If you run across a social media post that includes #LaSheaStrong well, that’s me. I invented it because the hashtag made me feel good. My name and “strong” together, well that’s an absolutely necessary combination right now.
In May of 2018, at the age of 43, I finally gave in to a nagging urge to go to the doctor. I hadn’t been to see a primary care physician in four years. Hey, I wasn’t sick. I felt fine. I stayed busy: working, not cooking at home enough/indulging in fast food. My husband and I juggled everything – who did what for the children, running them here and there – I didn’t have time to go to the doctor for just a general check-up.
Four years earlier, I found a really nice doctor and she noticed I had an issue with my thyroid. That lead to a biopsy, a referral to an endocrinologist – a doctor I would continue to follow up with to this day – and a benign result concerning my thyroid. Praise God!
Well, by May, I had been ignoring a lump in my left breast for quite some time. I believe a woman’s intuition is a real thing. I believe that God gives us nudges sometimes. He doesn’t stop until we take action. I made an appointment with a brand new PCP, vowing to return every year for general check-ups. I was still patting myself on the shoulder when I arrived for my mammogram appointment the following week. Since my concerns involved my breast, my doctor ordered a mammogram and an ultrasound. She assured me if the mammogram was clear, there would not be a need for the ultrasound.
This mammogram was my first. It’s awkward. It doesn’t really hurt, but it’s just something you have to do. Believe me folks, you should have your mammogram, as recommended by your doctor, if you have a history or any concerns. For me, my mammogram was followed by an ultrasound. When the ultrasound was complete, the technician asked that I wait in the room while she went to speak with the radiologist. I waited alone, wrapped in a soft robe, studying the details of the room. There was an image of a cherry blossom tree on the ceiling and the white and red hues from the ceiling light through that image were really the only light in the room. A few minutes later, the radiologist came into the room. He sat down inches from me and told me he was very concerned by the mammogram and ultrasound and I should take action as soon as possible. He advised me he would notify my primary doctor to schedule a breast MRI right away.
The following week, on a Monday, I went for the MRI that morning. Later that afternoon, my primary care doctor called me. The diagnostic report confirmed I had breast cancer.
Please know, aside from the lumps I found in my left breast, I had no other indications there was anything wrong. My blood work was perfect. Other than being overweight, I felt fine. Sometimes, cancer does not hurt. Especially at its onset.
At this time of my writing this post, we are at the beginning of 2019 I have completed initial rounds of chemotherapy and have had a mastectomy. I am continuing with chemotherapy and will eventually have radiation. I am not a medical professional, but I want to share my journey. I truly hope it will encourage, help others, and bring even more awareness to cancer.