It’s more than seeing a pink ribbon at this time of year. The ribbon is a reminder of those who have battled and to be an active participant in your own health.
I have all kinds of excuses that I told myself about why I had put off having a mammogram. We had moved several times, I didn’t have a regular doctor, there was a scheduling snafu in our last town — it goes on and on. The truth is, I was in denial that it was an issue for me, and I was just plain scared. What if I had waited TOO long, and all of a sudden I’d have to face a very grim reality? The thing is, I don’t think I admitted that last one even to myself, but when I look back, I know that was the real culprit – fear.
When our family moved to Alexandria last year, I got to work getting our three kids enrolled in school, registered for sports, and started making dentist and orthodontist appointments, etc. and diving into my new job. I even figured out where I’d get my oil changed before I took care of making health appointments for myself. By the time I did , COVID-19 had shut down non-essential appointments. So I did one virtual visit, and then had to wait for things to re-open to get my very first mammogram.
I had no detection of a lump by self or doctor exam, but I got a call that my mammogram showed an ‘architectural abnormality.’ I had no idea what this meant, but I was scheduled to go in for an ultrasound and possibly another mammogram. The ultrasound results indicated I should have another mammogram, and so I got squeezed again, with the same result. I was then told I’d need to have a needle biopsy.
We had been renting a place when we first relocated here, and my biopsy was scheduled for the day before we closed on the purchase of our new home. My husband was the only person who knew what was going on because it was already such a chaotic, stressful, emotional time that I didn’t want anyone to worry unnecessarily – especially my mom.
My mom had unknowingly pushed my internal ‘I should’ to ‘I WILL’ get my exams done when she told me that my first cousin, who is about a decade younger than me, was just diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. She has a husband and two little kids, and luckily – with chemo and surgery, etc. – she’s got a good prognosis. She’s still in the fight, and I pray for her every day. But this was a wake-up call, and I knew I couldn’t continue living with blinders on.
If you’ve been in a situation of being scared for your own health or the health of someone you love, you know it equates to a lot of lost sleep. I was so excited to get settled into our new house, but then these ‘what if’ thoughts kept me awake most nights. I told myself not to worry unless there was something to worry about, but – easier said than done.
The staff at CDI in Alexandria were nothing short of incredible. I immediately felt comforted by their demeanor and knew that I was being put in the hands of experts. I tried not to let fear get the best of me, but the tears started flowing as soon as they started the procedure. One of the techs asked for a Kleenex as if it was just another instrument, and dabbed them away gently, which told me this happens there every single day.
They removed six samples of breast tissue which showed calcifications, which could be cancer. I wanted to hug the staff, but – COVID. So I thanked them over and over and yelled, “I appreciate you all so much, and I really hope I never see you again!” – as I walked down the hallway and out the door.
The next day, we moved into our new house and I had to direct the chaos of unpacking boxes of stuff we haven’t seen in almost a year, my three kids yelling at me 12,000 times to come and check out their new rooms, strong men asking where to place every piece of furniture, and two moms asking what drawer this bowl set goes in, or why on earth we have so many different kinds of cups.
The next Monday, my heart pounded when I answered the call and heard the news I had crossed my fingers and toes to hear – no cancer. The biopsy procedure includes leaving a marker in there so that they can compare the images in future exams and be able to notice changes quickly and easily. This puts my mind at ease, and I can sleep at last. (Well, as well as you can when you have three kids to chase.)
This isn’t a more important story than anyone else’s. But you hear it all the time – get ’em checked. If my little story helps anyone make the call, then it’s worthy enough! Early detection could save your life, and knowing is so much better than wondering.
I am filled with gratitude every day that I can see just a little scar and be reminded of how lucky I am. I am now committed to being an advocate for my own health. I also took the opportunity before my initial appointments to reach out to my mom and my aunts as well so that I could have a better picture of my family health history and be armed with as much knowledge as possible in the future. So – lucky me, I get to have my behind checked 5 years sooner than normal since that type of cancer runs in my family. But that will be a story for another day.
Best wishes for good health to you and your loved ones! And if you’re on top of it more than me, please use my little story to nag -er, I mean- nudge- someone you love to get checked already!