An email from my aunt, JoAnn Forster…
I was 39 years old, no history of breast cancer in my family, a mother of a 13-year-old, single, committed to exercise and healthy eating, and my life was about to forever change. I had my yearly gynecological and breast exam two weeks before. I had no issues or concerns. My Doctor went thru the motions, and I happily breezed out of the office after having been pronounced healthy and good to go. Two weeks later I was doing a self-breast exam in the shower and felt something that sent an immediate rush of fear to my brain…. Fear, to no worries, to fear, to denial, to fast forward to what if, to fear, and to death.
I have always been very sensitive to my body and never had the comfort of youth of feeling invincible. Quite the contrary. Some of my earliest memories are warnings of vulnerability, and they have stayed with me, as I grow older.
I called my Doctor’s office and requested an appointment and was adamant that I did not want to wait for weeks. I saw him a few days later, and I was escorted to his office, not an exam room. I told him I felt a small lump in my breast. He smiled and assured me that he had done a thorough breast exam. I assured him in my normal, calm, assertive way that my 39 years of knowing my body and feeling this lump was worth his attention. He stood up and walked to me and asked me if he could he could feel it. To my shock, he did a quick exam over my clothes and once again assured me of my good health. I asked him for a proper exam, which he did. He said he felt nothing and tried very hard to be accommodating and caring. I told him that even if he could not feel it, I knew something was there, and I wanted to do all I could do to find out what was happening in my body. He reluctantly agreed to order a mammogram.
I owe so much to the young doctor who listened to me, even after the mammogram did not detect any growth. She would not give up, and to this day, she uses my case to demonstrate to her students the smallest tumor any patient found and was not initially detected thru standard tests. I had Stage 1 intraductal breast cancer in one breast. I opted for a mastectomy on that breast, and, a year later, on a prophylactic mastectomy on the other. I knew I would never have another day of peace for my son and myself if I didn’t do all I could do.
I am 64 years old with a wonderful husband, 3 kids, 3 grandkids, family I love, a great career, and daily reminders about how blessed I am. 25 years ago I fired that gynecologist and now work very hard to only have doctors that listen, are proactive, and don’t treat me in a condescending way.
Listen to your body.
Listen to your own instincts.
The message always comes.
Don’t be afraid to fight for yourself and for your own life. You are your own best advocate. If there are times when you cannot, make sure to have someone who can be and can speak for you. Fear is not a fact.
And… I asked my grandmother if she felt lucky… looking back.
Here’s a short clip.