(right, with her angel, Aunt Clodia)
Treatment: Lumpectomy, radiation
"I've got an angel watching over me, keeping me from all hurt, harm and danger." These lyrics are from one of my cousin Tish's favorite songs—a song I sing also now. In 1994, Tish's mother, my Aunt Clodia, was diagnosed with breast cancer. After hearing of her diagnosis, I asked my doctor to refer me for a mammogram even though I was still in my 30s. She agreed that the presence of cancer in a maternal aunt was enough to warrant a referral, and off I went.
Ten years later, when I was 44, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and that mammogram was instrumental in finding the tumor at an early stage. After a particularly stressful week at work, I let a co-worker check my blood pressure (she kept a cuff at work). It was elevated, so I made an appointment with my doctor. In addition to some de-stressing techniques that actually returned my blood pressure to normal, my doctor also recommended that I have some of the routine tests recommended for women over the age of 40.
The first referral was for a mammogram, which I thought would take only an hour or so, and I'd be back at work with no worries. Later, however, they called and asked me to come in for a second mammogram. I remember thinking that there was probably nothing to worry about; I probably just forgot to remove all of my deodorant before the exam. But something was again detected on the X-rays; it looked like pin points or dots. Fortunately, the center had copies of my mammogram from 10 years earlier, which did not show the same "dots." A biopsy confirmed that it was cancer. At first I panicked, thinking my life was over. Then I realized how fortunate I was that the center had my records, that my aunt's cancer had led me to have that earlier mammogram, and even that the stress of work led me to take an interest in my health.
I underwent three surgeries and radiation therapy, and am now cancer free! My Aunt Clodia lost her battle with breast cancer the year before mine was discovered, but she was the angel watching over me.