So in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to step away from the fiction and jump into real life. I feel from my own experience, it has motivated me to reach out to other young women much like myself. Any way one can bring upon awareness is an excellent way of spreading the word about how important self exams are. So, I have met many amazing people through this little blog of mine, and decided what better way to spread the word then to begin here. So this is my own personal story.
Around the time I was 17, I began asking my mom questions about my family's health history. I don't know what brought it up, but I never really knew what my grandparents had died of. Both of my grandmothers had passed on long before I was born. So my mom and I had a lengthy discussion on how both her mother and grandmother passed away from breast cancer, and then my father's mother passed away from ovarian cancer. So I asked both my mother and primary care physician if I should worry about my family history. "No, you're too young to worry about breast cancer." I didn't know anything about self exams, and so I went online and looked up how to do a self exam. So I began to do self exams around that time. It only took a minute or so, and I just felt better mentally about everything doing them myself. A doctor doesn't have to tell you to do self exams, you can do them freely.
A month before my 22nd birthday, I was doing a self exam, and discovered a lump. I felt it for probably ten minutes straight, trying to self-diagnose myself. "What can it be?" So I called my OB/GYN, told her what was up, and was in her office a few days later. I went to the doctor and she did an examination, and sure enough she felt a lump and was concerned because it was stationary, it wasn't rolling around. So she did an ultrasound to determine if it was a cyst that was filled with fluid, or if it was solid. It was solid. So I had scheduled to have an excisional biopsy. They wanted the whole thing out. So three days before my 22nd birthday I went in for a minor surgery to have a lump removed from my breast. Three days before my 22nd birthday! I can't stress that enough! My doctor told me I wouldn't have anything to worry about considering how young I was. A few days later I got the results back, benign. A pseudolump, pretty much just a collection of dead fat and scar tissue.
WHEW! I was in the clear!
Fast forward to the middle of September. I hadn't done a self exam since the one I did back in March when I found the lump. So I figured, hey why the hell not. I found another lump, except this time in my other breast. I nearly collapsed, I didn't think I could go through the stress again, and I was leaving for vacation to Pittsburgh in only a week. I did the only thing I could think to do, and that was push it to the back of my mind. I scheduled myself an appointment for when I got back from Pittsburgh and my mom told me not to worry about it, it was probably just another fatty mass, and try and enjoy myself on vacation. So that's what I did. I went to vacation, came back relaxed and then Monday morning it felt like dejavu all over again. Another solid lump, another one she wanted to surgically remove. So last Wednesday I went in and had it removed, this one much larger than the last. My OB/GYN sat down with me and we had an indepth conversation on my family history, so much so I called my mother and put her on speaker phone so I wouldn't miss out on any details I might not know. My doctor highly suggested for not only me, but my mother and sister as well, to have a test done to check and see if we carry the breast cancer gene. So last Wednesday when I went in to have my lump removed my sister and mother came with me and we had a blood draw for the test, simple as that.
Another pseudolump. WHEW! But now I need a drink. The stress all of this has put on my heart is nearly overbearing, but I can only cry tears of joy knowing that I'm one of the lucky ones. So my doctor called me today, which I found very strange for a Saturday, but she is a sweet, sweet woman and I have formed a very close bond with her. So it turns out my sister nor mother carry the breast cancer gene, but I do. So what does that mean for me? Other than the frightening statistics (women without the gene have a 12% risk of developing breast cancer, while those with the gene have a 60% risk) there's really not much. Just knowing that I have the gene is terrifying, but my doctor told me, if I do develop breast cancer I will more than likely find it early because of how well informed I am.
How well informed I am. I had to repeat that sentence in my head a few times. No one told me to do self exams, I didn't even know how, I just went on the internet and figured it out on my own. So that's where I come out and stress to women of any age, how important it is to be informed. To do self exams, no matter how old you are. To know your family history as well is very important. So this is my story, and I hope I can encourage you and all of the women you know to be aware and to feel yourself up every once and awhile.
Here are some awesome websites about Breast Cancer Awareness: