Like many women, my family tree is covered in a Spanish Moss of cancer–Dad, both grandmothers, my grandfather, all of my great aunts, most of my great uncles. Genetics are not my friend. So when I turned 30, I resolved to do a breast self-exam every month just to keep a watchful eye on things.
Last month, I found a lump.
My internal monologue went something like this: What was that? (feels it again) Was that there last month? (no) Is there one on the other side? (feels other breast, no) Is it still there? (yes) Holy s**t, what is that? (feels it, again) Oh, this is not happening… (flooded with panic)
Every day for a week, I went looking for The Lump. And like a bad penny, I kept finding it. (Out, damn spot.) So yesterday, I called my doctor and learned that “I found a lump in my breast” are the magic words for getting a same-day doctor’s appointment.
I don’t know anything yet. We’ve just started the testing process and it will take a few weeks. The odds are on my side that it’s nothing, 8 out of 10 lumps are harmless. But if it’s something, I caught it early.
So why did I write this post? Because thousands of young women read this blog, and some of you aren’t doing your self-exams. Almost-half of diagnosed breast cancers are discovered by women who felt a lump. And early detection is the key to surviving cancer.
I do my self-exam on the 29th of every month, because my birthday is on the 29th. It makes it easy to remember. I even have a calendar reminder set on my phone. It says “BE Alive,” because breast exams keep women alive.
If you’ve never done a self-exam before, the National Breast Cancer Foundation has a handy guide to show you how. I recommend doing one both lying down and standing up. I do the lying down one before I get out of bed, and the standing up one in the shower. ABC explains what you’re looking for when you do a self-exam.
So, this month, on the anniversary of your birth, remember: BE Alive. It could be the most important thing you do for yourself.