It was the end of August 2016 when I was wrangling myself out of a wet bathing suit in front of my bathroom mirror. With my arms above my head, I noticed a large dimple in my left breast and underneath it a lump. Like a flash, the image of the “Know Your Lemons” campaign popped into my head! I immediately recognized that my dimple and lump could be one of the 12 signs of breast cancer because of the unique visual display of lemons in an egg carton.
Armed with this knowledge I called my doctor to describe the dimple and lump and was seen the next day. They agreed with me when the saw the dimple and felt something sketchy underneath. They referred me quickly to the Women’s Breast Health Center in Ottawa, Ontario for a mammogram. It was a few days’ wait for the mammogram and once the scan was completed, I was asked to wait in a waiting room filled with other women of all ages. It felt like forever when they finally asked me to go back to do a second mammogram an hour later. With my daughter there to distract me, we anxiously passed the time together.
During this time we heard an ultrasound technician and a radiology doctor walking by us talking in a hushed tone. “How old is she?” the doctor asked. The technician answered, “She’s only 42”. I looked to my left, and then to my right, comparing my age to the other ladies in the waiting room. I was the youngest one there. I knew in my gut at that moment they saw breast cancer on my scan.
I was eventually brought in to do an ultrasound and it confirmed my worst fear. “I’m sorry to tell you Tally,” the radiology doctor said solemnly, “This is breast cancer.” At the time they saw 5 tumors on the ultrasound, an image I will never forget.
I had an ultrasound-guided biopsy three days later to find out what type of cancer we were dealing with and to make a plan. A couple of weeks later the results came back as Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I was scheduled on October 12th, 2016 for my life-saving surgery where they removed over 10 tumors in my left breast. During the surgery, the surgeons essentially took half of my entire breast, and then performed a reduction on the right side to match. Once the surgery pathology came back, we found that the right “healthy” breast presented with lobular carcinoma in situ and that there was also cancer in my lymph nodes.
I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t seen the “Know Your Lemons” campaign and how things might have turned out differently. Would I have paid attention to the dimple? Would I have advocated as strongly as I did?
I’m grateful for the intense treatment I had, the surgery, a dense dose chemotherapy every 2 weeks for 4 months, 30 rounds of radiation, and daily medication for 10 years to help prevent a re-occurrence.
It was not an easy year of treatment and I have had several complications along the way with surgery healing issues, a staph infection, blood clots, and all the nasty side effects of the combined treatments. Given all that, I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had to.
My hope in sharing my story with you is that we as women know ALL of these 12 signs of breast cancer. That we burn them into our brains and listen to our intuition when we think something is not right with our bodies. I’m grateful for the work that you are doing at Know your Lemons and know that you are making a difference. You made it for me.
“Know your Lemons” Ladies!