Thursday, October 1, 2015
It's that time again
Past midnight now, and so it is October 1st. I am fully aware that it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Of course, I have been aware of breast cancer each day of my life for the past two years. It started with my diagnosis of Stage 3 breast cancer in September 2013. It is two years ago this month (the 11th) that I had my double mastectomy, with 21 lymph nodes removed on the right (affected) side. I chose to have my left breast removed as well, as a prophalactic measure, and because I knew that reconstruction would be more "even" if both breasts were "made" the same way.
I was aware of breast cancer throughout my many months of chemotherapy, when sleep was my only savior. I was aware of victory over cancer when my PET scan came back clear after chemotherapy. Still, with 19 out of 21 lymph nodes positive for cancer, I had to have 35 rounds of radiation. I was concientious and persevered to get there every day, five days a week, rain or shine, and there was a lot of rain.
I was aware of breast cancer in the ensuing months, awaiting my reconstruction time, during which I endured the major discomfort of "expanders", rigid against my chest wall, stretching my chest skin, to accomodate the eventual placement of breasts. It was like wearing a 3 sizes to small underwire bra, 24/7.
I was aware of breast cancer as the surgeons drew on my naked body with sharpies (or maybe something not so indelible) just moments before my 7 hour surgery for reconstruction.
Aware of breast cancer as I woke up, still intubated, in SICU, having suffered acute respiratory failure, moments after my operation.
Aware of breast cancer each and every day since that operation, as I am one of the unfortunates who is suffering pain and severe discomfort even this many months after.
Aware of breast cancer each time I look at my right arm and hand, swollen from lymphedema.
Aware of breast cancer when I look in the mirror.
Aware of breast cancer every 8 hours when I take my cocktail of meds designed to ease some of the pain.
So, do yourself a favor. Get a mammogram. Examine your breasts every month. I pray that YOUR awareness need only happen once a month, and on a yearly basis. The odds of becoming free of cancer are amazing, especially if caught early, but I hope you never have to travel that road.