During the fall of 2015, I had a routine mammogram and dense breast tissue was noted, but it was of no need for concern. After my appointment, I went blissfully on with my day – family, life and career. A little over a year later, I noticed I was feeling more tired than usual. I wasn’t bouncing back as quickly from overseas travel with my job and by the time the weekend came around, all I had energy for was rest.
By June of 2017, I was drinking the equivalent of 12 cups of coffee per day to make it through my workday. My doctor visits and bloods tests were normal, but my body was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I never realized how valuable the self-exam, which I was taught as a teenager, would be to my story. In early July of 2017, I found a lump during a self-exam that didn’t feel like dense tissue. My mother and aunt had different kinds of stage 1 breast cancer, but I didn’t test positive for those genes. My mind told me it was dense tissue, something I have had all my life, but my heart and nervous feeling told me otherwise.
I scheduled an exam for the following week, and 21 days later, after multiple 3D mammograms, four biopsies, CT scans and consultations, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I was now part of the statistic. My family, Dr. Linda Farmer and the team of nurses and navigators at EAMC rallied and became my support system upon my diagnosis. They were my armor through each chemotherapy treatment and were there for support after my two surgeries and continuous follow-up appointments.
Life is different after cancer. The pace of my life has changed significantly and I’m still healing. Cancer of any kind is not a destination, it is a journey, and my journey is no greater or less than the other warriors out there. This particular journey taught me that each ordinary day is truly extraordinary, and I’ve learned to love my ordinary and amazing life. The “bloom where you are planted” philosophy still holds true – find things to enjoy and nourish them. It doesn’t have to be grand and glamorous.
The month of October is special to me for two reasons. First, it is my birth month, and second, it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While October is a great reminder to perform self-exams, I cannot stress enough the importance of doing it every month. It helped save my life!