Friday, October 1, 2010

Screw the Whales, Save the Ta-Tas.


  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In October 2003, I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Although considered noninvasive, it is still a form of breast cancer. Breast cancer. Two little words that are scary beyond belief. Scary and something that at the age of 31 I was not even considering as a possibility in my life. I don’t think that many of us do.
What started out for me as an average Fall day with above average allergies ended in horror. I was having allergy issues and went to my primary doctor for some much needed allergy meds.  Of course I waited until I was stopped up, congested and totally consumed by the ragweed demon before I even ventured to the doctor’s office. My doc promptly scolded me, took chest x-rays and stuck a needle in my behind.  While I was waiting to be released, she was waiting for a colleague to verify the dark spot on my films. After physical exams, mammograms and an ultrasound I was sent home with the knowledge that I had something in my breast that didn’t belong there. A follow-up visit was scheduled for a few weeks later. The game plan was to monitor the “thing” and decide what type of biopsy would be best. So, I went home. I told my husband. And then I cried. I cried until I ran out of tears.
I was terrified. The word cancer just sent shivers down my spine and my first thought was about my children. In my mind people with cancer got sick, went bald and then died. What would happen to my kids if I died? My husband would survive, but would my babies? I was a mother. Mother’s my age didn’t have these types of problems. I mean, the doctor made a mistake. She had to have made a big, horrible mistake.
After monitoring, measuring, and way to many breast exams to count, the team of doctors that were now staring me down decided on a surgical biopsy.  I cried some more. Surgery day arrived and I was assured that everything would be fine. That is until I was presented with paperwork that stated “in the case that I needed a mastectomy, the surgeon had my full permission”. Needless to say I signed it and cried again.  The thoughts racing around inside my brain while they wheeled me into the operating room were; cancer=death, real women have two breasts, men love women who have two breasts, I don’t want to die but I really don’t want to lose a boob.
When I awoke the surgeon informed me that I was lucky. I had a precancerous mass in my duct (DCIS) that was treated by a lumpectomy. Since it was caught early and the affected area was relatively small I wouldn’t need radiation. He removed a large portion of my breast tissue to assure that all of the cells were removed. I still had two breasts. Granted, one was significantly smaller than its partner … but they were still a pair.
I must agree with my surgeon. I was lucky. Lucky that it was found in the early stages. Lucky that it was contained and I was able to retain both breasts. Lucky that I am still cancer free today.
Did you know that breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, aside from skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), an estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among women in the United States this year. An estimated 40,170 women are expected to die from the disease in 2009 alone. Today, there are about 2.5 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States.1

Breast cancer is a killer, but with proper breast self awareness, early detection and screenings, it can be manageable. Arm yourself and the ones you love with all the information you can get. Be proactive and support the research for a cure.

American Cancer Society
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Cancer Institute
Susan G. Komen for the Cure

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