I can only imagine what stage I'd have been in if I waited another year.
My breast cancer journey is intertwined with my mom because we went through our journey's together in 2019 with her diagnosis in August and mine in September. 2019 will always be the worst year of my life. It began with my dad receiving a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) and the first few months were spent in shock, trying to find our new battle rhythm, and manage his disease along with both of my parents’ other medical issues. By the time my mammogram came due, I just couldn't add another appointment to my already full schedule, and I felt safe waiting a year because we had no family history. Then my mom found a lump, went for an exam and they ordered a biopsy. This was my sign that I needed to schedule my mammogram, but I still wasn't worried. Mothers and daughters get breast cancer, but I never in a million years would have thought we would go through it together. With our cancer being discovered at the same time and my "early" diagnosis, the doctors ordered genetic testing to see if there was a link and we found out that while the cancer had not shown in our family, we both have a gene mutation that put us in extremely high risk for it. Now I also know that my beautiful 20-year-old daughter also carries the gene mutation and will have to be closely watched to make sure she doesn't also develop cancer. At first my cancer was localized into the left breast, but my mom had it in both breasts, so I decided to have a double mastectomy. but my doctors wanted to do a lumpectomy with some "prep" work before the big surgery and at that time they took more samples but from both breasts this time. As it turns out I had more cancer in my right breast than I did on the left. Because I went for the mammogram when I did, my cancer was found in the early stages. Mom and I had our mastectomies within days of each other in two separate hospitals with varying results. I spent extra days in the ICU because of hemorrhaging and they couldn't get all of the breast tissue. We are both cancer free as of 2020 but I am still being watched closely after my new mammograms. I still stress myself out before each scan, but I go, with fingers crossed that nothing else will be found. From this journey, I now understand that I had no clue about breast cancer and the importance of mammograms; you don't need a family history, you don't need to feel a lump, whatever the excuse; everyone should get their annual check and make it a priority. I can only imagine what stage I'd have been in if I waited another year. I share my story with others, so they won't make my mistake in thinking I knew about breast cancer risks.