Breast Cancer Awareness Blog Jog
Hello all. This weekend I’m taking a break from my A-musing the World Blog Event. Frankly, the topic I’ll be covering is not amusing at all.
For the past 2-3 years, I've participated in a Breast Cancer Awareness scavenger hunt. Things were busy for those of us involved in this mega undertaking, so we're doing a scaled back version. Join me, Anna Kathryn Lanier and Skhye Moncrief for a weekend Blog Jog to help bring about breast cancer awareness. I'll be giving away a Live Simply Pink Travel Mug and Free Spirit Pink Ribbon T-shirt to one lucky commenter. Anna at Chatting with Anna Kathryn and Skhye at Skhye's Ramblings will be giving away prizes as well so be sure to visit their blogs and comment for a chance to win. Each of us will draw names ONLY from those who have commented on our own blogs, so if you want to be eligible for all the prizes, comment on each blog.
As many regulars to this blog know, I am an avid supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness and October belongs to us. Who are we? WE are survivors of breast cancer, WE are family members of those whom have had breast cancer, WE are simply supporters of making YOU more aware of this silent killer of so very many women…breast cancer.
This year I went straight to The Pink Ribbon Shop and searched through their Cancer Survivor stories. I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for until it stared me in the face. Leitha. A woman a year older than me. I want to share her story with you. Why? Simply because she’s a year older than me and I think women in their thirties tend to think themselves untouchable to this disease. After all, aren't we all told not to get a mammogram until we're forty? Well, Leitha proves that's a myth. So for all you thirty something females out there, pay attention! I copy and pasted her story and made comments throughout. You won’t be able to miss them.
The Pink Ribbon Shop
Breast Cancer Survivor
I found my lump while getting into the shower. I moved my left arm in a way that caused it to hurt. I mentioned it to my Mom, who mentioned to my sister, who mentioned it to everybody she ever met in her life. As you can imagine my sister came back to me full of information she had gathered. One of the tidbits she learned was "if it hurts, it's not cancer." I put off having it checked out for about a month or so, and then when I did go to the clinic the nurse practitioner assured me it felt like a cyst, but she scheduled a mammogram anyway. March 13, 2004, a month later, I'm sitting in a waiting room believing I will go in, have the pics taken, have a cyst drained and go home.
(SKY HERE: I’ve been told the same thing, “if it hurts, it’s not cancer.” Guess we can scrap that myth.)
I was called, and as the tech and I walked she mentioned how young I was, asked about my family & medical history. My answers led her to assume (as everyone had) we would probably find a cyst. So for 20 minutes I was twisted and contorted, smushed and flattened, then told to get dressed and wait for the results.
(SKY HERE: Wait until you hear directly from your doctor. The nurse told my mom everything looked good. It wasn’t. (No offense to nurses- they’re simply God’s angels))
The tech came in, followed by a doctor. This was about the time my heart jumped into my throat and started beating faster. The tech looked shaken as the doctor asked about my family & my medical history, then said "we need you to be here at 7:30 in the morning for a biopsy." I mustered up the strength to say "okay", and he left the room.
"Is this just a precautionary biopsy or does he really think I have cancer?" I asked. "Prepare yourself for the worst news and hope for the best." she answered. I asked if the mammograms are often wrong and isn't it likely it's not cancer. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said "honey, it doesn't look good."
I got into the car, turned on the radio and the song "Something More" by Kristy Starling came on. The words were like a cool breeze that penetrated my whole body. I drove around Galveston, couldn't tell you for how long. I finally got a motel room instead of driving four hours round trip to be back at the hospital by 7:30. I called my Mom, and of course she was dumbfounded as I was. I called my son, but got the answering machine (17-year-olds and their busy schedules). I went out, picked up something to eat and a bottle of wine. Me, myself and I had a pity party that night, the first of many.
(SKY HERE: This is exactly what happens. You go into a state where everything seems...surreal ? You tend to focus on the small things you normally wouldn’t such as a song on the radio, who you should call…you’re just going through the motions)
(SKY HERE: Oncology is the word you don’t want to hear. Regrettably, it’s a word that becomes familiar. I’m sometimes shocked when people don’t know what it means.)
My son is a carbon copy of me in looks, personality and a twisted sense of humor. Were reading magazines, cutting up & laughing. People are looking at us like we're crazy, but that doesn't stop us. We were finally put into a room, where the goofy-ness continued until finally, a team of four doctors walked into the room. A hush fell on the room as Dr. Hatch sat at the desk I was sitting beside. She looked at me, as her eyes filled with tears she said "I don't have good news for you. You have cancer". I looked at my son sitting across the room who was looking at me as if he couldn't move. Dr. Hatch asked if we needed a minute or two. I said no, we had pretty much expected this when they directed us to radiation oncology. My next question was "so what do we have to do". She explained the procedures to me and set a date to get started. Surgery to remove the cancer & cancerous lymph nodes, a second surgery because they didn't get it all (dirty margins), 12 weekly doses of taxol, 3 months of FAC and 6 weeks of radiation.
Weeks before I had my mammogram I found out that Bill, a friend from my childhood was working as the largest Christian radio station in the country (which happened to be in Houston). I emailed him a friendly note and by the time he was able to reply, I was knee deep in the process of getting me cancer free. Not only did I have the love and support of my Mom & Son, I was blessed with Bill who fell head over heals in love with me in spite of my cancer. They all pitched in and help me, doctored me, cleaned up after me (yuck, I know) but never a complaint. They've all driven me many times to and from appointments, a four hour round trip during the highest gas prices ever.
One thing I learned is, cancer had to be harder on those who love me than it was on me. I watched the looks on their faces every time I had a surgery (which was awful), every chemo treatment (which was worse), and radiation that had one square foot of my left side so raw I cried in pain almost constantly, and I'm not a crier. Actually, I am smiling, laughing and positive most of the time. I'm often asked "how can you be so happy all the time with all you've been through?" My answer is, I have a family who cares about, the most wonderful son, a man (Bill) who loves and adores me, and a God who has me in his healing hands. I've got more reasons to be happy than to be upset. A positive attitude goes a long way.
January 2005 was my last radiation treatment, was growing some hair, happy and in love and waiting to get a new baseline and be called cancer free. Life was looking up, I was gaining strength and looking forward to a beautiful spring. Less than months pass before my appointment with my chemo oncologist. He sets up a gyn appointment for me, A week later I get a call from the gyn doctor. I get light headed and sick to my stomach when she tells me "you have cancer again, we need you to come in tomorrow". "Okay" I say, still in disbelief. I call Bill and say "I've got to go to the hospital tomorrow, I've got cancer again". He was silent for a few second, probably trying to decided if I said what it sounded like I said. I told him it's cervical cancer and that was all I really knew.
If you have cancer, keep your spirits up. I know that sounds cliché, but really, don't stop laughing, don't stop living, you can win this fight. Remember, and remind your family & friends that every day is a gift from God.
Bill, the love of my life bought me a wall plaque that reads:
WHAT CANCER CAN'T DO
It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal eternal life
It cannot conquer the spirit
That’s what we do.
In the end no matter who you are, if you’ve fought cancer, you know what it is to truly love. To truly become selfless. To truly appreciate every little moment you have with loved ones. To know that life is fleeting and grabbing every tiny moment means a little something more than it used to.
I hope this blog post caught your attention. I hope it makes a difference. Please, even if you're in your thirties, consider getting a mammogram now. What harm could it do?
My best to you all and be sure to spread the word about this Blog Jog. It could change someone's life.
Some quick extras...
I'm a huge Doctor Oz fan so I decided to take his Breast Cancer Awareness Quiz. Holy heck, I totally failed!!! Ugh. I got a 30%. Hanging head over here. BUT, certainly learned something...well, quite a few things. Want a crack at it? Only takes a few minutes. Click HERE.
As a fan of both Ellen D. and Christina Applegate (a breast cancer survivor at 36) I thought I'd provide this video. Aye, Ellen is so funny. But, truth told, humor is more essential than you'd think to all of this. Laughing produces positive, healing endorphins. So, if you've a few minutes to spare, check out this informative interview about a woman whose mother died from breast cancer. When Christina found out she had not only cancer but the breast cancer gene, she took radical action and had a double mastectomy. For those who don't know the terminology, Christina has had both of her breasts removed.
Hope y'all have a fabulous weekend. All winners, both for this contest and my last A-musing the World Blog Event contest will be announced Monday morn.