Oct 6, 2011

But I'm Too Young #Pinktober Survivor Stories Guest Post

If you aren't a blogger, you might not understand the community that exists between bloggers but in the Chicago area there is an amazing group of local bloggers. Last year in November Brandie won one of my ticket giveaways and I've been following her blog closely ever since, even though we haven't had the pleasure of meeting in person yet, I was crushed to learn of her breast cancer diagnosis.  I asked her if she'd be willing to share a little of her story directly with my readers, but be sure to check her out at her blog as she is an amazing woman who has been so real about her fight that you will not be able to help but connect with her and her story! 




When we think about breast cancer, we most often picture women over 40. Afterall, 40 is the age that doctors recommend we go get our first mammogram. Well, okay, we know that it can happen to younger women, but it’s rare, right?  Heck, my mom had breast cancer when she was 30, but I never thought I would get breast cancer young. You see my mom was told it was a fluke. She was an anomaly. And they caught it early. Surgery was her only treatment – no chemotherapy, no radiation. No other women in her family have had breast cancer (and she has 6 sisters so it’s not like it could have struck others!) so I wasn’t worried. I had always written on health history forms that my mom had breast cancer – no doctor ever even asked me about, so I really wasn’t worried!


But this year I switched a new gynecologist. At my yearly exam, she asked me many questions about my mom’s breast cancer. We decided it was time to get my first mammogram. Not because either of us were worried that I had cancer – nope. I had no concerns and I passed the physical exam with flying colors. I was going to get my first mammogram now solely because my mom had breast cancer so young.


So I went to my mammogram – very nervous too. Not nervous something would show up. Oh no, I was much too young. And healthy.  So you can imagine my surprise when the doctor let me know I needed to have some follow-up, that there were 2 cysts they wanted to watch and some other spots that looked suspicious. Exactly 1 week later I was in for a biopsy. And I was told that it was probably nothing. This time I felt more nervous. And then, 5 days later my entire world changed when the biopsy came back positive for breast cancer.

Breast Cancer. Shocked doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. It was just so crazy. I mean, I couldn’t really have breast cancer. I was too young. And I was healthy. And nothing made any sense. I didn’t have any symptoms that I knew about - I never even felt a lump.


My world was turned upside down.  Even worse? The lives of my family was turned upside down – my husband, my 3 children, my parents, my sisters, every single person who cared for me.

And I can’t help but wonder what if I’d payed more attention? I won’t lie to you – I didn’t do monthly self-breast exams. I did them about every 3 months. But what if I had done it every month? What if I had educated myself more? The truth is I did have signs of breast cancer. I just didn’t know. I thought I only had to worry about a lump. Nope. Breast cancer symptoms can show up as a rash on the skin, dimpling of the skin, changes in your nipple, changes in the shape/size/density of the breast, etc. {You can find a list of signs here} My doctor missed them too at my appointment, so I try not to beat myself up too much, but it’s hard not to think about what if’s. But honestly? Breast cancer was never really on my radar. Even with my mom’s history, I thought I was too young.


The truth is about 9% of breast cancer is in women under 40. Breast cancer can hit at any age. Here’s the scary thing though – for women under 40, breast cancer is more deadly than for those diagnosed over 40. This is because we and our doctors think we are too young to have breast cancer. So we wait longer to go to the doctor when we feel a lump or show other symptoms. Doctors don’t always think of breast cancer at first so we are more often misdiagnosed. Combine this with the fact that cancer in younger women is more often aggressive, and well, it’s easy to understand why our survival rate is lower than women over 40.


So I urge you, regardless of your age, make your body your best friend. Know your body. Study your body. Examine your body. This includes doing self-breast exams. You know your breasts best, so please, study them! I know that sounds funny, but you should study them and know how they feel. So that you can be aware as soon as changes start to occur. And do not be afraid to go to your doctor with any concerns. If you are embarrassed to talk to your doctor about your breasts? Get a new doctor who you feel comfortable with. Trust your gut. If you think something is off, get it checked out. Do not wait. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you are too young, that it can wait, that it can’t possibly be anything to worry about.

Take it from me - You are not too young. It cannot wait. And it could be something to worry about.



Brandie
http://journeyof1000stitches.blogspot.com/

9 comments:

  1. Great post, great advise and information!!!

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  2. Great post! My older sister was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer about 4 weeks ago. She is age 47. There is no history of breast cancer in our family , so this came as a huge shock! I just got my first mammogram last week and during the exam they found a small lump on the film. UGH...I was very scared and had an immediate ultrasound which showed it was a benign nodule. I am definitely going to make sure to do self breast exams every month now!

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  3. What a great post! What great information, thank you!

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  4. Now wait a minute. I need to know the rest of your story. Was it removed? Are you ok? What's going on? You're my friend and I want to know that you're ok!

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  5. Great post and great reminder to do self exams

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  6. Great story! Thanks for sharing. I too am a young women (35) with young kids and I have breast cancer. I was diagnosed at stage 4 because some of it spread to my spine. I am stable right now but had to work hard to get here.

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  7. I need to be more diligent... thanks for the reminder!

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