You ‘ve seen the articles plastered on the Internet over the last couple of days about Angelina Jolie’s decision to have her breasts removed because her chances of getting breast cancer were above 85%. Folks, I don’t know what you think about this, but that is a significant risk of breast cancer!
As you know, breast cancer and breast exams have been the topic of discussion on a few blogs over the last few months. Bren from My Girl Parts wrote several articles about the stressors associated with the exam (I Have A Confession To Make) and then after having the exam, getting a call that she needed to come in and speak with a healthcare professional in person (Breast Health: I got lucky this time). Breast Cancer is a scary thing for women.
I’ve had a shadow on my right breast for the last three years. I have to get a mammogram every six months. About month five, I get a letter saying we need to see you. I have tried ignoring it a couple of times but those letters eventually turn into phone calls. Waiting to see what the radiologist will say about my shadow is so scary. I think about the fact that I have a seven-year-old child and that I have to be healthy for her. Have I thought about asking the doctor to remove the breast or reduce the breast to eliminate the shadow? You bet I have!
In November of last year, my mom got a call similar to Bren’s. She needed to come in and speak with the radiologist. She was not as lucky as Bren. The news was: She had breast cancer. On January 2nd, she had a mastectomy to remove her breast.
Here is her story.
Question: What treatment options where you given?
1. Lumpectomy (but I was warned that there was an 80% chance thate the cancer would return.
2. Mastectomy (removing the breast which brought my chances down to an 8% of the cancer returning.
So I chose to have the breast removed.
Question: Do you think you made the right choice?
I know I made the right choice. Even though it has required me to go through three rounds of chemo, losing your hair, infections, and generally feeling in poor health, I still feel that I made the better choice to have the breast removes. Keeping the breast was not an option with an 80% chance of cancer returning.
Question: How has this choice been life-changing?
I am active person. With cancer, you become inactive. You cannot work resulting in a reduction of income because of disability pay and quality of life. The type chemo that I am on is making me really tired. It drains you mentally and physically. There are days that I struggle to get out of the bed. And fighting the depression of the situation is another problem. It is hard to look at yourself as a valuable member of your family, when you have always been a tower of strength and now you are feeling weak, helpless, and vulnerable. And to make matters a bit more challenging, I am far away from home so I often feel isolated. I feel ashamed about depending on friends all the time. I know they have lives and I don’t want to burden them with my illness. But even with all the challenges, I am still happy that I made this decision.
Question: What physical changes have you seen?
Besides losing my hair, my hands and feet are peeling. My skin color has changed dramatically. With the chemo, my body is constantly getting all kinds of infections and not to mention weight loss. Even my nails are changing color. It affects my concentration. You become more sensitive and generally on edge. Cancer has changed the way that I look at myself. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see the me that I was before. I see hair loss and ostomy. I cannot see the smile that I used to have, expressive, bright eyes, or a thirst for life.
Question: Would you make the same choice if you could do this over again?
I would do it all over again. My biggest goal is to be here to see my grandchildren grow up. I don’t want to miss out on all the great things they will accomplish. I am also the caregiver to my seventeen-year- old granddaughter because my son was murdered eleven years ago. Without me, her life would not be easy. So, yes, without a doubt I would do this over again.
Question: What advice would you give other women when it comes their breast health?
I would tell women to get regular mammograms. Even though they are uncomfortable, you need to do this. I was really lucky because my breast cancer was not traditional. I did not discover mine by self-examination. It was in the back of my breast and it was an aggressive cancer. If I had not had the mammogram, the cancer could have spread all over my body and we could be having a different conversation right now.
Ladies, breast cancer is a serious illness. It does not discriminate because of race, color, or creed. It does not affect just the young or the old. It does not care if you have a bank account with millions or if you are overdrawn.
According the American Cancer Society:
232,340 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year alone.
64,640 of the new cases will be cases of carcinoma in its early stages.
39,620 women will die from breast cancer this year alone.
So I ask you, after reading my mother’s story and seeing the numbers above, do you really want to take a chance with your health? When was the last time you had a mammogram? If has been more than a year, pick up the phone TODAY!