Breast Cancer Awareness: My Story

I’ve always known that life can change in an instant.  One day everything is great and the next your world can come tumbling down.  We’re surrounded by people who are experiencing life in the same way.  My personal friends and acquaintances have had difficult challenges to face and I’ve been watching from the sidelines, offering whatever assistance and support I could.  A newborn that needed open heart surgery within her first week of life,  an unexpected lawsuit, divorce, devastating accidents, job loss, mental illness, loss of parents, suicide, and the valiant battles against cancer.

A few months ago, a lady that goes to my church went in for her regularly scheduled mammogram and they saw something irregular but non-cancerous looking.  Fast forward a couple of months and not only did she have a double mastectomy but is also undergoing chemotherapy.  Life changed for her in an instant and in a very dramatic way.  It really affected me and strangely enough, I started to have pain in my right breast.  Immediately, I assumed it was sympathy pains for my friend, but then upon self-examination, I found a distinct lump, tender to the touch and rather swollen.  Naturally, I started using my oils on it and within a few days the swelling went down and I could no longer find the hard lump.

Although I wasn’t overly concerned about my experience, I did decide to be proactive and schedule a mammogram.  It had been over 15 years since my last one and I was really way past due!  As I was standing at the mammography machine, breast bared and being flattened like a pancake, I had several thoughts.  First of all, breast are strange!  These two big masses of flesh that seem to be so significant in the lives of others….babies and men!  And the other strange thing is that our culture shows them off in magazines, and swim suits, we even have to wear special clothing items just to support them.  Then I looked over at the technician and knew that even if she saw something of concern, she couldn’t say anything to me about it or even change her expression.  So, I dismissed my strange and random thoughts and went on with my day knowing that in a week or so I’d get a letter saying that everything looked normal along with a reminder to schedule an appointment for a yearly mammogram.

The next day as I was training a group of women about discovering and developing their individual strengths, I received a phone call from the Mammography Center.  I listened to their message and was shocked.  They found a mass in my right breast and needed me to come in immediately to have an ultrasound and a 3D scan done.  My heart sank and for a second I really couldn’t breathe.  There was no one to talk to and my break was about over and I needed to go back into the training.  All I could do was put several drops of balance on the back of my neck, rub my hands together and take a few deep breaths and head back into the training.  Luckily, I was able to put the shock, fear, and anxiety away for a few hours until the day came to an end.

Now I had to figure out what to do.  Two years ago, I moved to Tennessee and didn’t currently have a physician that I saw on a regular basis.  The last doctor visit I had was with my OB in Virginia and that’s where I went to have the mammogram as I was there on business anyway.  The problem was that now I needed to have further testing done and I was flying back to Tennessee the following morning.  Luckily, my OB was willing to see me that day.  He calmed my fears, and gave me the name of an OB in Nashville.  When I got home, I was able to schedule an appointment for the ultrasound and 3D scan but the appointment was three weeks out.  There was nothing I could do but wait and try to take every doTERRA oil and product that was known to help support healthy cell function, so that’s what I did.

Vanderbilt is one of the top medical facilities in the nation so I felt confident that I was getting the best medical care available.  As I made the two hour trek up to Nashville, I listened to a book on tape to help distract me from the reality of what I was doing.  The facilities are huge and it took me a few minutes to figure out where to go.  Once I checked in and was called back into the waiting room, that’s when the fear started lurking about.  There I was with several other women with thin little gowns covering their breasts.  No one really chatted or interacted with each other.  We all sat there watching the TV waiting to be called back to have our individual testing done.  I wondered about each of these women.  Some older than me and some much younger than me.  What was their story going to be?  What was my story going to be?  Some of us would go home devastated while others would go home relieved.  All because of these big masses of flesh that adorn our chest!  It really is strange!

As I was called back to have the 3D scan done, I was fairly calm and the machine was very similar to the regular mammogram machine.  It was quick and easy and done within a couple of minutes.  I was then taken into the ultrasound room and had to lay down on the exam table and bare my right breast.  Now that was really strange!  The tech squirted a bunch of the warm ultrasound gel over my breast and started to scan.  I could see the screen and the dark images that seemed to appear at different times but I had no idea what they meant.  The fear was being kept at bay until the tech stopped and said, “I’m sorry, I need the doctor to come in and look at this.”  As I lay there waiting for the doctor to come in my mind raced in all different directions.  What did the tech see?  Was this normal to have the doctor come in?  Didn’t the ultrasound tech usually just sent the photos for the doctor to read?  Why did the doctor need to look?  And what were they looking at?

Right about then the doctor walked in and was very casual and pleasant.  She added another big squirt of the ultrasound gel onto my nipple area and began scanning.  She then started to push my breast to one side and then the other.  Almost like getting an around the clock view.  The more intent she became, the more afraid I became.  What was my story going to be?  Would I travel the same road that my friend was currently on?  Chemo? Mastectomy?  Would I lose my hair?  How would my husband respond to the changes in my body?  Would I have reconstruction?  What affect would that have on the intimacy my husband and I share? Would I survive? Before I knew it, I was almost in tears.  Not wanting to become visibly upset, I quickly started to think of the words to songs I learned as a child just to calm my mind.  Soon after that, the doctor lifted the ultrasound probe and said, “Mrs. Smith, all I can see here are some distended ducts.  Absolutely nothing to worry about.  Do you have any questions?”  I asked her if the distended ducts were a result of nursing so many babies and she agreed that it was possible.  She shook my hand and exited the room.

As I got dressed and headed for home, I realized I was one of the lucky ones this time.  I wondered how many women that I sat with that day in the waiting room were going home relieved and how many of them just had their world turned upside down? Which of them received the dreaded news that they were one of the eight women in the US that would be diagnosed with breast cancer within their lifetime?

Here are a few statistics about Breast Cancer:

  • One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
  • Each year it is estimated that over 246,660 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.
  • Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,600 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 440 will die each year.
  • On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.
  • Over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.

Let’s become aware here ladies.  Make sure you have yearly mammograms beginning when you turn 40.  Be proactive and learn how to do a breast self-exam.  Here are a couple of great resources that will show you exactly how to perform one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *