Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guest blogger -- Lessons from a Survivor

I always like to do a "boob blog" in October (past blogs are here and here) since it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this is such an important topic for women. I put out the call on Facebook Monday and in a couple hours I had my guest blogger lined up. Ya gotta love Facebook! So without further ado, here's Deborah Stephenson.

I was playing with my new oversized Doberman puppy and he kept pawing at my breast. I just laughed, since he was a male dog and thought he was just nuzzling me. He continued and then without warning, he swung his head terribly hard into my right breast. I grabbed my breast in extreme pain and to my shock, a huge lump became obvious. This lump had not been there before but now protruded enough to be quite apparent, even visually.

I made an appointment with my primary care physician to check it out. It was a very large tumor that had been totally hidden until the dog hit me, and it had begun to hemorrhage. The doctor was fairly certain that it was malignant and sent me to a cancer specialist for a biopsy.

Lesson #1 Do not assume that you will be able to detect a lump by self exams only.

Lesson #2 Sonograms are better at identifying suspicious lumps than mammograms.

Lesson #3 If in question, see a qualified specialist right away and order a biopsy.

Lesson #4 Some dogs can smell cancer. Notice if they act strangely towards any part of your body.

Lesson #5 Research! Find the very best surgeon and cancer specialist. Never rely on your current doctor just because you like him. Find someone with a very high percentage of successes and one that specializes in breast cancer only. They read sonograms with 10 times the magnification and their radiologist read only breast x-rays. Select the most extreme treatment since you have only one first chance to beat a cancer diagnosis. I have lost many friends that chose saving a breast instead of the priority to save their life.

Marilyn and I attended school together and she may even share our 7th grade picture together at Clara Harris School in Concord. It is a blessing to be sharing this story with you, at her request.

I battled cancer again in 2007. The picture above was taken during my chemo treatments. I actually had no hair, no eye lashes or eye brows, but still have a song in my heart. The most important personal lessons that I learned: Never let your circumstances change your joy of living. Live each moment as though it were your last!! Live in the now, always.

Schedule your check up today. Early detection can be a life saver.

Thanks Marilyn!!!!

And here's that 7th grade photo she talked about. Folks who can correctly identify both of us will be put into a drawing for a book.


PM's Mother said...

Marilyn, that is you on the far left of the front row. You are wearing a maroon jumper that your Aunt Phyllis made and gave to you as a Christmas gift. I made the blouse you are wearing from a floral print fabric that your great aunt Hattie gave to you. How's that from an 83 year-old mind? But for the life of me the only other person I recognize is John McGinnis who was principal of Clara Harris School. He's the tall older fellow on the back row. But what was Deborah's maiden name and where is she in the photo? Was Pam Sides in that photo? If so I should recognize her! Great post!

PS: This new computer is driving me crazy!

Angel said...

Great blog!!! Thank you, Deborah, for sharing your story with us. My maternal grandmother died of breast cancer, so this is an issue near and dear to me.

I know a lot of women refuse to get their mammograms because its a pain, or they figure ignorance is bliss, or they just don't want to bother. Sometimes they won't because they don't have insurance. I really admire my mother, who has every reason to avoid this procedure. She's been without insurance for years, and she has fibrous breast tissue, so every time they run the test, they usually find something they have to investigate (though she's never had any actual cancer--thank the Lord!). On top of that, having her mammogram makes her very uneasy and afraid, because her mother died of breast cancer.

Yet every year, my mother goes in to have this procedure (and usually follow ups) done. She could avoid it, she could blow it off, she could claim she doesn't have the money for it (which she often doesn't). Instead, she fights all of these obstacles to stay on top of a potentially fatal diagnosis. For that, she's my hero!

Don't let excuses stand in your way. Save the ta-tas!!!


Katherine Bone said...

Great to see you here, Deborah! ;)

I can't imagine the struggles you've faced in the past few years. Very interesting about your dog. I wasn't aware that they could smell cancer, though I did know dogs were very perceptive about other things.

Wishing you great health and a long and blessed life!

Betsy Arey Freeman said...

Deb...I am so sorry for what you have been thru and I know your story will help others become proactive in their own care. Thanks Marilyn for your blog and for spreading the word. I know where you both are in the picture but I don't think it is fair for me to speak up since I well remember those days at Clara Harris! Betsy Arey Freeman

Kathy Bunch said...

Thank you Marilyn and Deb for the awareness blog. Courageous women always lead the way. It's always hearwarming to hear the stories of all the brave women who were sickened to hear the news, but brave enough to fight and survive.

Marilyn, you are on the first row, far left. Deb, you are on the second row, second from the right. I probably shouldn't be entered in the contest, as I am to close to the source. I do want to be counted as praising you to beautiful women. Thank You

Betsy Love said...

Deb, I admire your zeal for life and courage to overcome the obstacles along the way.

Marilyn, thanks so much for the blog. It's a great service to all women.

Problem Child said...

My boobs are not worth my life. They don't define me. Of course, maybe the fact that I barely have any at all to begin with has something to do with this feeling...

Anonymous said...

Thank you to Deborah for the story and to Marilyn for helping to raise awareness. This time last year I was finishing chemo and heading into my radiation therapy. I am feeling so much better this year and cancer-free. There is so much that can be done these days for women who are diagnosed. Do NOT be afraid to be tested or even do a self exam. Reach out if you need help in anyway. There are so many people who will be there to help, it will amaze you!

Anonymous said...

That "anonymous" comment above was from ME! I struggle with such simple things as blog comments.


Gerri Nash said...

Deb, your bravery amazes me. I am so glad you are a "survivor" but so sorry for all you have been through.
Marilyn, thanks for sharing this story on your blog.
Hello to all the Clara Harris classmates!