Breast Cancer Awareness

Diane Klumb

One of my co-workers at the office brought me the ad in The Miami Herald asking people to send in their story. I e-mailed her to say thanks but my story really does not seem that dramatic. I said that lots of other women had a harder time than I did. She wrote back and said my case is especially important because it places emphasis on the issue of early detection which is important for people to remember. She said it would not only be good for me to write my story but it would be helpful to others and I should reconsider. So I did.

Back in July of 2007, I went to my surgeon’s office for my annual mammogram. I had many issues over the years with lumps and even had a few surgeries to remove questionable masses but never any cancer. Now I’m over 60 and post-menopausal so I want to be sure to do the right thing. The doctor’s office calls and says they see a tiny little spot on my mammogram that looks suspicious. From then until October, I go for spot compression tests, ultrasound tests, two different kinds of biopsies and every other kind of test available. I go online to the Susan G. Komen web site and every other web site I can find and read everything I can about breast cancer. Friends give me phone numbers of other friends who have gone through it and I call and e-mail them and talk about it.

My surgeon calls me at work. The call you dread receiving. You hear the doctor’s voice, not the nurse, so you know it is not going to be good news. You hear her say you have to have surgery because all the tests seem to indicate that your breast is 90 percent okay and 10 percent not okay. The “C” word does not really come up at this point. I tell her I want to get a second opinion. She says no problem. I go and do that. It turns out the doctor I select for the second opinion was a former colleague of my surgeon and had nothing but praise for her. I call her and say I am ready.

During this time, my friends at the office organize a group for the breast cancer walk and collect a bunch of money and have a brunch after the walk. This all happens two weeks before my surgery. I am very encouraged but still afraid of what is ahead of me. My surgery is October 25th and I remember thinking how appropriate it is to have breast cancer surgery during breast cancer awareness month. I feel like this is not really happening to me. Then the surgery comes. I wake up afterward and am told they did a lumpectomy, the sentinel nodes were clean, and I will not know anything for sure until all the labs come back but it looks good. I go home, get looked after by friends and the nurse who comes by to check on me and I wait for that call. A week or so later, I get the call and they tell me they got it all. I just have to have seven weeks of radiation and start taking a cancer drug for five years. I feel blessed. It could have been so different. I write a thank you letter to the person who found that tiny spot that didn’t look right. I vow to never postpone a mammogram appointment for the rest of my life. Neither should you.