Ringing the Bell

Last week I rang the bell on completion of radiation following my second bout with breast cancer.  My breast cancer has been called “sneaky” by my doctors—so sneaky that this past April even the MRI did not see it and I was writing a column celebrating being deemed cancer free.   By July,  my self exam found the tiny lump.  My bags were literally packed for a vacation in Portugal, but life had me set for another kind of journey.

During October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I will share with you, my readers, some of the impressions that remain with me as I continue the battle in hopes that it may help you in some way to understand more about the breast cancer journey. I shared with my wonderful KU radiology oncologist that I would be writing about breast cancer and asked her to let me know if I got anything wrong.  She said that this is about my own experience of breast cancer and it could not be wrong!

For those who, like me, hear the words “dense breast tissue” at time of mammogram, note should be taken as dense tissue can be more prone to cancer and makes early cancer more difficult to detect.  The takeaway is the importance of  breast  self -examination.  I found both of my early stage cancers this way.  No one in my family had ever had breast cancer, and I really never even gave it a worry.  I complained about having to do the mammograms, but did them,.  By the grace of God and intuition, I happened to notice something unusual on a sporadic self examination—a tiny small pebble like feeling.  It was during the pandemic, before vaccination, and I pondered whether to just wait a while or make an appointment.

I made the right choice.  My primary care doctor sent me to ultrasound where the bump was deemed “suspicious.”  The next step was the definitive diagnostic test:  needle biopsy.   The doctor asked me if I was cold because I was wearing little blue knit gloves for the test.  No, I told her.  I was as scared of Covid as breast cancer.  She gave me a warm blanket.  That blanket was the beginning of hundreds of kind things that my KU caregivers did at every step of the way  the first time, and now again. 

Breast cancer is not only a physical, but a mental, spiritual, and emotional turning point in life.  It is the beginning of a journey.  To all of you, my brothers and sisters who have been touched by any kind of cancer, I share with you these words of Marie Curie that give courage:  “Nothing is to be feared, only understood.”

To be continued . . .