I haven’t been a 0 since I was in my early 30’s. I was a 0 before I had my daughter, and I eventually got back to that size after she was born. But that was 30 years ago, and I haven’t seen 0 for quite a while.
Before you all start shrieking and slamming me for being weight obsessed, I guess I should mention that this blog isn’t about a dress size. Gotcha!
I am thrilled to say that I am officially a Stage 0 for Breast Cancer. I am overflowing with joy, because I can smile and say I am a 0 again, and it really means something.
But this didn’t happen in a void. I have been incredibly lucky and blessed. There have been a number of factors that contributed to this fresh start in my life.
First, I have access to health insurance. Without that benefit, I may not have discovered the problem until it actually was an issue. I am lucky enough to have a husband who is working, and is valued by his employer. We have excellent health coverage, and I have to say that Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey has been an excellent partner in this process.
Second, I live in an area where cutting edge medical care is 10 minutes away. For the past 2 years, I have been able to get 3D Mammograms from South Jersey Radiology Associates. Yes, it did cost a little extra, but the cost was minimal. I gladly paid the extra $30 each year, and I am thankful that I did. Because without the added diagnostic power of a 3D mammogram, I am not sure they would have found the problem this early.
I can’t say enough about the staff from South Jersey Radiology Associates! They have all been so kind, helpful, talented and professional through this whole journey that started in August. My first mammogram made them concerned. They immediately scheduled a second mammogram for me. And they showed me the results and explained why they had concerns. They got me in for a needle biopsy within a week at another SJRA office, so I didn’t have time to sit and worry. Once they got those results, they called me and explained that based on prior experience, they recommended I see a surgeon. Plus, they found me a surgeon who could see me within 10 days. Talk about the magic touch!
Dr. Linda Szczurek was another wonderful surprise. She doesn’t look any older than my daughter, but she is both wise and kind. She explained everything in detail to me, and let me know the best course of action was to remove the cells that were in question. A minor procedure, same day surgery, and then back to reality. Her office staff, including her scheduler Kelly, moved mountains and got me a date only 2 weeks away. For someone like me, who can sit and worry to the point of becoming a whirling dervish, that was true serendipity.
Of course, nothing runs as smoothly in real life as on TV. A bad EKG reading caused my surgery to be postponed a month. But Kelly, my champion, contacted my cardiologist and got the ball rolling for the next surgical date. Plus, she got me the first slot in the day, so that I could be home in time for a glass of wine and a cheeseburger. (That whole “nothing by mouth after midnight” can really suck if you don’t get on the table until 4pm!)
The day of my surgery, everything was so well-coordinated. Everyone at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees was helpful and explained all the procedures to me. The worst thing was how often they had to ask me to confirm my date of birth and why I was there. Every person probably asked me those questions at least 5 times. It got to be kind of funny. But it made me feel safe and secure, knowing that even those little details of checks and double checks were in place.
The surgery was a breeze. I got my cheeseburger. All I had to do was heal and wait until my post-op visit to the surgeon. And then things got real.
Dr. Szczurek told me that the cells that were removed were super early stage cells. She was convinced they got them all. But for my own safety and good health, I was going to have to have radiation and a form of chemo. While I wasn’t expecting to hear that, I clung to the words “super early” like a drowning woman in Lake Michigan during a storm.
Again, my luck held. The radiologist that she recommended saw me just this week. I instantly clicked with her; she has a wicked sense of humor. The time she took, explaining everything to me and my husband, letting us know that this was No Big Deal was wonderful. The purpose of the radiation and chemo is more of a sanitizing process than a treatment. To make absolutely sure the bad cells won’t grow back in that location. At least, within a margin of 7%. Without this process, there is a 30% or greater chance that the cells will come back. Me, I’d rather take 7%.
So, I will soon be starting on Phase 2 of this Fantastic Voyage. I never expected to be one of the women who encounter Breast Cancer. There is no history of BC in my family. Yes, I have walked for Komen for years, made and donated comfort wraps for women who have BC. But there was no reason to think I would ever hear those words. This just goes to show that Breast Cancer is an equal opportunity infector. If I can get it, anyone can.
The moral of this story, at least today, is that I am glad I spent the time helping to fight Breast Cancer before my diagnosis, and I am going to continue to pledge my efforts in the future. I wish every woman out there had access to the benefits I can call upon. I never took them for granted before, but I am doubly grateful for them today.
So please, if you read this, consider giving even $5 the next time someone asks you to donate to one of the many wonderful organizations that are working to provide free mammograms to women who can’t afford them. Please give even a little bit to ensure that there isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t fighting to end this disease in our generation. Because, as I have found out, the next person to hear those words might just be you.