. I was up most of the night tossing and turning, thinking about how my life would change if I were told “you have breast cancer”.
The next day those four little words became my reality. I opted for mastectomy – for me it was the right choice, my cancer was invasive – where else could it be? I wanted it out of my body. While healing from surgery, a portacath was put into place – this would be the entryway for chemo to help kill any existing cancer cells that thought they could hide and make my body their home.
I approached my treatments with two guns blazing, I wasn’t about to let any microscope cells of cancer ruin my life – not if I could help it. After 8 treatments of chemo, followed by one year of Tamoxifen and 4 years of Arimadex, I am proud to say I have been cancer free for almost six years.
I tell this story because I want people to know that breast cancer can sneak up on you without warning. If you have a tendency to have dense breast tissue, it can hide from mammograms and ultrasound. Don’t ever think because you don’t have family history, that it can never happen to you. Breast cancer is diagnosed in 80% of women with no family history. Know your body and don’t be afraid of reporting changes.
This year my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, the same sister that I followed around and looked up to. Yes, I did say no family history but yet here we go again. This time it’s my turn to lead the way. It’s my turn to let my sister know that you can survive breast cancer.