Just Imagine

Just Imagine

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Welcome to my blog! Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee and read what's on my mind. I've a vicious sense of humor, an apprecation for romance and a mad addiction to writing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Blog Jog. Calling all you Thirty-Somethings!

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.

My nana died from breast cancer, my aunt died from breast cancer, my mom is a breast cancer survivor. It has touched my life. Has it yours? Sorry to be so blunt but to my mind it is a very blunt topic. A topic not talked about enough.

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


My name is Leitha and I was 36 when I found a knot in my breast. It was huge, and the doctors kept asking me "how could you have not found this earlier?" I'm sure I had noticed it earlier but dismissed it as a swollen fibrous cyst because every breast exam I ever had I asked about lump and bumps in my breast and was told it was normal because I had fibrous cyst that would swell before my cycle. I also had a mammogram in 1997 that showed nothing, and to top off all of this, I had no history of cancer of any kind on my Mom's side, and two cancers on my Dad's side, lymphoma and my grandmother had lung cancer. Both were or had been heavy smokers and my Dad was not an "exercise & eat right" kind of man.

(SKY HERE: Always pay close attention to your father’s side of the family. No matter the form of cancer, it tends to be the leading source of Breast Cancer especially)

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)

The next day I got the core biopsy, went home and continued having pity parties until Friday when I was due back at the hospital for the results. The upcoming Friday, March 19, 2004 my son took the day off from school to go with me. They gave me a suite number, so I had to ask the information booth where it was. As we rounded the last quarter, we both stopped at sight of a bid sign that said "Radiation Oncology" and then looked at each other. I said "You know this isn't going to be the news we had hoped for, don't you?" He shook his head yes, put his arms around me, kissed the top of my head (he's taller than me), took my hand in his as we walked through the doors. We ended up having to sit in the waiting room for quite a time, enough time for reality to sink in.

(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.

It's been another year of fighting another cancer and I'm still in a lot of pain. Between Mar 2005 and Oct 2005, I literally almost died due to complications from the treatments. God didn't take me out of this world so I'm guessing he's still got work for me to do. The radiation on my lower abdomen, they think may be causing the tremendous pain I'm having in my back. I've had a CT scan & MRI in the last three weeks and am having another bone scan. We're praying it's not more cancer. All prayers are welcomed.

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:


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

Sky here. Yes, I teared up when I read this. How could I not? Though I’ve not lived it, I am so very sympathetic. And though Leitha said it was harder on her family members, I cannot in a million years fathom what it must have been like for her to not only have lived through cancer but watch her family watch her go through it as well. Bit of a double whammy. My guess is she would’ve given anything to keep them from seeing any of it. My guess is that she fought cancer FOR her family.

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?

Don't forget, for a chance to win a breast cancer awareness travel mug and T-shirt at this blog be sure to comment. For a chance to win more great prizes on this weekend's Blog Jog be sure to visit Anna Kathryn Lanier's Blog where you can comment to win a Cherry Blossoms Shower Gel and Lotion from Bath and Body Works, pink roses bath confetti, pink-toned beaded bracelet, a Harvey Lewis limited edition Pink Ribbon enameled ornament accented with Swarovski crystals, a copy of "98 Things a Woman Should Do in Her Lifetime" and an e-book copy of Anna's short story "The Perfect Gift." Think Pink package and Skhye Moncrief's Blog. where you'll find even more great prizes. Contest for my blog's giveaway ends Monday, October 11th, 6 AM EST.

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.



Skhye said...

You should have warned me to bring tissues! Thanks for the post. Been scared shitless before... *blows nose* Thinking of Leitha today.


Carol L. said...

Hi Sky,
I'm sitting here with tears running down my face. Thanks for sharing Leitha's story. What courage and a sense of humor. I hope she is well.
During my daughter's year as an inpatient for chemo due to Osteo Sarcoma which is bone cancer it was the laughter and silly little pranks that got us through. At least me. One year, and her being so young but the important thing was and is that she's been Cancer free 12 years and at 23 she's a very healthy and fun loving survivor. I hope everyone read this post about Leitha's story and follows through.
Carol L.

Emma Lai said...

Cancer touches so many people's lives. It's a horrible word to hear come out of a doctor's mouth or a loved ones. But, the loving support of friends and family helps carry a person during such a difficult time.

Thanks for helping to bring awareness, Sky!

*yadkny* said...

Very powerful blog post! Thanks for sharing. My family likes to collect the pink lids from Yoplait to send those in and try to help. We've also participated in walks and fundraising for both breast cancer and diabetes. It may not turn out to be much, but at least it feels like we're doing something. Everyone knows someone that has/had cancer, so everyone should participate in doing something about it.

Have a good Friday everyone!!!

Linda Henderson said...

I think cancer has touched just about everyone. I fully support Breast Cancer awareness and tell my daughters all the time to check. We don't have a history of it in my family but I tell them to check anyway. Thank you for sharing Leitha's very emotional story.

seriousreader at live dot com

SiNn said...

Hi Sky this post made me actually cry the fear foer her self but the strength she showed to get threw it was amazing and I never knew Christina Applegate had breast cancer now i do tho these awareness things honestly I used to not really paythat close attention because of the whole myth oh that cant happen to me but knowing now that if my dads side has cancer means i could get it is very eye opening and scary so ty again for the post


Rynne Raines said...

Brilliant post. Very moving. Sending prayers Leitha's way asap!

Ry xxx

katsrus said...

Thank you for posting her couragious story. Tears here too. Very touching post today. Thank you.
Sue B

Hywela Lyn said...

What a touching and thought provoking post!Thank you for sharing, Sky, and for helping to spread awareness of something that affects so many people, either directly or indirectly.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Sky! Wow, what a powerful story. I hope all is well with Leitha. I have been lucky with family and myself not to have to go through this terrible disease.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Oh, on another note: on the news last night they had a study that showed preschool kids laugh an average 300 times per day. From there, it goes down quickly. Adults laugh only 15 times a day. We need to change this. Oh, plus another study showed that laughing helps prevent heart attacks. So, time to pull out those comedies and laugh!

Sky Purington said...

I know it Skhye, Leitha story had me crying too!

Sky Purington said...

Oh Carol, just reading your comment gives me the chills. I can't imagine what you went through with your daughter. I'm SO glad she's cancer free & will keep her in my prayers.

Sky Purington said...

Emma Lai, thank you so much for popping in and sharing your thoughts. Cancer is such a hard thing.

Sky Purington said...

Yadkny, you're absolutely right. Everyone should participate in doing something about it. Thank you!

Sky Purington said...

I'd like to thank everyone who stopped by thus far. It just shows how united we can become in the face of cancer. I intend to repond to everyone's comments at some point this weekend. Regrettably, I've got to sign off now. Be back!

Best Regards

susan said...

I am not going to say I was pleased to read Leiths story as there is nothing pleasing about cancer. I cried and hoped and cried some more over all she went thru and she was so brave for her family. I appreciate her sharing this part of her life with us and to make us aware of what can happen. I truly feel for her from the bottom of my heart and support all she stands for. susan L.

Pamela Keener said...

I so wish we could eradicate this disease. For that woman to have received the double cancer diagnosis I admire her courage and spirit.
Love & Hugs,

Lilly Gayle said...

Skye, as a breast cancer survivor and registered mammographer I applaud your efforts at breast cancer awareness. I was 47 when diagnosed and did not have a family history either. I also did not have a lump. The cancer (DCIS-ductal carcinoma insitue AND an invasive ductal carcinoma) were picked up on a screening mammogram and diagnosed by excisional biopsy.

A few words regarding your blog- Father's side of the family is not as important as the mother's side. First degree relatives are considered to be mother, daughter, sister, maternal grandmother and maternal aunt. HOWEVER, someone has to be the first to screw up the gene pool so having no family history does not save you. It merely decreases the odds.

In defense of the "nurse" who said everything was fine. If she did the mammogram, she was not a nurse. She was a radiologic technologist registered in mammography. FDA requires this in all US states. Also, a technologist is NOT allowed to give results for a screening mammogram and can only relay results from a diagnostic mammogram when specifically instructed by the radiologist. Most of the time when a technologist says the x-ray was fine, the mean they are of diagnostic quality and the radiologist will read them and send a report. Unfortunately , not all techs make this clear to the patient.

Also, although yearly mammograms should begin at age 40, ALL women should have a baseline mammogram at 35. UNLESS your mother had breast cancer younger than age 45. What ever age your mother was when diagnosed with breast cancer, you should subtract 10 years. If your mother was diagnosed at age 36, then you should have your first mammogram at 26. Some doctors will try to argue this isn't necessary, but this is what most medical oncologist and the FDA recommend.

If you'd like more info on breast cancer or would like to take the breast cancer assessment test, please visit: http://www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool/

Sky Purington said...

Linda, thank you so much for stopping by. I think you're right, these days nearly everyone IS touched by cancer one way or another. Sad.

Sky Purington said...

SiNn, I'm so glad you're paying closer attention. Cancer is something we need to be vigilant about. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Sky Purington said...

Rynne (((Big Cyberhugs))) Thanks for stopping by, sweetie.

Sky Purington said...

Katrus, thank you for stopping in. I think Leitha's story really touched us all.

Sky Purington said...

I try to spread awareness the best I can, Lyn. Thank you so much for swinging by, my friend.

Sky Purington said...

Great study, Anna! Kinda sad that we laugh less and less as we get older. It really is so important!

Sky Purington said...

Susan, thank you for stopping in. I know, I cried and cried too!

Sky Purington said...

Pamela, I totally agree with you!It's time to DO AWAY with cancer!

Sky Purington said...

Lilly, thanks so much for your informative comment. I paid attention!