Monday, October 3, 2011

What You Can You Celebrates a Breast Cancer Survivor

Hey everyone! Jessica here, the creator of What You Can Do. One of the things that I have loved most about working on this project is the collaboration that ensues with our talented community. When we were thinking about what we could do to honor those affected by breast cancer this month, we asked for someone to share their story with us. We were so honored when Katie Parker, a 37 year old, one year breast cancer survivor/ speaker /writer and 2011 Pink Together Ambassador offered to share her remarkable journey with us. Over the month of October we will be sharing with you Katie’s story in her own words. We hope it inspires you as much as it inspires us.

I'm Katie. A 37 year old breast cancer survivor. I will be writing a series of blogs detailing my experience with breast cancer. This first blog is about how I learned I had breast cancer.

The last thing I ever expected to hear from a doctor was "You have breast cancer." Breast cancer does not run in my family, there was nothing in my general health history to indicate that this diagnosis would be a possibility, nor had I ever had any pain or problems in my breast area. However, on May 23, 2010, at age 36, I was being told over the phone by a radiologist that breast cancer was now my reality.

Without family history, pain or problems or specific health concern, you may be wondering why I decided to have a mammogram. At the time, I was working in a radiology clinic and noticed that several women my age were calling in to schedule what's called a baseline mammogram. Since the clinic I was working in offered free digital mammograms to eligible employees, I figured that I would get one. After all, it was free and I like free things. At a regular check up with my primary care doctor, I informed her of my decision to get a mammogram. She advised me to wait a year. As crazy as it seems, this was not bad advice. Remember, there's no family history or a specific health reason why I should have one. Thinking about it for a month, I decided to have one anyway. The mammogram took about ten minutes and I expected to move on with my life and resume regular screenings at age 40.

A few days later, I was notified that there was an area of concern found and needed to have more images taken. This is what's called additional views or add views. This did not alarm me, and I expected this due to density in my breasts. During my add views, I was told that an ultrasound was needed. When that was completed, I was informed that a biopsy was needed and was being done right then and there. As I was being prepped for the biopsy, the radiologist gently informed me that the results would most likely be breast cancer. Even if it wasn't cancer, the mass would still need to be removed. Since it wasn't quite 8:00 a.m., it was a lot to take in. Plus, I just had this done because it was free! I was thinking that I was getting a little more than I bargained for. Once the biopsy was completed, I was given specific instruction to keep the biopsy area as cold as possible to prevent pain. I was provided with ice packs to keep and use for the remainder of the day.

Once everything was done, I simply returned to work. Since all of this was done by the company I worked for, I just had to drive to the building I worked at and start my work day. No big whoop. It was a Friday and I had lots to do during the upcoming weekend. Even though I was told that cancer would be the likely outcome, I was still shocked by the diagnosis when I received the call at home two days later (a Sunday evening). It was during that call that I knew I had received the freebie of all freebies. The cancer was caught early. Very early. Good news! The cancer type was invasive ductile cancer, the most common type of breast cancer. The second bit of good news was that it was treatable. The radiologist told me that I would look back on this later in life and see this all as a big inconvenience. Next steps were to notify friends/families/boss and to wait until the next day to meet with the surgeon and determine what the next steps would be.

NEXT BLOG: I'll tell you about my meetings with the surgeon, oncologist and let you how my surgery went!

So, if you only have 60 seconds, what can you do to give yourself the best chance to survive breast cancer? Call your doctor's office or local imaging center to get scheduled for a mammogram!

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