November 13, 2013.
It’s a day I’ll never forget.
Most people who have received a diagnosis that changes their life remember the date the news was delivered. And the time. And the circumstances.
I was headed to the Hearts at Home office for a meeting I was supposed to lead. With my bluetooth earbud, I answered the call from my doctor’s office as I was driving. The moment she said, “Jill, are you alone?” I knew what she had to tell me.
I pulled over to the side of the road and told her that I was alone, but I needed her to tell me what she needed to tell me. The words, “you have breast cancer” reverberated in my ear. I don’t remember anything she said after that.
I never made it to the Hearts at Home office that day. Instead I called my husband who rushed towards home, and I promptly deposited myself on my friend, Crystal’s, doorstep. The minute she opened the door I melted into a puddle of tears.
The doctor’s office called back with more info, I told them to tell Crystal whatever I needed to know and handed the phone to her.
I was numb.
It’s been 365 days since that day. I’ve had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. I’ve been through genetic testing and my mom has researched the medical history of our extended family. My daughters will now be watched carefully by their doctors because of my diagnosis before the age of 50. Due to our genetic history (my aunt, mother, and grandmother are all survivors), one of my sisters has chosen to have a prophylactic double mastectomy and my other sister is considering the same. (My lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation reduced my chance of recurrence to 7% and my sister’s double mastectomy reduced her chance of occurrence to 7%.)
I’m one of the lucky ones who caught their cancer at stage 1. No lymph node involvement. If I would not have had triple negative breast cancer which is a rarer and more aggressive breast cancer, I would have been given a pass on the chemotherapy. However, I had to have the chemo because of my triple negative diagnosis. It’s the only way to treat triple negative breast cancer.
My cancer was found on my annual mammogram. I felt no lump. Never did. Nor did my doctor.
No matter how cancer is found, early detection makes all the difference in the world when it comes to prognosis. The earlier the better.
- If you are not doing monthly breast self exams, you need to start today.
- If you have not made your “annual female appointment,” please do that today.
- If you are 40 or older and you don’t have your annual mammogram scheduled, I’m asking you to do that now. Not in five minutes because you’ll be interrupted by kids in five minutes and you’ll forget to do it (yes, mommy ADHD does exist!)!
Early detection saves lives. No matter whether its a mammogram, a pap smear, or any other kind of screening. I’m now 50 and I have my colonoscopy scheduled for next month!
You have to be proactive. You have to take your health seriously. No one else can do that for you.
Think of it as a stewardship principle. God gave you this body and He asks you to take care of it.
Do it for yourself. Do it for your husband. Do it for your kids.
In as much as it depends upon you, this holiday give yourself and your loved ones the gift of a chance.