By Nicole Randall
No woman likes to schedule her mammogram, but being an adult requires us to do things we know we should. So, in June, I went for my annual mammogram and yearly physical, just like I’ve done for the last six years since I turned 40. I always book them on the same day to get both finished for the year. I find it easy to cancel preventative care if I have a schedule conflict because it’s only “preventative” and not a current issue. The urgency is not there. Canceling two appointments in one day takes more effort so booking both together helped keep the commitment. My physical in June went well, even with the doctor’s breast exam. However, the mammogram later that day led quickly to a 2nd mammogram, to an ultrasound, to a biopsy, to an appointment with a surgeon to put together a plan for my diagnosis of stage 2 invasive mammary carcinoma.
Remember, I said the doctor’s breast exam went well? I want to encourage women to go ahead and schedule an annual mammogram and yearly physical even if you are doing self-exams. Imaging finds things that cannot be felt. I could only feel mine after the surgeon showed me how to find it. The American Cancer Society lists the below guidelines for mammograms.
- Women age 40 to 44should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so.
- Women age 45 to 54should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and oldershould switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
Cancer can be cured when caught early. This is why mammograms are vital. I will be fine. The doctors assure me this is curable. However, because I am young at 46, they are being very aggressive. I have completed the first session of chemotherapy, which was four treatments every other week. I am currently in the second session of chemotherapy, which is 12 weekly treatments. Surgery and reconstruction will be the end of December. Radiation will be determined after surgery. This is my path, but each road is different for every warrior. No journey is the same. There are many of us on this journey. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in eight women will go through this battle. Schedule your preventative screenings now. One in eight is a staggering statistic.
I am in the beginning of my story. I have months to go to get through this chapter of my life. I have met many women along the way that have gone before me successfully. Friends and family have stepped up to help. And when I say stepped up, I mean in huge ways. Asking for help is hard. But when someone offers, it is their blessing to give and if we refuse, we miss so much. Ladies I have never spoken to prior have given their time and love to help me on this journey. Each are unique and encouraging. Each has their own insight and ways they thrived in the midst of their battle. Every one of them is eager to share and help. It is vital to find support, not only during a medical crisis, but in every day. Life hands out a variety of struggles that knocks us down. My breast cancer is just my personal battle. We each have issues and they are equally difficult. I urge everyone to find their people now before they are needed. Find a way to plug into a group. Find a church. My faith has been vital in my battle. If you have neglected this part of your life, it’s time to ask questions about your faith and make it a priority. It’s difficult to make it through a health scare, or life in general, without God. Find a group of people who have your same hobby and start having fun. Form relationships. Make time for each other. Take a pause to listen and invest in others. Real magic happens when we work together for a common goal while supporting each other. We were meant to live life together.
With the new year of 2023, I will be able to close this chapter of my life and open a new one. I am learning in this journey all I can to become a stronger person and help others. The one in eight women who have completed this journey have also changed. It’s not possible to go through the fatigue, hair loss, endless appointments, tests and numerous side effects without being affected. We are stronger after a challenge and stronger together.
Schedule your preventative screenings. Don’t back down when faced with a challenge. Find your people and support each other. When these things are done, cancer has no chance!