Friday, January 28, 2011
Almost five years ago, a routine mammogram discovered an irregular spot in my breast so far back, almost touching my breast bone, that a routine self exam would not have detected it. A surgical biopsy later (which was actually a lumpectomy) revealed that "spot" was actually Stage I Invasive Breast Cancer. However, since it was caught early and small and had not yet spread to any lymph nodes, my treatment was radiation therapy for seven weeks, five years of check-ups, twice-a-year mammograms, and a daily dose of drug therapy (Arimidex).
Last month, I saw my surgical oncologist for the last time, today my mammogram marks my last one in the 5-year-out timeline that defines "cure," and these three bottles are my last round of the prophylactic pill I take daily. I am blessed to live in an age that can "cure" this once-deadly cancer, at least for many women. My doctor told me that because of its location, had I waited to detect this cancer by self-exam, it would have been too late.
I don't think often of being a cancer survivor; however, I am reminded keenly of the fact that I am one when I prepare to go to appointments like today or like last month. I no longer notice the little blue dots that tatoo my skin to signal the radiation coordinates. I mindlessly pop my little white pill daily along with my multivitmin, lutein, fish oil, B-complex, etc. etc., never noting that this pill is designed to prevent the estrogen buildup that fueled my cancer growth. And I can barely see the surgical scars that crisscross the skin of my left breast. But I am a cancer survivor and I admit to crying as I walk the survivor lap at the Relay for Life I participate in each year. I am grateful to be alive and grateful that reserachers devote their time and energy and passion and doctors do their jobs well and pharamaceutical companies develop new drugs and women allow themselves to participate in drug trials and families and friends walk to raise money....year after year after year....after year...