In early June 2011, I discovered what appeared to be a dimple on the left side of my left breast.
Given that there was no discernible lump, I was not overly concerned and, almost casually, mentioned it to my Primary Care physician at a regularly scheduled appointment later that month. My doctor performed a routine breast exam and agreed that she, too, felt nothing. “But let’s do a mammogram,” she said, just as casually as I had reacted to the dimple a few weeks earlier.
Two days later, I was standing face to face with a mammography machine for the first time.
Following a brief wait, I was escorted into a dimly lit private office. Black and white images of my breasts from varying angles were displayed on a screen. I was fixated on those images as the Radiologist entered and introduced herself. “There’s something we want to get a better look at,” she said. She pointed to a cloudy spot on one of the images and explained that they would be performing a subsequent ultrasound. By now, I had begun to consider potential outcomes but was reassured by assumptions I had made based on my limited knowledge of breast cancer’s scope: “I’m 34. I have no family history. I must have dense breast tissue. There’s no lump!”
The ultrasound would reveal that the blurry image revealed in the mammogram was, in fact, a mass that would require even more investigation. I was scheduled for a biopsy on Friday, June 17, 2011. The following Monday, I received the diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Following a whirlwind of medical appointments, tests, a myriad of opinions from medical specialists, survivors and my own due diligence, it was determined that I would have a lumpectomy and axially lymph node dissection on July 13, 2011 followed by four months of chemotherapy treatments, thirty rounds of radiation & five years of hormone therapy. Following the initial procedure, my surgeon informed me that the tumors in my lymph nodes were matted and 24 had to be removed, far more than the projected 8 – 12. The extent to which the tumors had spread in my lymph nodes gave me pause. Put simply, the degree to which tumors had infiltrated my lymph nodes was aggressive and threatened to spread given access to the lymphatic superhighway traveling through the body.
It was then I realized that my doctor’s decision to send me for a mammogram came at a critical time to prevent further spread of the disease and, ultimately, saved my life. As I sit here today, having celebrated three years cancer free, I’m humbled by my personal good fortune and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share my story and lend my voice towards awareness and action.
In that vein, I am incredibly proud of Polaris’ investment in Ella Health, a company that empowers women to take control of their health with an innovative approach mammography and physical therapy services. This month, my colleagues at Polaris and I join together to support Ella Health in their “Just One” campaign. Yesterday, our entire firm showed their support for the campaign which encourages conversation about the importance of annual mammograms. One in 8 women in the U.S. will develop an invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime — and just one mammogram a year can provide the early detection to save her life. I know it saved mine.
For these women, we start the conversation and stand with our friends at Ella Health in the rallying cry: #MammogramPlease! Join us!