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Why is there so much uproar about my rights and my breast?

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.  

Mammogram

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!  Maxine

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.

Maxine 2

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!

Always Believe in Yourself, Cynthia

About cynthiatw

10 comments

  1. Hi Cynthia, I came to check out your blog because I was intrigued by your blog name. What a great site you have! And I was very touched by this piece because I lost my Dad to cancer late last year. Hearing your mother describe her battle with cancer in her own words really hit home. Thank you for sharing her story.
    ConventionalDee recently posted…Mother’s Day ReflectionsMy Profile

  2. Such an important discussion, Cynthia. It feels like your mother made the right decision – maybe the only decision – she could. And I’m so glad you’re staying on top of your six-month mammograms, just in case.

    I remember what Bren went through a couple months ago. So scary, and I’m so glad she’s okay, and is good about taking care of herself and, like you, advocating for other women to do the same.

  3. i was just having this discussion with my sister the other day as she was on her way to get her yearly mammogram. because we don’t have a history of it in our family, i can hold off a little longer before getting mine. i would never gamble when it comes to something like this. and to echo Bren’s sentiments, a segment that aired on a national morning show this morning went into detail about the costs of having a mastectomy…most women just don’t have that kind of money at their disposal.
    miss donna recently posted…personal style | blogger influenceMy Profile

  4. Bren
    Thank You for Your comment on this article. You are right the emotional aspects have been upsetting, the chance of LIFE sure outweighed any cosmetic things. With menopause and losing my breasts have been devastating the night sweats etc. And unlike Angelina, once I have my last chemo treatment on the 23rd, I need reconstructive surgery and my funding is limited. Thank God for my daughter and her husband help and a few friend bring in food and helping with needs. I am exhausted but know I made the right decision, I need to live. Thank You Again Maxine

  5. Cynthia,

    I’m so glad that they did indeed catch your mother’s cancer. My cyst was undetectable by self exam as in was in the back portion of my breast as well. Your mother was being very proactive in having her breast removed, although the emotional aspects may have been upsetting, the chance of LIFE sure outweighed any cosmetic things. I knew your mother was battling cancer, I just didn’t know it was breast cancer. My prayers and thoughts are with her and hope she continues her fight.

    I can not stress enough the importance of getting mammograms either. I tell my co-workers and they shrug it off. I’d rather be proactive and have screenings. Annual ob/gyn exams and not 6 month mammo’s for me. I plan on living to be OLD OLD OLD and am hoping to not be defeated by some nasty disease. I still continue my battle with skin cancer so no other types are acceptable to me. ;)

    As for Angelina, and I really shouldn’t judge but she has the $$$ to have the reconstructive surgery that a lot of people wouldn’t have. Just like menopause is the end all of womanhood to some women, losing their breasts can be as devastating. I’m glad Angelina had hers removed but the media hype has already exhausted me and I can’t help but think it’s publicity stunt of some sort. Terrible aren’t I.

    Back to your mother, hugs and kisses to her. She’s a very strong woman to go through what she is and I admire her strength. Keep up the fight!! xoxo
    Bren recently posted…Sex and The CityMy Profile

    • Hi Bren,

      I am so happy that my mother made the choice as well. I feel blessed that she was proactive with her health. Losing my mother as such a young age would be devastativing to my family. She is the rock that keeps us together. I know this have been hard on us especially with me being so far away and my brother revamping his career. I tell people all the time that I am so amazed with her courage and how she is handlin the situation. She still tries to find the joy in little things. I will be happy when May 24th comes and she has her last chemo.

      Being in Europe, we don’t get all the hype about Angelina Jolie. There were a few debates on whether she made the right choice. It lasted a couple of hours and it was over. I understand why she made the decision.

      As far as the cost, you are correct, the average person does not have the financial ability to reconstruct their breasts after a surgery like this. I am sure the cosmetic side of losing a breast could be really damaging. Personally if it meant being here until I was 80, I would gladly give up my breast.

      Bren, skin cancer is a bear because no matter how much you try to limit your sun exposure, it is hard to be a hermit and live a normally life.
      cynthiatw recently posted…Why is there so much uproar about my rights and my breast?My Profile

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