Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 25

Today’s personal stories are my recollection of stories told to me by people who I have met through my cancer journey. There is a common thread, with a moral at the end of the stories…

One woman had found a lump using self-checks. She went to her ob-gyn who didn’t feel anything and told her she was fine. Months later, the lump was getting bigger, so she went to her new doc who sent her for a mammogram that confirmed the tumor. Fortunately, it still had not spread. Unfortunately, because it had grown so much, she needed a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation.

Another, with a family history of breast cancer, was diagnosed with a tumor in one breast. (I don’t know the circumstances of her diagnosis.) She told the doctors she wanted a double mastectomy. They were hesitant – they’d found cancer in only one breast, and even that entire breast didn’t need to be removed. She was young and they thought a double mastectomy was an overreaction. She persisted, and they relented. After biopsying both breasts, they found cancer in both. They told her it was very small in the undiagnosed side and probably would have shown up in three to four years.

A guy who I saw at chemo every week for months had had a colonoscopy that showed problems, but the doctor told him not to worry about it, that he was too young to have cancer. When I met him, it was four years later. He was on his second full course of treatment after the first one didn’t work for the cancer that had spread from his colon to his liver.

Doctors know a lot. But they don’t know you as well as you know you. If you know something is wrong and your doctor blows you off, get another opinion. You might be relived to hear someone say it’s nothing, but them telling you it’s nothing doesn’t actually make it nothing. Seeing doctors is scary. Getting tests done is scary. Getting a diagnosis is terrifying. But Stage 1 is infinitely better than Stage 4, and the only difference is time…

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