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Posts Tagged ‘early stage’

A couple of years ago I wrote about my gratitude after a mammogram and a visit to the breast clinic. I finished that post by saying:

“I am one of the lucky ones. I left with a sore breast, a big smile and a light heart. The shading of concern in my scan was just a cyst. […] But the chances are that at least one of the women who smiled at me in that waiting room won’t be so lucky. So, while I feel great relief and gratitude for myself, I am sending my thoughts to those other women. Mothers, grandmothers, lovers, colleagues, friends, I hope that if your news was bad today, that it was caught early. I hope that you’ll be treated and will regain your strength and spirit and that you’ll laugh and love for many years more.”

Two years later, I have become the other woman – the unlucky one in the statistic of one in eight women developing breast cancer. And yet I am dancing (figuratively – it’s still much too sore to literally dance) because it was caught early, because I am going to be okay, because I feel like the luckiest woman alive.

pink grapefruit

Today’s post is a celebration of good news after bad, and an urgent call to all women to have regular mammograms.

I had no lump that could be felt or seen, I was strong and healthy and I was madly busy, busy enough to ignore the first reminder about my mammogram being due. The second reminder prompted action and I booked an appointment. The resulting scan highlighted microcalcification “most probably benign” according to the pathology report but worth investigating further. The subsequent biopsy revealed high grade, aggressive cancer inside one of my ducts, cancer that appeared to be invasive.

All of this has happened in the last three weeks. I have been diagnosed, hospitalised, had a lumpectomy and sentinel nodes removed, and now have the wonderful news that they got it all out. I won’t need chemo but will still need a course of radiation (probably six weeks). I am cancer free.

pink grapefruit after eating

The alternate scenario (and the one that I would have fallen into if I was one of the staggeringly huge 55% of women who don’t have regular mammograms) is that I wouldn’t have found the cancer until it became a lump that could be felt. Given how deep inside my breast it was, that would have taken a long time. Given how aggressive it was, by the time it could be felt in my breast, it would almost certainly have invaded my lymph nodes and, via them, whichever other parts of my body it fancied.

Ironically, on the same day that I found out that I had early stage breast cancer, I read an article suggesting that mammograms weren’t useful and didn’t prevent death from breast cancer.

I am so disgusted by this reporting. Apparently the machinery they used in the Canadian experiment is outdated compared to what we use here, the technicians weren’t trained in reading the scans properly – or in placing the breast to get the most effective scans – and yet, for many women reading the headline, it will give them a reason not to bother going for their regular check up.

That’s part of why I’m writing this post. I want to celebrate my newly regained health and praise the doctors, nurses, radiologists, pathologists and myriad others who found and removed the cancer. And I want to raise my voice and call out to other women to go for their mammograms.

As far as breast cancer goes, I’m young (45). I have no family history of breast cancer. I’ve never smoked. I’ve eaten well and lived a pretty healthy (albeit sedentary) life.

If it happened to me, it could happen to anyone. Please, please, go and get yourself checked regularly. The minor inconvenience and discomfort of having your breasts compressed is nothing compared to the utter joy of being alive.

* The photos are of my breakfast before heading into hospital. As I sliced the grapefruit in half I became uncomfortably aware of how like a breast it was sitting on my plate. Didn’t stop me from eating it though!

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