Ashley & Linda
By Linda Harrison Calvert, copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Yes, I can say that now after 12 years of waiting and wondering. My story began back in the fall of 1999. I was a 38 year old mother of two teenagers and working full time not only at a paying job but as a mom, cook, maid, baseball and soccer mom, PTO member, Sunday school teacher, etc, etc....needless to say my life was very hectic and busy.
My daughter, Ashley, who was in the 10th grade at Terry High School, came home one day in late October with a "goody" bag from school. Her teacher had invited nursing students from Hinds School of Nursing to come and speak to her class about breast cancer and testicular cancer. They gave all the students a goody bag depending on the gender of the student with helpful material regarding early detection. In the bag my daughter came home with was a breast self-exam shower card to hang in her shower to remind her to do monthly breast exams.
One day several days later she asked me to "show" her how to use it. Needless to say, being a little busy at the time, I told her we would do it later that night in order for me to sneak into her bathroom and do a dress rehearsal on myself first! I did not want her thinking I did not know what I was doing when in all actually I did not!
Well, on my first try low and behold what do I find, but a lump in my left breast. Scared? not at first, I just convinced myself I was being paranoid. I felt a second time – it was still there and I also noticed it was a little sore to the touch. hmmm, third time's the charm they always say so I go for round three...yep, still there.
So I did what most woman do...I called my mama!
My mom was very consoling. She told me while we did not have any breast cancer history in our family, we did have a lot of family members with cancer, including her who had had throat cancer back in 1989. She told me to make an appointment with my doctor, if for nothing else to put to rest my fears. The next day, I did just that. I called a fellow school mate who had a medical practice in my hometown and I went to see him. They did the mammogram in his office and after getting the results, he immediately sent me for a sonogram at the hospital.
That resulted in a trip to a surgeon for a biopsy. So in less than a week I went from being this busy mother of two to being told YOU HAVE CANCER!
I was in total shock...I had no time for this. I went to surgeons, to oncologists, to hospitals for bone scans, heart scans, x rays and so many more test I can't even remember them all. Within 2 weeks I was scheduled for surgery. I had a lumpectomy with auxiliary node dissection. I knew that at 38 I did not want to loose my breast so I chose the less invasive, breast conserving surgery.
My treatment plan was very intense. Due to my young age and the type of cancer that I had, I went thru very aggressive treatments. Six weeks after surgery, I started chemotherapy. This was January 11, 2000, my mom's 60th birthday and she was right there with me the whole time. Ten days later, on what was my 39th birthday, I lost all my hair! I can not even put into words what I was feeling then. I am not a vain woman, but the experience was one I never hope to experience again. I was bed ridden, commode hugging sick for weeks but thankfully, I had a very loving and caring family otherwise I do not think I could have made it.
I went to chemo every 3 weeks for months then followed up with 8 and a half weeks of radiation treatments. I had good days and bad days for months but slowly I regained my strength and my life. I was told that if I reached 5 years my chances of survival would be 85%. I reached that milestone. Then at 10 years it would be 90%, and I reached that one too. The odds stop there.
Due to the early onset and the type of cancer I had, I would always be subjected to a re-occurrence some time in my life. It has been 12 years this month and guess what? I am still CANCER FREE! I have a wonderful, caring husband, two grown children now and a wonderful 3 year old grandson! Life has been good and I am very Blessed that my Lord gave me the Courage, the Faith and the Hope to fight and Survive this dreadful disease.
I can attest to the fact that early detection does indeed save lives otherwise I would not be here today writing this! Please, if you do nothing else for yourself then at least get your annual mammograms – the life you save may just be your own!