Thursday, October 15, 2015

I'm a SURVIVOR, I'm going to make it

I had my first and only screening in 2005. 

Every year after that my doctor stayed on me to have another, but, like most women, I just ignored it. 

In 2012, my doctor made the appointment for me and I decided it was best that I go and thank goodness I did. As a result of my mammogram, the doctor found a small mass. Even though self checks are important, this one was undetectable by touch so I believe mammogram screenings are more important than anything. When it was found, I was only at a stage -0-, which means the cancer had not spread outside of the cell wall. I was not required to have chemo but did have a lumpectomy (which left me somewhat disfigured), and I went through 33 daily radiation treatments which leave your skin burned and your body exhausted.  

It has been three and a half years since my surgery, but, as a result of the radiation, I still get easily fatigued and have permanent bone loss in my ribs leaving me susceptible to fractures. I was truly blessed to have caught it so early. Early detection saved me from chemo and hopefully the chance that it will return. 

Had I waited just one more year, I could have been at stage 2-3 and would have had chemo. If I had waited and the cancer was discovered in the later stages, my chances of recovery would have decreased and the possibility of it returning would have increased.  

Case in point:  

My sister, who is 19 months younger than me, also put off going in for her mammogram.  Once I was diagnosed, she decided it was best that she go. When she did, she found out that she too had breast cancer and was already at stage 2.  She went through a double mastectomy, chemo, and was put on a medication for five years (which gives her serious side effects). Had she gone in just a year sooner, she may have been lucky like I was. Thankfully, she is cancer free today but her road has been and will be much more devastating than mine. 

I urge all women of [doctor-recommended] age, and even younger folks with a family history, to have screenings done on a regular basis. Visiting your doctor for a physical exam is important, but as I mentioned, mine was only found by the mammogram. Once you are diagnosed, your mind goes crazy and you begin think of the worst case scenario. I had good doctors and I did as a I was told by having ultrasounds, MRIs, other procedures and sticking to my follow up care. I have overcome cancer and can proudly say I am a survivor! 

Should you become diagnosed, my best advice is do as you are told, stay in touch with your doctors, and most importantly keep your faith strong and you will overcome and be a survivor too!

By Laura Jeffers, Bankruptcy/Credit Counselor

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