Be Your Own Advocate! No Excuses!

be your own advocate

As a 2x breast cancer survivor I just want women to be aware of their breast health and know what’s normal for them. Don’t rely solely on your doctors, take responsibility for your own breast health. Truthfully take responsibility for your health and wellness PERIOD! Most of us don’t see our physicians unless we are sick and even then we sometimes try to just push though. We as women tend to put our own health off because we are so focused on our families, work, and day-to-day life. In order to be at our best we must take the best care of ourselves. You are your own best advocate!

I myself was fairly healthy at the time of my diagnosis. I had a healthy pregnancy the year before, breast-fed my one year old at the time. I feel like I knew my body fairly well. I’m sure my husband would have noticed any thing out of the norm (he’s a breast man… lol). I knew the risks that I faced, my mother being a two-time breast cancer survivor herself. By the way, it’s important to know your family medical history when it comes to breast cancer. In fact I knew that I needed to have a mammogram done for that specific reason alone. I had to wait until I was finished breast-feeding my baby girl before I could have one, so as soon as I could I requested a mammogram. I never felt any lumps or noticed anything out of the norm for me, so I had absolutely no worries. Low and behold the doctor saw some micro calcification on my images in the left breast and sent me for a biopsy which resulted in my initial diagnosis.

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image via Keep A Breast

My second diagnoses came six months later. I had an intense itch on the right breast around the nipple and areola and thought that it was just an allergic reaction to the clothing detergent I was using. I also had a milky discharge and thinking it was due to having breast-fed my baby. After a couple of weeks of these symptoms going on I felt like something just wasn’t right. I made an appointment with my breast surgeon to figure out what was going on. She didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary, but with my persistence, ordered a mammogram and ultrasound. Both came back not showing anything abnormal. I still insisted that something was not right, I knew in my heart something was wrong. I had an upcoming surgery to have breast reduction on the right breast to become more symmetrical after my left breast mastectomy. This decision most likely saved my life. I knew that breast tissue is typically sent to pathology for testing, especially after a breast cancer diagnosis. Thank God for my plastic surgeon, he did just that! That lead to my second diagnosis of breast cancer. It’s so important to know what’s normal for you and to make yourself be heard by your doctors. No one knows your body like you do.  Please, advocate for yourself, you may be the one that saves your own life!

I am by no means a doctor, I can only share my experiences and what I’ve learned through my journey.

Did self-advocacy make a difference in your cancer diagnosis or cancer care?  Always speak up for yourself!

Welcome Charlene “Shar”! My Story, My Journey, My Testimony

Lacuna Loft is excited to continue introducing more young adult voices! These great folks represent a variety of perspectives on the myriad of topics covered here at Lacuna Loft. Before everyone starts really getting into the nitty-gritty of all they have to say, we wanted to introduce them a bit. Without further ado, here is Charlene!

Hello All! My name is Charlene and I am a wife, a mom of 3 amazing kids (ages 23, 14, and 4) and a 2x breast cancer SURVIVOR. I was diagnosed February 1, 2013, a couple of weeks before my birthday. Some birthday present huh! My cancer was ER/PR positive in the left breast. I was diagnosed very early so I had options, either a lumpectomy with radiation or mastectomy. I chose the latter. You see, my mom is also a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed at ages 32 and 65, so that played a big role in my decision. We are both did genetic testing and tested BRCA negative, so I decided to just have a single mastectomy. I was trying to save what I thought was a healthy right boob (to my surprise not so much). I had immediate reconstruction, I went with a TRAM flap. Somehow, after all of that surgery, I felt that I should have just gone ahead and done a bilateral mastectomy rather than the single. I knew in my soul that something just wasn’t right.  After having my mastectomy and recon on April 1, 2013, I had breast reduction on the right breast only to find out that there was cancer in that breast as well. My right breast was Triple Negative (TNBC). So 20 days after having a brand new perky boob, I was back in surgery to have my second mastectomy, again with immediate reconstruction. This time with my reconstruction I had to go with a LAT flap (latissimus dorsi). Since then I’ve had a ton of surgeries, from implants to revisions, I have about half a dozen scars to show for it. I’m not ashamed of my scars, I have come to embrace them. They are apart of who I have become, behind my scars is my story, my journey, my testimony. Breast cancer has forever changed me, and it is my goal to be an inspiration to others. I am my sister’s keeper!