I was never very consistent about performing monthly BSEs—I'd do it whenever it crossed my mind. As far as I knew, the only member of my family who had died from breast cancer was a great-aunt. But, since I had a background with other types of cancer, it always caused me some concern. I had a baseline mammogram at the age of 35 and yearly exams after age 40, so I felt relatively comfortable that, if the worst ever happened, it would be found early.
Then last June, while performing aBSE, I felt a half-dollar sized lump in my right breast. Alarmed, I went in to see my doctor, who scheduled me for an immediate mammogram. The films showed reason for suspicion, so I was scheduled for a biopsy the next day.
When they said it was cancer, I was stunned. I was referred to a surgeon who discussed my options. Even though my tumor was three centimeters and in the milk duct, I was a candidate for lumpectomy, but also had the choice of mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. The thought of a mastectomy terrified me. I told the doctor that I wanted the lumpectomy but, if it looked worse than expected when they got in there, to go ahead and do what he thought best.
I had the lumpectomy with lymph node dissection. The node biopsy was positive, so it was back to surgery for the removal of 13 nodes, all of which were negative. Following surgery, I underwent chemotherapy and radiation. So far, so good.
I preach early detection to every woman I talk to, and I encourage the women I know to really increase their awareness of breast cancer; to get to know their bodies and not be afraid to go to the doctor. Even though I didn't catch it in it's earliest stages, I was able to catch it before it got really bad.
This experience has changed my life. I value each day so much more, and I know that I can overcome just about anything. I even overcame the loss of my house to foreclosure (my chemo home caregiver stole several thousands dollars from my bank!).
Every day I pray that soon this disease will be eradicated, or will at least be less life-changing. And I ask God to bless the survivors of today, and those of the future.
Mary Linda Drummond