The day you receive a phone call from someone you love to tell you that she has cancer is a day that you are reminded how PRECIOUS life and health are. Something that we should be thankful for each and every day but something I think we take for granted.
I received one of those calls from my dear, life-long friend, Sherry. She called to ask me to be with her when she came home to tell her Mother. Of course, I was honored to do so. I love both of them dearly and if I could give any support, I was going to be there.
I am happy, thankful that Sherry is doing well. And, I am posting this article that she wrote, hoping that you will share it with your loved ones.
It could save your life or the life of someone that you love. I was one of the women that did not know.
How a Bad Hair Day May Have Saved My Life
By Sherry Freeland Walker
Pink ribbons, pink shirts, pink phones, even pink dog collars. It’s a sea of pink. In October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a pretty safe bet that literally no one is unaware of breast cancer, the No. 2 killer of women. But knowing there’s some big scary disease out there doesn’t mean women (or men) have all the knowledge we need about breast cancer or its detection.
In May 2011, when I was 62, I became one of the more than 200,000 women to be diagnosed each year with breast cancer. What has surprised me most is how few of us know there’s more to self-exams than feeling for lumps or that some cancers aren’t visible through technology.
I found my cancer on a bad hair day. As I was dressing for work, I stopped in front of the mirror to see what was up with my hair. As I raised my arms over my head, I saw a dimple on the bottom of one breast. “Holy cow,” I thought. “This is new and it’s not normal.”
I made a same-day appointment with my primary care provider who sent me straight for a mammogram and an ultrasound. She also suggested I see a surgeon. Neither the high-magnification mammogram nor the ultrasound showed anything, and I considered canceling the appointment with the surgeon. My normal paranoia told me to keep it, however.
The surgeon took one look and said, “It’s a tumor. Nothing else makes a dimple like that.” Although he knew it was there, he had a hard time finding it in a clinical exam because this type of cancer, invasive lobular carcinoma, doesn’t form a hard lump. It merely thickens the tissue. I could barely feel it even when the surgeon showed me where it was.
I started querying friends and colleagues – “Do you know there are breast cancers that aren’t detectable in self-exams, mammograms or ultrasounds?” The answer was always no. “Do you know that a dimple can be a sign of breast cancer?” Mostly no. “Do you ever stand in front of your mirror naked with your arms over your head and look for changes in your breasts?” Again, no. Of the dozens of women I’ve asked, only one knew that this should be part of her self-exam.
So, from the Susan G. Komen website, here are the signs:
• Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
• Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
• Change in the size or shape of the breast
• Dimpling or puckering of the skin
• Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
• Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
• Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
• New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
If standing in front of your mirror naked strikes fear in your heart, it’s still better than the alternative. Combine this with your regular self-exam plus mammograms if advised by your doctor. Remember that mammograms don’t show everything, and see your physician right away if you have any of these symptoms. Chances are even if the diagnosis is cancer, you’ll end up like me — stage one, no radiation, no chemo. A great prognosis because of a bad hair day.