Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why I Wear Pink...

Bet you didn't know why I wear pink

Because October is national breast cancer awareness month I decided that while most of my posts are about fitness and clean eating I needed to share something that I am usually very private about. I have decided to share my story with you about WHY I wear pink, not just in October but always. I too have been touched by breast cancer.
"Komen Race - 2008" 

I suppose the best place to start is the beginning so here it is –

In the fall of 2008 I noticed a paintball size lump behind the nipple of my right breast, it moved, it hurt and I knew it was not right. After it did not go away I decided I needed to pursue it. After going to my gynecologist to have it checked out they insisted it was only a fibroadenoma since I was so young. Fibroadenomas are benign and not usually something to worry about.  They sent me home and told me to monitor it. After just a few more weeks I had this gut feeling that I needed to have it out. I scheduled another appointment and wanted them to look at again. My persistence got me the referral to Magee Womens Hospital In Pittsburgh to meet with an oncologist to discuss the option of taking it out.

At Magee, they did ultrasounds and many scans to determine what they were dealing with. The day was so scary. I remember sitting in a room with all of these older women some who had lost their hair, some who were simply getting mamograms and then there was me; the young college girl. I felt so out of place and oh so scared. Since I was young there was no point in doing a mammogram so they did ultrasounds, which confirmed that it was a fibroadenoma. The oncologist met with my parents and I and told me she would take it out if it made me feel better but there was NOTHING to worry about. Everyone kept saying “oh your to young to need to worry about anything.” We decided not to take any chances, I wanted it out.
My surgery was scheduled for the week before Christmas. My fall semester of college had just ended and I knew going into this I had a month to get back to feeling good and recover, plenty of time.

The day of the surgery came and went with the blink of an eye. The procedure went fine, they took it out. I came home that very day. Although I was super sick from all of the anesthesia and the pain of having a surgery, I was FINE and they lump was gone. It was recovery time….

Then I got a call just a few days after Christmas. I will never ever forget that phone call. The oncologist called our house at 7 pm on a Thursday night. My dad answered and said it was for me. His face was covered in sheer panic. Doctors don’t just call you at 7:00 pm at night to tell you everything is “all good."  They call you to tell you they have bad news. Her exact words were “I am really sorry, but I was wrong. What I removed was not a fibroadenoma it was a borderline malagint phyllodes tumor.  We need to see you tomorrow for a follow up and we are scheduling your surgery for Tuesday. I need to perform a partial mastectomy to go in for clear margins." WOW – that call hit me like a ton of bricks. I went downstairs and with tears in my eyes I told my family what the doctor has just told me. My scare became everyone’s scare; my family, my friends everyone around me. They prayed and prayed. They sent cards, flowers; you name it they were in my corner. That Tuesday I went in for surgery number two. While I was scared before, round 2 was real. They were planning to take 1/3 of my right breast and assumed that should get clear enough margins for me to be good to go. The surgery went fine, back home again to heal. This time the healing and the process was much more complex and painful. Emotionally it was harder too. I was scared. But to make matters worse I got a call again with the results. Still no luck, I needed another surgery. You see phyllodes tumors are not typically treated with chemo or radiation they just simply keep taking until the margins are clear. It is a very rare form of breast cancer. That would be the last attempt before they were going to consider doing a full mastectomy. So in I went for surgery number 3 in less than a 30- day window. Luckly for me that was my last one.

When I got the call that the margins were clear from pathology I cried and cried. It was like God gave me a get out of jail free card. I chose not to have another surgery for reconstruction. I didn’t want to go thru the surgery process all over again. While things are not completely symmetrical, I am here and I am healthy and that to me is all that matters. It’s amazing what a good bra can do for you ;)

Race Day - Standing by the flag my parents bought in my honor

To make a long story short, here is what I want you to take from this message. Know your body. Know what seems right so that you can know when things seem wrong. Conduct monthly self -exams and be sure to get your annual checks and mammograms when you are of age. Trust your gut - so what if you’re wrong. Better to be wrong than ignore it.

Spread the word and support women’s health! Sending lots of hugs and prayers to the survivors out there and also to the families who lost a loved one to this disease. 

                                 Some of my family there to support the Komen Foundation 

1 comment :

  1. Great story Sarah! My aunt is a two time survivor who has had a double mastectomy to prevent any future outbreaks. She has had two hip replacements, and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis due to the weakening of her bones from the chemo. She is the strongest and most dedicated person I know! She is my reason for running in Pink for Komen every May for the Pittsburgh Marathon. I am so blessed to have Elijah running the Kids Marathon for Komen this year! I am amazing at how many people have been/are affected by this terrible disease! <3 Stay strong sister!