It's March 31, 2014, and today, I am officially five years cancer free - Happy Cancer-versary to me!
In March of 2009, I had my first mammogram at the age of 36. I had been feeling something unusual in my right breast - not a lump, but something that felt more like the discomfort I used to feel when I would get a plugged duct back in the days when I was nursing my daughters. Since I had stopped nursing a year before, I decided to have it checked out. I had my biopsy on Friday the 13th - and yes, I was joking with the other women in the waiting room about how that didn't bode well for all of us. Ironically, on a day that's supposed to be all about good luck, St. Patrick's Day, I was diagnosed with breast cancer - specifically, DCIS, or Ductal Carcinoma In Situ.
Because of the size of the growth, lumpectomy wasn't an option for me; since I knew I would need a mastectomy, I opted to go for a matched set and have a bilateral. I certainly didn't take the decision lightly, but in the grand scheme of things, if you have to get cancer, mine was the best type to have. Because mine was confined to the ducts, I never required chemo or radiation; the entire time from diagnosis to end of treatment was a total of 18 days, so I never really had a chance to feel like - or look like - I was ill. My experience with cancer amounted to what's essentially a cosmetic procedure - not one I would have ever chosen all on my own, but compared to the ordeals of many friends of mine, it's a relative cakewalk.
I'd like to claim that having cancer was a huge wake-up call for me that inspired me to change my ways - to exercise like crazy, to become a vegan, to meditate every day, or to use my newfound appreciation for life to change the world for the better on some grand scale, but I can't - and if you know me well, you're already laughing at the thought of me ever giving up pizza and a DVR. I was actually surprised by how much the same I felt after everything - I'm still the same old me, muddling through as best I can. I just look different without clothes on, and I'm cool with that.
It's been five years now, and some years I even forget the anniversary until it's gone by, but this year, I marked it on my calendar. In the cancer world, five years is a big deal. Help me celebrate - check yourself out and schedule a mammogram if you're overdue. You won't regret it.