Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How about a little power boost today?

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Last year we had Friend-of-the-Playground Pamela Hearon visit and blog about her experience with breast cancer. Earlier this year, my then-neighbor Kelley began an online journal about her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer and she’s agreed to share with us today a little of her story.

Please scooch over and make room around the sandbox for Kelley.

Knowledge is power. I believe that is a very true statement. The problem comes when knowledge is also very scary. To be more specific, all my life I have been afraid to go to the doctor. I can’t tie it back to one incident that started this feeling or one doctor that was particularly frightening. All I know is when I am confronted with needing to go to a doctor, my instincts kick in and I go into survival mode. I know that sounds strange but that is how I feel. Every fiber of my being is screaming, “Don’t go!”. It is not that I am afraid of needles, white coats, blood, or even pain. I am afraid that I will learn something totally horrifying. After all, doctors have a knack for finding something wrong with you.

My breast cancer was thus discovered and diagnosed in a very unorthodox fashion. I presented myself to the emergency room with a very swollen breast. I thought I had a very bad infection and initially it looked that way. The surgeon on call that day who showed up to do a simple drainage of an abscess felt a biopsy was in order for a few reasons and did so while in surgery. He was right do to it because that biopsy proved to be positive. He delivered the news three days later that I indeed had breast cancer.

Scary knowledge. That’s what it was. Learning was scary. Scary pathology reports. Scary statistics. Scary choices. See, I was right! Doctors are scary!
Are a lot of you shaking your heads yet? I imagine you are thinking about how silly a grown woman must be to be scared to go for check ups and things like mammograms. I don’t care. To me this fear is real. My point in writing this down and sending it out is that if there is another woman out there who has this same fear and it keeps her from taking care of herself, then maybe she will know she is not alone and hopefully I can encourage that woman to find someone to help her. Maybe you know someone like this and you have thought that woman was lazy or stupid. If you do, please read on because maybe you could help that woman more than you ever know.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am not lazy. I work hard as a mom and a wife and feel I do a great job. I am also not stupid. I understand the importance of preventive medicine and finding diseases in early stages to improve the chance of recovery. But to get up and walk to the phone and make that appointment is so overwhelming that I just can not do it.

So, how do you help someone like me. Nagging is not the way. Telling me over and over that I just simply have to do it doesn’t work. I know I need to do it. I just can’t. I think it might be as simple as calling that woman and saying, “I know you are scared. What can I do to help make it less scary?” Then, be willing to do that. Don’t patronize but be there to listen and to help.
To the woman with the fear, I hope you can find the strength to call someone and ask for the support you need. I know it is hard but there are people who are willing to help if you just ask. I hope you will be braver than me and find courage that I couldn’t. Can I promise it won’t be scary? No. What I can promise is that there are people that will help you and guess what? Some of them are doctors and nurses! Yes, I did get the rolling of the eyes and the shaking of the heads from some of them, but I ignore them and move on to the ones who treat me with respect and caring no matter how nervous I am. They are out there and if that gives you the knowledge you need to take that first step, then I hope I gave it to you.

As for me and my health, I am not quite ready to rehash the details and the specifics about my cancer but it was caught early and had not spread to my lymph nodes. I am done with my chemo treatments and am preparing for radiation to start. I am blessed with a family that has been totally supportive, friends that keep my spirits up, and a medical team that welcomes me with open arms and has the knowledge to give me the power I need to move forward.

For more information about breast cancer and what you can do to help find a cure, go to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure website.

And go to
The Breast Cancer Site to help fund free mammograms for women who might ordinarily not have access to them.

And last but certainly not least, keep abreast of your own body by doing breast self examination every month.


Problem Child said...

It is an odd dichotomy -- I don't want to go to the doctor because he might find something wrong with me (but he can't treat what he doesn't know about). I know, I have a bit of that, too.

It's one of the reasons I'm passionate about health care issues right now. I've had the same ob/gyn for over 15 years, and I trust him (so much that I drove to B'ham to have a baby instead of finding an OB up here in Huntsville!) I think everyone should have the ability to develop a good, long-term relationship with their doctor, regardless of who their insurance company wants them to see. That relationship is what helps quell the fear and save lives with early detection of disease.

Angel said...

What an awesome story! PM has mentioned your courage and strength several times throughout your journey. After reading today, I realize you faced more than you thought you could before you even knew you had cancer. It is a scary thing at times to pick up the phone. I'm so proud of you and I'm sure your family is too.

Congratulations on your success so far! What an inspiration. Thanks for joining us!


Pamela Hearon said...

You are not alone. My sister (who is 60) will not go for a mammogram because of fear. Our grandmother, our mother, and I all had breast cancer. She's terrified. Up to now, I've nagged. You've helped me to understand how and why i need to change tactics. Thanks for your candor today.