Sunday, March 13, 2011

Be Your Own Advocate

Before I was diagnosed, I remember fully being “aware” of breast cancer and the importance of supporting research and giving yourself monthly breast exams.  The problem for me was that I had so many fibroadenomas (harmless breast lumps) that I almost expected to find them after a while, so I never really worried that it could be actual breast cancer.  I’ve always had surgeries to have the harmless lumps removed (just to be on the safe side) but I trusted the doctors when they said that I had no reason to worry.  Only 1 out of every 100,000 breast cancer patients are in their twenties.  The doctors told me that:

1. Having fibroadenomas does not raise the risk of developing breast cancer
2. I was too young to have breast cancer
3. I was not of a race/demographic group expected to develop breast cancer
4. I should wait and see if the lumps grow over several months before doing anything about them
5. Breast lumps during pregnancy are normal and expected

Although these statements may be true for some, they were NOT TRUE for me!  
And in all honesty, they may or may not be true for you.  Please do not take the risk of letting a cancer grow in your body.  My advice is to do your monthly breast exams and if you feel a lump, have it surgically removed or at least biopsied, as soon as possible!  

Do not assume that it is harmless because statistically, you are “safe”.  Do not wait a few months to see if it grows.  Those few months could be the difference between a Stage 1 (extremely treatable) and a Stage 4 (metastasized) cancer.  Do not believe anyone who tells you that you are too young for cancer, regardless of your age!  I am 26, but I have talked to girls that have been diagnosed as young as 23.  Anything is possible, and by taking the extra precautions, you are ensuring that you won’t have to go through mastectomies, chemotherapy, radiation, or even dying young.  Be your own advocate, because nobody else is going to do it for you.  If I had listened to the doctor who told me to wait a few months, my cancer would have been at a Stage 4 by the time it got taken out.  By insisting to that doctor that he listen to me and take it out immediately (against his own advice), I essentially saved my own life.  Mine was caught at a Stage 2, meaning that it didn’t spread anywhere in my body beyond my breasts.

Yes, it is hard going through my treatments and knowing that I have a long road ahead of me with surgeries, but afterwards, I have a second chance at living my life!!!  A lot of people don’t have this wonderful gift.  Think about all of the people who die tragically in accidents or natural disasters.  I pray that God heal the families of the tsunami victims in Japan and anywhere else that those are suffering.  The thought of those people’s lives being taken from them so suddenly… deeply saddens my heart.  It shows how anyone’s life can be changed in a single instant. 

I am so thankful for the advances that have been made in breast cancer research over the past decades.  We have come such a long way, but we still have not found neither the cure nor the cause of this and other types of cancer.  I am baffled at how technologically advanced our society is, but how cancer remains this terrible mystery, in spite of all the time and money put into research for it.  Which do you think will come first, the cause or the cure?  I sure wish we knew either one!

I read something very disturbing online the other day. A girl wrote, "Sometimes I wish for breast cancer so that I can go through chemo, get skinny, and then get a boob job.”  Wow.  I can not believe that someone could be so stupid/naïve.  First of all, what cancer patients go through is a gazillion times worse than being fat or having small boobs (trust me!)  Second of all, not everyone gets skinny from chemo; some people actually gain weight.  And, when you’re this sick, it doesn’t look good or feel good to be this skinny (again, trust me!)  Third of all, a mastectomy with reconstruction is not at all comparable to a “boob job”.  It is major surgery that is complicated and very difficult to recover from (from what I hear, and will soon know).  I don’t understand why the girl doesn’t just diet/exercise.  She should check her priorities and realize her health should be at the top of the list, not shallow appearance.     

I found this video on Youtube that I think is so funny/cute and great for breast cancer awareness.  Just to remind everyone to (as they say) “Feel Your Boobies”!

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