As I begin my first blog post, let me admit to you that I am a purely amateur writer and have barely even read any other blogs. I don't quite know where to begin, but I think I 'll start by telling you about the cancer that set me on this current journey I'm on.
I was 47 when I was first diagnosed with Her2 positive breast cancer. I'd had regular mammograms for many years, probably since my 30's, but the cancer had gone undetected because I had dense breasts. I'm told this is common, so if any of you ladies have this also -- let me encourage you to do your self-exams, get mammograms, and even ultrasounds or MRI's if your doctor will approve it. I was told that my cancer had likely been growing for 3-4 years before it was finally detected. At this point it had spread to lymph nodes and was considered Stage 3.
Prior to my diagnosis, I had a much different perception of breast cancer, and I'm afraid that many women still do. I didn't think of it as a life-threatening disease, but rather I thought that the worst that could happen would be that I'd have to have a mastectomy and lose my breasts. I've had people comment to me about other "more serious" types of cancer, as though I merely had the flu and would be feeling better after a bowl of soup. I have to admit, I used to feel the same way about breast cancer.
When my oncologist discussed my course of treatment, which included chemo, surgery, radiation, and more chemo, I looked at my calendar and planned for sometime next year when it would be all over and my life would get back to "normal." Little did I know that my life would take on a whole different kind of "normal" and that cancer is an ongoing battle, whether that is by body or by spirit or both.
I had a couple of doctors tell me that mine was an "aggressive" form of breast cancer, but I was new to "cancer speak" and I took this to mean "don't put off treatment" and "we'll have to be aggressive in our treatment plan." I never thought that "aggressive" meant life-threatening. After all, this was JUST breast cancer, right? Since then, the cancer has spread twice to my lung and recently to my brain so my battle goes on!
I recently watched a TV show with a well-known doctor on the topic of breast cancer. I was excited to watch it and hoped to hear of some new developments. Instead, I heard the doctor seem to downplay the seriousness of breast cancer. He even ended by stating that breast cancer is survivable (in some cases, yes, but not always). I was ready to start throwing things at the TV by that point! I fear that half-truths like that only perpetuate women's tendency to not take breast cancer seriously.
Here are some breast cancer truths for 2010 (per the National Cancer Institute and breast cancer.org):
- Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer in women worldwide
- 261,900 women developed breast cancer in the US in 2010
- 39,840 women died from the disease in the US in 2010, roughly 110 every day
- About 1 in 8 US women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime
Just a few more statistics -- about 20-25% of all breast cancers are Her2 positive (mine) and of those with Her2, only 10-16% eventually have disease that spreads throughout the central nervous system including the brain. You would have thought that the odds were in my favor!
I hope that perhaps through my blog I can help spread a warning among women -- take breast cancer seriously and get thorough exams! It continues to be an amazing journey through which the Lord carries me, blesses me, and teaches me along the way. In my next blog I want to begin sharing some of the stories and experiences and lessons I've learned on this journey. I am 5 years late in starting this blog, so I have a lot to catch up on! I hope it will be a serendipity to you!