October 1 marks the start of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Did you know . . . .

* Breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women after skin cancer.

*About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.

The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.

  • If you are a woman age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them.
  • If you are a woman age 50 to 74, be sure to get a mammogram every 2 years. You may also choose to get them more often.

Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours had breast or ovarian cancer. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms.

MY PERSONAL STORY

Today, on my way to hot yoga, I wore pink as part of my sorority’s — Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated — Breast Cancer Awareness Community Impact Day, and share my story:

For about 20 years or so, each annual mammogram was followed by phone call.  A phone call from a concerned health care provider — who wanted a closer look at the scans — just to be on the safe side.  The first time I received the call, I was a nervous wreck.  I wouldn’t allow myself to contemplate the question: what if I had cancer?  Year after year . . . phone call after phone call . . . all ended with fabulous news!! NEGATIVE FOR CANCER!!  What they saw was just dense, noncancerous, fibrocystic breast tissue.  The problem with such tissue type is that it makes it almost impossible to immediately distinguish between MY normal tissue and the onset of potentially cancerous cells.  Nevertheless, I continued to go for my annual mammograms, as prescribed by my physician, and slowly, I became de-sensitized to their inevitable follow up calls.  Once, I even suggested scheduling the follow up screening at the same time as the mammogram (to cut out the extra steps . . . reviewing the original scans . . . waiting for the phone call . . . scheduling the next appointment).  I did not take the “need to be sure” for granted – but truthfully – I had grown accustomed to the same positive outcome.  Until I got THAT call in 2007. POSITIVE FOR BREAST CANCER.

However, that call did not come from my healthcare providers, but from my sister; she had been positively diagnosed with breast cancer.  It was an early diagnosis; she completed her treatment regime and is to this day, she is a breast cancer SURVIVOR and has been for nearly 11 years.  I do not intend to minimize her physical, mental, emotional, spiritual journey while battling breast cancer, yet simply, the details of which are not mine to share — they are hers.

Yet because of her breast cancer diagnosis and other factors such as the age I began menstruating, the number of pregnancies, my race and ethnicity, even my weight, I just recently learned that the likelihood of me getting diagnosed with breast cancer is actually 3x higher (yikes) than the 1 in 8 noted above.

Thankfully, for the past 20+ years, I have been blessed to be cared for by a team of medical professionals in Virginia, Texas and Arkansas, who have taken the most vigilant approach to screening, detection, analysis and follow ups. These girls have been pressed, pinched, scanned, radiated, biopsied, aspirated and tagged.  That’s a good thing!

Because I have adult daughters, I have undergone genetic testing to determine whether my girls are at an even higher risk of a breast cancer diagnosis.

 

It was NEGATIVE!!

I now participate in a high-risk Cancer Awareness and Risk Evaluation protocol, which means I have either a mammogram/sonogram combo or MRI every six months (the technology keeps on getting better).

I have to get my weight to a number that is LESS than what it is now.  Which means, I have to be even more dedicated to my fitness and diet regime – because my life very well depends on it.

I am grateful for the opportunities that have afforded me access to quality health care and recognize that, since no one person is greater than another, such access should be available to all.  See the Screening Guidelines for more information and resources that may be available in your area.

 

20 Comments

  1. Ronetta – thank you for this beautiful post. My mother is a two time survivor, and a gene carrier. I began “enjoying” an annual trip to get things checked out at age 35. It is important to talk about it, to be honest about what we can do to help minimize (I may join you in the fitness regime if you’ll have me) and most important to be vigilant. We are blessed and benefit from those who have journeyed before and with continued education those after will benefit.

    • Jules,
      I am so glad to hear the fantastic news about your mother overcoming cancer – twice! She is definitely a warrrior. You are more than welcome to join me ANYTIME — trust me: the extra accountability is just what I need.

  2. Thank you for sharing and for allowing us to be privy to your journey! While reading, I felt like I was sitting in front of you, just listening (which I could do all day)! 😉 Proud of you for starting this journey and looking forward to future posts! 💗💚💗💚

  3. You are blooming! Great job and great information. I know about the call and had a biopsy in 2011 that came back negative for cancer. I am blessed that I have not received the “diagnosis” but I know it can come at any time.

    • Ane –
      Stay vigilant with your screenings and follow ups. Early detection is definitely key. We’ve got this, sis!

  4. Ronetta, thank you for sharing this story. First of all, yes He Will Do It. Just Believe.

    As a nurse practitioner of 20 + years, I’ve had an opportunity to impact women’s health even in several geographical regions even in the great state of Arkansas and specifically NWA. During the month of October, I wear pink daily along with my pin or bracelet. A school-age girl asked me this evening, why are you wearing a pink sweatshirt with pockets? I began to tell her in an age appropriate way about breast cancer. She responded by sharing her story and understanding cancer that involved a family member with testicular cancer. We never know who we will impact along the way.

    We have to continue to empower each other. Health disparities plaque our community. There is power in numbers. Let’s join in and encourage and empower friends, family, and communities.

    Thanks for sharing. Let Go and Let GOD!!! Let your journey begin.

    • Tracie –

      You are so right – we all have to do our part in sharing the importance of a proactive and preventative approach to our health care. We have got to change some of these statistics.

  5. Outstanding Post! Even more informative than recent articles I’ve read on breast cancer awareness. Keep on blooming where you’re planted! Love it!😁

    • Amanda –
      Thank you for your support and encouraging words, sis. I am delighted that you found the message helpful and I know you are taking good care of yourself. You’d better 🙂

  6. Ronetta, thank you for launching your blog with this post. It drives hole the message that we must be vigilant and mindful of our risks and eliminate them. Every little action and every ounce of prevention counts (The weight comments hit home for me).

    Thank you for raising awareness and reminding us to spread the word about prevention and awareness.

    • Sybil –
      Thank you for being so supportive; you have always been so warm and kind. Breast cancer awareness is such an important topic – that too often is ignored, until it is too late. I am grateful for the platform to share my voice – with the prayer that it touches, inspires, motivates and uplifts at least one.

  7. Your story sounds like mine. I have the same issue dense tissue. But God, he’s been faithful and he is a keeper. I have a mammogram yearly, as directed by my physician. I shared your story on Facebook, because we need to encourage women to take care of themselves and not walk in fear.

    • We have so much to be thankful for — especially access to healthcare that allows for screening and early detection. Thank you for sharing your story, and for passing mine along with family and friends.

  8. Ronetta, thank you for taking that courageous step of sharing your journey. Every word is valued and informative. But most important leads to blessing others in more ways than one. I’m looking forward to future post.

    • Thank you, Valerie. I am encouraged if at least one person is blessed by this message and is inspired to action – to share their story or to schedule that overdue mammogram. Until next time . . . 🙂

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