"I think having a mammogram is just as important as self-exams, if not, even more important – my cancer would not have been diagnosed through self-exam"
Every Tuesday in October, we’ll be highlighting the story of a survivor for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This week we asked Linda to share her story of how being diagnosed with breast cancer led her to focus more on self-care.
What was your knowledge or understanding of breast cancer growing up and as an adult?
My understanding was it was hereditary and that you would die from breast cancer
Did you know anyone with breast cancer prior to being diagnosed?
No, I think my aunt may have had it, but never really knew anyone
Did you do breast exams prior to your diagnosis? How has your knowledge of self-exams evolved through your journey?
Yes, I did, but I also went to have yearly physicals and relied on my doctor to do breast exams in the clinic during my yearly physical. I think having a mammogram is just as important as self-exams, if not, even more important – my cancer would not have been diagnosed through self-exam
How did your diagnosis change you, the way you feel about yourself and your body?
It made me sad. Sad that I did not take better care of me through the years. I was so focused on getting through the day to day and trying to manage through the stress, that the stress decided to manage me, by giving me a good dose of self-care
Did you choose to have a breast reconstruction? Why or why not?
I did choose to have reconstructive surgery. I love the summer and water and felt I was too young to give up on the way I look. But to be brutally honest, I had complications along the way, and it was a longer journey than I was anticipating
What’s something you wish you knew about breast cancer before your diagnosis?
That it is not just hereditary and there is a long recovery
Did you feel supported by your family, friends, the healthcare system etc? Where did you seek or find additional support?
I was very let down by my partner. He was not there for me and did not understand the support I needed. My daughters were amazing. I do not know what I would have done without them. The company I was working for at the time was very supportive as well, which was extremely important to me.
Any myths or misconceptions you would like to dispel about breast cancer?
You can skip your mammogram for a year and not worry about it. If I had left it a year, it would have been a very different story. Early diagnosis is everything. Because I caught the cancer early I “only” had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Because I had a routine mammogram at 52, I saved myself from having to get Chemotherapy and Radiation.
What would you like the lingerie/intimates industry to provide to better support survivors and people undergoing treatment?
I think it is important that we recognize all different levels of breast cancer as “breast cancer” we need to be careful not to underestimate early diagnosis and ensure we treat all breast cancer patience with the same care. Remember everyone has a different story and we are all dealing with it differently
Any advice for women who have just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
You get thrown into a “club” you never asked or ever wanted to be a part of. I was not someone that wanted to share my feelings through the wonderful support that is provided to us as breast cancer patients. I had my daughters, I spoke out at work and anyone who would listen, I told my story at a high level and highlighted that early diagnosis is everything!! Although I did not want to be a part of the “breast cancer” club, I am beyond grateful to be a part of the “breast cancer survivor” club!
We have come a long way with Breast Cancer Treatment. Remember that this is your body, and it is going to be okay. However, you want to manage through the process, do it at your own pace. You are not alone.
Anything else you would like to add?
I was told early in life that as women, we cannot lose sight of our own desires, ambitions and most importantly self-care. When we are devoted to our families as mothers and want to provide for our children and partners the best we can, we sometimes forget we need to take care of ourselves first. Not in a million years did I think I would be one of those women that would forget about her own self-care along the way. I never took this advice; I want better for young women today
Both my daughters see the importance of taking care of their own needs and being kind to themselves. They understand much better than I ever did, the importance of self-care