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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Being Your Own ADVOCATE


 Being diagnosed with cancer taught me a lot of things.  One of the greatest things it taught me was the importance of being my own advocate.  You can't exactly treat cancer with an antibiotic.  If you go to the doctor for a sinus infection and the doctor prescribes medicine, you may or may not take it.  Regardless, the sinus infection will more than likely go away over time.  Cancer is different.  The majority of society knows little to nothing about the complexity of cancer and what drugs are necessary to fight it off.  With that being said, cancer patients tend to trust their physicians without asking a lot of questions.  I mean.....what do we know?  THEY must know what methods will work best in fighting this deadly disease.  Our life is in THEIR hands. Since my diagnoses I have met numerous women who have found a lump in their breast and because they were "to young to be diagnosed with breast cancer", they were told to keep an eye on it over the next few months.  For women without a family history or who are uneducated about the risk of developing breast cancer, this may not seem like an unreasonable request.  They trust their physician knows best and they are given the confidence and comfort that it is more than likely nothing to worry about......and in most cases, this is true.  However, there are women who are not as fortunate.  They wait, they watch, and a follow-up appointment leads to devastating news.  The small lump that was there a few months ago, has grown, possibly spread,  and is in fact....breast cancer.

Although I had a strong family history, I too was told that the lump I had discovered was more than likely nothing more than a fibroadenoma.  I found comfort in the fact that my doctor believed it was nothing more....despite a grandmother who had died from the disease and a mother that had been diagnosed almost exactly 20 years earlier.  An ultrasound led to a mammogram, a mammogram to a biopsy, and a biopsy to a breast cancer diagnosis.  All of sudden, that same doctor who had given me the confidence that I had nothing to worry about was now telling me that the prognosis of a woman my age diagnosed with breast cancer was not good.  That was 2 1/2 years ago.....and here I am, alive and well.  I think the prognosis is better than what he assumed it to be.  However, I might stand corrected had I not insisted on getting a mammogram.  I cannot speculate what might have been, however, I can compare my own circumstances to those who have been told they are to young to get breast cancer, and are now in the fight of their life. 

This posting is not meant to speak against those in the medical profession.  I credit all those involved in my journey to helping save my life.  Whether you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or not, the thing I want all women to remember is that YOU are your own advocate.  YOU know your body.  A lump in your breast is not normal.  Does it mean it's cancer?  Not necessarily.  But wouldn't you rather know that it's not cancer, than to wait and take the chance of it being something much more serious.?  No one can physically fight breast cancer for you.  The physicians can administer the drugs, the surgeons can remove your breasts.....but at the end of day, you are still the one left fighting.  Do not settle for less than the best.  Every woman has something to live for.  If you are not receiving the care that you know you deserve, it's time to find that team of doctors that will support you. 

If you are a young woman, don't wait to do your self-exams.  Start now.   You are NOT to young to develop breast cancer.  Your odds might be less, but the fact is, young women are being diagnosed everyday.  Take control of YOUR circumstances and YOUR life.  Those who are closest to you and love you will thank you for BEING YOUR OWN ADVOCATE!   

4 comments:

*Erica* said...

Amen, Amen, and High Five, Mel! It is so clear to us who have lived it;-)

Beth L. Gainer said...

I love your blog. I think it is so important for people to be their own advocate, as you and I are.

Kerri said...

Your story is an inspiration to me. I too, am a 28 y.o. woman diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in July. Only because I pushed the doctors to have it checked. I just started chemo last week... it's going to be a long journey but because of other young women like you, I know I can do it.

Bruce said...

Great post

Breast cancer Care