I am LIVING proof that self-breast exams can save lives. At the age of 33, it would have been at least 7 more years before I would have had my first mammogram. I stress over thinking about what might have happened during those 7 years had I not have found my lump when I did. I see my physician for regular yearly exams, but from one year’s appointment to the next, I had not only developed a noticeable lump, but the cancer had already spread to my lymphatic system. Who knows what even another month might have meant for the rest of my body.
While doing a self-exam, I found what every woman dreads. It’s difficult to know what to do next, but luckily I took my finding seriously and embarked upon what would be one of the most difficult journeys a woman can.
Within 2 weeks of diagnosis, I was in surgery and had a care plan developed. After five months of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, and after having every inch of my body checked for cancer, I am a healthy, cancer-free wife and mother of two. I’m now working on learning my “new normal.”
I’ve never been a cancer survivor before. This title comes with great responsibility…to care for my own health and to serve as a teacher to all women. I don’t take this role lightly and urge all women to take my story and use it as an example. Most will find nothing when they do their self-exam. But even if a few find something and find it early enough to have a great prognosis, then my battle and telling my story was worth it.
Cancer does not discriminate, every woman is at risk. Education is key. If you don’t know how to do a self-exam, consider it mandatory homework to learn how. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your family. It’s simple and easy and only takes a couple minutes. Trust me, it’s worth your time!
Women can learn the proper techniques from your healthcare provider or Sheila Hermesmeyer, RN, OCN, CMS at the Blessing Breast Center. Sheila is a certified Clinical MammaCare Specialist, trained to teach women how to conduct breast self-exams. She teaches group and individual classes to educate women on the skills to feel confident in detecting the difference between the texture of normal tissue and lumps.
The group classes are free and limited to 10 participants who practice on lifelike breast models. Participants are instructed on the “Five P’s” of MammaCare: palpitation, pattern, pressure, perimeter, and position. Individual sessions are also free and include demonstrating techniques learned with guidance from Sheila. Women can call (217)223-8400, ext. 4284 or visit blessinghospital.org/breastcenter for more details.