thank-you for being there. thank-you for being part of my circle. i couldn't have made it through this year without you.
in honor of this anniversary, i want to offer a little something more than words. leave me a comment on this post and be entered into a drawing for something fabulous, made by me. i'll draw the lucky name on november 27, the anniversary of my surgery. this idea came from another blogger and thought it would be fun!
there are so many things i didn't know when i wrote this, one year ago. i still had some innocence. i still had respect for my surgeon from before, nearly eight years ago now. i didn't know the truth about phyllodes sarcoma, my turnip's medical name. i walked through the world thinking i was safe, that it was nothing, just a tumor.
and what is a tumor, actually? well, it is cancer.
a tumor is a tent revival of rogue cells. maverick cells, really. normal, sensible cells of the body that turn crazy, get excited, then clump together and reproduce. in the case of a phyllodes sarcoma, they reproduce quickly, these tumors can grow from nothing to the size of a baseball in just a few months. it feels like they grow overnight.
after my first one years ago, which was thankfully on the benign end of the spectrum, my surgeon was very reassuring. he didn't even call it cancer. he patted my hand and told me what anyone would want to hear. he said i was more likely to win the lottery or be hit by lightening than to get another one of these very rare breast tumors.
a year ago today, i sure didn't feel like i won the lottery. being hit by lightening only hints at how surprised and blindsided i felt.
what i know now is much, much more about phyllodes sarcoma than the vast majority of general surgeons out there and probably most surgical oncologists as well. what i know now, is that if my surgeon had done his research, he would have gone in for a second surgery and taken more tissue. he would have had to get clear margins around the tumor, to prevent it's recurrence. my pathology report even spelled it out, that recurrence was a probability. not just possible, but probable! so yes, those sneaky rogue cells he left behind eventually re-grouped and formed another tumor, the turnip i have been writing about this year.
funny thing about those rogue cells, they took seven years to find each other, to re-group and start reproducing like crazy, but when they did? those cells were stronger than the first time. the second tumor wasn't benign, it was more aggressive. the second tumor was on it's way to being dangerous. that second tumor meant business.
i found both tumors because i touch my breasts. i know them, i examine them. i treasure my breasts and even though i don't have breast cancer in my family, i did self breast exams. most breast cancers can be caught early, most will not get to the dangerous point if treated early.
here is my advice for every woman:
- no woman is too young for breast cancer. don't be naive, do your self-exams. don't allow any doctor to brush you off, or minimize your risks, because you are under 40. phyllodes specifically, even though a rare cancer, is more commonly found in younger women.
- trust yourself. trust your gut and your instincts and your heart. doctors are not gods. don't take every first opinion, do your research as fearlessly as you can. find doctors you can trust.
- know your breasts. love your body and learn it's landscape. tune in to the changes in breast tissue through your cycle and always self-examine the same time very month, ideally 5-7 days after your period starts. if you don't have periods, just pick a date on the calender and do it on the same day every month, without fail.
please don't let yourself or any woman you love become one of the unlucky. practice self-love through regular exams. be brave, face any fears you have around cancer and take care of yourself. you are the only you there is and this world needs you.
what i know now is that catching breast cancer early is still the best hope we have. it's in your hands. our hands.
images found here. thank-you, maryam, for posting them.