In July 2014 I found two little lumps on my breast while showering. Weird because I hadn’t noticed them before; it was like they had ‘floated’ up to the skin’s surface overnight. My GP thought it may be hormonal and said she would book an ultrasound, but to give it a month and if they went away, to just call and cancel the ultrasound. They didn’t go away.
Fast forward to August 26, 2014…ya, not a good day. When my Dr. told me I had breast cancer, the stress of hearing that was unbearable. It is amazing what went through my head at that moment. Am I going to die, how am I doing to tell my husband, my family… Oh god, how am I going to tell my children, they are so small. Will they have to live without me? My Dr., god bless her, took me by the hand and kept on saying, ‘you are going to be ok, you are going to be ok.’ I don’t know how many times she said that, but when I did hear her, something clicked in my brain and I was like, UH-uh! I turned to her and said, “Mary, I don’t have time for this…what is the plan?” She looked at me, smiled, and said, “I know you don’t.” And so it began.
Kicker is that I had a Mammogram that past April and it came back ‘NORMAL.’ I was told by my Medical Oncologist, that my breast cancer was in my breast for at least 3 years… 3 YEARS! But how can that be? I have had a mammogram each year for the past 3 years. I don’t understand. Her response was that my age had worked against me. My age? But I am still quite young. She went on to explain that the radiologists took a look at my mammogram, saw white tissue, looked at my age, and dismissed it as “dense breasts.” (dense breast tissue and cancer both show as white on a mammogram). They dismissed it… just like that… 3 times!!! They were WRONG!… very wrong! Because of this, I missed out on having an earlier diagnosis and possibly only a lumpectomy. Instead, because someone made that call, I have been through chemotherapy which just about killed me; I was admitted to the hospital 17 days in total during the first 6 weeks of Chemo. I have endured 28 rounds of Radiation that ‘cooked’ me so bad that to this day my incision area is still sore, 6 surgeries, 2 to clear the margins of the tumours, a double mastectomy and 3 reconstructive surgeries and still only came out with only 1 boob.
Needless to say, they chose the wrong woman to do this to because I am MAD. I told my father that summer that I had to at least try and do something to spread the awareness of dense breasts here in Canada… I know if I don’t, that this will always weigh on me. I have to try! Every woman deserves to be given ALL the information about their health, and as it stands here in Canada, radiologists do not need to tell us we have dense breasts. Interesting isn’t it. They do not even need to give our family doctors this information. I don’t want anyone going through what I did because my doctors decided to take it upon themselves to make the call on my health… that is my job!
Michelle lives in British Columbia and in 2014 at age 44 she was diagnosed with Stage 2B cancer. She found a lump 4 months after a normal mammogram. She cofounded densebreastscanada.ca in 2016.