October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Take the time to learn more about detecting breast cancer early.
It is now a year since I was diagnosed with early breast cancer. A year since my GP called me not ten minutes after I got home from having an ultrasound to tell me I needed a biopsy.
Eighteen months before this my sister was diagnosed with early breast cancer at 39 (no, it’s not genetic – just really bad luck). I thought for sure she’d taken one for the team. Surely lightening wouldn’t strike twice, right?
After her diagnosis my mother and I were put onto yearly mammogram and ultrasound screening. I had this done in the May. The technicians performing my scans made me feel as though I was wasting their time. I felt like telling them this wasn’t my idea! Those scans showed nothing of concern.
I then found a hard, pea sized lump on the far left of my right boob near my chest wall. I left it for a while then had my GP check it the next time I saw her in the August. She thought it was a cyst and I agreed, seeing as I’d had many benign fibroadenomas and cysts over the years. I was handed an ultrasound referral and told to have it done in a few months if it didn’t go away.
The referral languished at the bottom of my handbag for a while, then in October when we went out for dinner to celebrate my 40th birthday, I asked my sister to feel it, as you do, and said “What do you reckon?”
She looked at me with a flash of concern over her face and said, “I reckon you should book that scan.”
All along I have been reminded how lucky I am. I have the “good” cancer. Detected early, treatable. I have the cancer that everyone throws money at. Yay me. I get it. I am lucky. So many others are not, I don’t for one second begin to compare my experience to anyone else’s.
What people don’t see with early breast cancer, especially the hormonal kind, is the treatment that continues long into the future. After the initial surgery and treatment (for me this was a mastectomy and chemotherapy), your oncologist eagerly starts you on hormone therapy.
I remember my oncologist swapping me from Tamoxifen to a combination of Zoladex implants and Exemestane. He said something like, “these will shut off your ovaries and this will stop any other hormones from attaching to cancer cells.”
Lovely. Let’s just shut off my ovaries, no biggie, right?
Then he adds, “but we will need to do a bone density test to get a base line reading as this can cause bone loss and osteoporosis.”