My 2nd Anniversary
Happy Anniversary to me! I can not believe that I am finally at the 2 year mark. Yes, 2 years ago today, I was diagnosed with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma, also known as breast cancer. I can now think about that dreaded day, February 5th, 2016, without immediately getting teary eyed. Don’t get me wrong, I still get a little choked up when I tell my story, as I relive some of the dreaded memories. I remember when I was first diagnosed, like it was yesterday. Back then, I remembered wishing that I could fast forward the time by at least 6 months to get through chemo, then another 6 months to get through my mastectomy and radiation, and getting back to feeling “normal again”. As much as I wanted the time to go by quickly, it felt like every day while receiving treatment, was like eternity.
Researcher shows that surviving breast cancer for 5 years, significantly reduces the risk of reoccurrence. The non medical community interprets this to mean that a women is not truly cancer free until after they are cancer free for 5 years. To me, each year with a clean mammogram, and being cancer free is a blessing. 5 years is just a bonus. I am a survivor.
To help put my cancer journey further and further in my rear view mirror, I began the breast reconstruction process about three months ago. Reconstruction is a huge step in not only healing, but also in becoming whole again. Breast reconstruction is an emotional journey within itself. It is not only a reminder of the cancer journey, but an opportunity to continue to heal. Unfortunately, reconstruction in my situation, is not a quick fix. In my situation, it is a journey of its own, involving multiple surgeries to prepare my damaged skin and tissue for the reconstruction. A journey that I am ready and prepared to take part in. Stay tuned, I will share more about my reconstruction journey soon.
Celebrate the survivor in your life. We are not promised tomorrow, so live and be thankful for each day.
My Saddest Moment
That is the title that my daughter chose, as she was assigned to write a story of her saddest moment.
My Saddest Moment
by; Kamari S
It was a sunny afternoon on February 5, 2016. My mom had bad news, she said…let me start from the beginning.
It was a beautiful afternoon, I was watching TV when my mom had something terrible to tell me. She said “I have been diagnosed with breast cancer.” I was shocked. I had nothing to say. I was extremely sad and I did not know if my mom would make it or not because I’ve heard that people die from breast cancer. So that got me scared and sad.
3-4 weeks later she started chemo. Chemo made her lose her hair so my granny went ahead and shaved my moms hair off. During chemo she had little pain, so we just had to adjust to this and everything was normal again. A week later things got better, and then I knew that I will still have her with me.
When my mom went in for her first surgery, the nurse had to cut off her whole entire breast. Out of nowhere I broke down crying (this was at school).
After school my aunt took me to see my mom. She was still alive. 1 week later everything was getting better by the minute. Now I’m happy to have my mom back.
Children are resilient and it was interesting to read my daughter’s perception of this time period. With children things are so temporary, and in this case that turned out to be a good thing. Talk to your children about your health and theirs as well. Because of my journey, my 10 year old daughter now knows how to perform a self breast exam and the importance thereof. Don’t assume children are too young or that they won’t understand. As you can read from my daughter’s essay, they understand more than we think. Their perception may be different, but it is their reality. We did our best to shelter my children from the really bad days of treatment, all the while praying that they would be over soon. In my daughter’s eyes everything happened quickly, but in reality there were weeks of testing, multiple doctors appointments, and unlimited tears shed.
As I embark on reconstruction surgeries, I have continued to be open with her. Fortunately, these surgeries don’t scare her as much as my mastectomy did. I am sure it is because I am free of cancer and on my way to being made whole again.
Breast Cancer Facts. Part 2
There are many facts and statistics surrounding breast cancer. Here are more interesting facts about the disease that most people do not know.
Breast Cancer Fact 1. Breast cancer was originally known as a nuns disease. This was due to the fact that more nuns were diagnosed with the disease. Researchers believe this was due to the fact that nuns did not have children, therefore had more periods, and more exposure to estrogen during their lifetime.
Breast Cancer Fact 2. 8 out of 10 lumps that are found are noncancerous. This means that 80% of lumps are not cancer. Nonetheless, don’t let this statistic cause you to ignore any lump.
Breast Cancer Fact 3. Every 19 seconds someone in the world is diagnosed with breast cancer. By the same token, this equates to approximately 3 people being diagnosed every hour. Moreover those calculations come to 75 people being diagnosed per day.
Breast Cancer Fact 4. One woman will die of breast cancer every 13-15 minutes in the United States. This startling statistic is one woman too many. Additionally, with early detection along with treatment, breast cancer is a treatable disease.
Breast Cancer Fact 5. The good news is that there are nearly 3 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. This number has increased over the years. With early detection and treatment this number can continue to increase.
Breast Cancer Fact 6. Lastly, research has shown that the left breast is more prone to developing breast cancer than the right breast. Scientists are not sure why this is true. In light of this research, my breast cancer was found in my right breast.
Breast Cancer Statistics, A Moving Target
These statistics are purely estimates and are ever changing. Available information and data surrounding breast cancer is constantly changing as research is becoming more advanced. Additionally, another reason for variances can be due to the varying time periods for which the data is collected and reported.
Breast cancer awareness is at an all time high in the month of October, but for a breast cancer survivor, like myself, every month deserves the same amount of attention. Be aware and be knowledgeable about this disease, one that affects so many women today.
Breast Cancer Facts. Part 1
There are many facts surrounding breast cancer. Some facts are unknown, some are well known, while others are startling. Being informed regarding the facts of breast cancer can save your life.
Last year in 2016, 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer was diagnosed. Moreover, an additional 61,000 non-invasive cases were also diagnosed.
Breast cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the US. This is 2nd only to lung cancer.
Over 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer annually. This is despite the fact that women are 200 times more likely to develop breast cancer.
Breast feeding for one year or more slightly decreases your risk of developing breast cancer. It is thought to be related to the fact that breastfeeding interrupting periods. Fewer periods, means less estrogen exposure. Further research also attributes this decreased risk to changes in the breast that occur after lactation.
8 out of 10 lumps are discovered by women themselves. This equates to 80% of all lumps. This further validates the need for self breast exams.
Only 42% of women who undergo a mastectomy go on to have breast reconstruction. Breast reconstruction is such a delicate subject. Treatment for breast cancer can be so emotionally draining, that some women are too exhausted to go through with reconstruction.
While there are many facts and statistics surrounding breast cancer, it is important to seek the expertise of a physician if you questions, concerns, or uncertainties.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors. Are You At Risk?
There is no way to prevent breast cancer, however knowing your risks, can help decrease your chance of developing breast cancer. There are several risk factors that put women at risk for developing breast cancer. Some of these risk factors are hereditary and can not be modified, while there are some that can be modified. Moreover, changing those risk factors that can be changed can decrease your chance of developing breast cancer tremendously.
Nonmodifiable Risk Factors
Being a Female. Though men can also get breast cancer, women are 100 times more likely to diagnosed with breast cancer.
Aging. Most breast cancers occur in women 55 years or older. More and more women are being diagnosed at a younger age.
Early Menstruation/Late Menopause. Starting your menstruation before the age of 12 increases your risk. This is due to having a longer lifetime exposure to estrogen. Likewise, having late menopause also poses a risk for the same reason.
Family History/Genetics. Only 5%-10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary. This is caused by genes passed down from a parent to their child. Likewise, 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.
Personal History. Having a previous cancer or radiation treatment to the chest or face, increases a women’s risk for developing breast cancer.
Ethnicity. White women are at a slightly higher risk for developing breast cancer than African American women. African American women, however, are more likely to be diagnosed before the age of 45. Furthermore, African American women are also more likely to die from breast cancer.
Modifiable Risk Factors
Obesity in Older Women. The link between weight and breast cancer risk is complicated. Ovaries, as well as fat tissue produce estrogen. Estrogen is linked to breast cancer. As women age and go through menopause the ovaries stop producing estrogen. Being overweight after menopause means that your fat tissue is still producing estrogen. Staying active, especially after menopause can decrease this risk factor.
Late or No Pregnancy. Unfortunately in some cases this is an unmodifiable risk factor. Nonetheless, the effects of pregnancy can vary for different types of breast cancer.
Taking Hormone Replacement for Greater than 5 years/Oral contraceptives. The risk varies depending on whether it is hormone replacement following menopause or taking oral contraceptives with hormones to prevent pregnancy. Most importantly, the time frame after stopping these hormones affect your risk of developing breast cancer.
Dense breast. Women with dense breast are at an increased risk for developing breast cancer. Dense breasts often make it more difficult to detect breast cancer by mammogram.
Drinking alcohol. Your risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Drinking more than 1 drink per day increases your risk.
This is not an all inclusive list of risk factors as cancer research is ongoing. Some other risk factors with unclear effects on breast cancer include; tobacco smoking, chemicals in the environment, and even working night shift. Knowing your breast cancer risk is very important. Regardless of your risk, everyone should be screened for breast cancer. Early detection is the key to survival. Breast cancer can affect anyone, as it crosses racial and social barriers. No one is immune to breast cancer.