Wednesday, December 7, 2011

16 years ago - I felt a lump

May 1995 - 7 months before

It was in December. I was in the shower and had felt a lump. I asked my husband to come and feel what I felt. "There's definitely something there," he said.

At the time I didn't have an OBGYN, he had had a stroke and retired. But after all, it was Christmas time and I didn't think I should rush through anything at Christmas. What if it was bad news. It would ruin the holiday.

I asked a few people who they were seeing and got a few names. So, I called one and asked that they schedule a mammogram for me (after the holiday). The Doctor's office said it was unusual to do that before I had met the Doctor, but they agreed to go ahead and schedule it. The mammogram was scheduled for the first week in January.

The time I spent waiting was occupied with Santa and family, gifts and baking, carols and chaos. Inside, inside I knew something was definitely not right.

I was your stay at home Mom at the time. Allison was 12 and Katie was 10. (I have to say all this survivor math gets tricky... is it from when you were diagnosed? Is it from the surgery? Does it matter?) To me what is significant was I had two daughters one a pre-teen and one a young teen who came with me to the clinic to get my mammogram.

The woman at the desk asked about my last Mammogram, which I had gotten in SF about 5 years before. There is a history of Cancer in my family, but not Breast Cancer. She said "Be sure to give me that information before you leave today."

I went into the exam room to have the mammogram leaving my two daughters sitting in the waiting room. The young technician asked me a few questions. I mentioned I had felt a lump and showed her where. She looked surprised and said "It's a good thing you showed me because that is so low, I may have not gotten it normally."

When she stepped out from reviewing the film her face had changed. She said "I think we have all we need. You can go."

At that moment, I knew. I knew I had Cancer.

I stopped at the desk and began to give the receptionist the information about the other Mammogram. She obviously had heard from the tech, while I was getting dressed what the film had revealed. "Oh we don't need that now," she said with the same pale face and unnerved darting eyes.

I felt frightened, and then I looked at my daughters. I put on my best "ready for battle" face and said, "Let's go girls."

I was 42. And I wouldn't have become 58 had it not been for self exams and Mammograms. Have you done a self exam lately? It could very well save your life, it saved mine.

It worries me when studies say things like Mammograms shouldn't be done until after 50. I worries me when too much emphasis is on Mammograms and not enough is on self exams. The truth is, we need to be diligent about our own health. And if you have Cancer in your family you must be triple diligent. It's not fun, but it is a fact.

What is fun is life. What is fun is watching your daughters grow up, get married, have grownup jobs and be loved. It's fun to hold the hand of your soul mate for another 16 years. Its fun to breath in the air of the ocean as you walk along its edge. It is so much fun to live.

PLEASE give yourself that gift. Do self exams. Have your Mammogram.