I have been cancer free for 18 years! Time to celebrate!
Eighteen years ago I heard the dreaded words “We found something suspicious on your mammogram”. I always knew it wouldn’t be if but when would I be struck by the cancer gene. Nevertheless, I was numb as I heard those words. That sentence started a whole new dimension to my life that included two surgeries, a total hysterectomy, radiation, a new relationship with an oncologist and a book on how to survive and thrive through medical mayhem. Since then I have been followed with regular mammograms and ultrasounds and yearly MRI’s as recommended by my oncologist. And I have dutifully followed that schedule ever since.
But as with all things, I have settled into complacency. I still do all the testing and follow up visits that are required but I will admit that I am not always good about doing a self-breast exam EVERY month. It’s really hit or miss and I sometimes forget I am a breast cancer survivor. Now you would think that having lost my maternal grandmother, maternal aunt, and mother to breast cancer and having two of my cousins living with breast cancer it would be in the forefront of my life. I even devote a website to surviving and thriving through medical mayhem for goodness sakes! But don’t we work hard to forget the past medical mayhem and work hard to move on into the future with hope and healing? Hence, we often lapse into a false sense of security. While we cannot let cancer reduce us to constant fear and worry; we must not let down our guard either. The key, as always, is balancing vitality of life with vigilance.
While breast cancer cannot be prevented there are steps for early detection and to insure the best quality of life possible.
The first is to do a monthly self-breast exam. I know, I know you don’t know what you are feeling and everything you do feel, feels like a lump. But over time, you know which lumps and bumps are normal and are able to pick the new ones out.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.” Here is a link on how to perform a breast-exam: https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam
If you are pre-menopausal, do the exam one week after your menstrual cycle starts. If you are menopausal, perform the exam on your day of birth. For example, I was born on the 5th of March and therefore I would do my exam on the 5th of every month. By doing this every month you become familiar with your breasts and can detect any changes.
The second step is to schedule a yearly mammogram. Mammograms can detect tumors before they can be felt so routine screening is key. Research breast imaging providers in your area and ask the following questions:
- What is the facilities customer service reputation?
- Does the facility have fellowship trained breast specialists?
- Does the facility have the latest breast imaging technology such as breast tomosynthesis and abbreviated breast MRI? These have greatly improved the quality of information to detect more cancers earlier.
- Does the facility provide follow up? Do they provide follow up mammogram, ultrasound, MRi and biopsy at their location?
- What accreditations has the facility earned such as Breast Imaging Center of Excellence and the National Accreditation of Breast Centers?
- Does the facility take your insurance?
Yes, it is time to celebrate! Celebrate being a woman of knowledge! Celebrate being a woman filled with faith and hope. For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7.
Every month when I check my breasts and I don’t feel anything different from the prior month – it’s time to celebrate with my husband and a glass of wine. Every year when I have a mammogram/MRI/ ultrasound and they are negative it’s time to celebrate with lunch with my girls friends.
And if I should be confronted by a new finding, then I shall put on the amour of Christ:
- The belt of truth (Seek God’s word for this new journey)
- The breastplate of righteousness (apply his truths to our circumstances)
- The gospel of peace (be secure in your identity as God’s child and rest in His peace)
- The shield of faith (set your faith in God and not your circumstance)
The helmets of salvation (wash your mind with renewing God’s word – do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by God’s promises)
- The sword of the Spirit (use God’s word to protect us as we make decisions for the best health outcome)
In other words I will use my faith to grow in education of my disease and do what is necessary for my health. I will use my faith to strengthen, nourish, and provide me with the peace to persevere knowing that all that I endure will ultimately lead me to where God wants me to be – in the arms of Christ.
What have you done to celebrate October’s Breast Cancer Awareness? Have you scheduled yourself for a mammogram? Do you do monthly self-breast exams? Have you talked with friends and family and asked them if they are doing the same? Be proactive in living your best life by learning what you need to do to reduce the severity of breast cancer and then doing it. Share your knowledge and save the Boobs!
Thank you for reading my post. If you have found it encouraging please consider liking, commenting or sharing it. Feel free to even re-blog – may these words take flight!
I have additional insights I’d love to share with you found in the pages of my debut book: Surviving Medical Mayhem – Laughing When It Hurts. To order a copy or learn more go to my website at www.lorettaschoen.com
Blessings for Health & Wellness.