Mammo Is Ammo: How Early Screening Saved My Life

IMG_2585.JPG

Author: Tamira Armwood, Breast Cancer Survivor, University Medical Center New Orleans

I clung to the words like I do to my rosary when I pray: tightly. What was supposed to be a routine mammogram screening at age 40 turned into a quick discovery of a mass on my right breast. Immediate emotions of fear and worry consumed me. But then a moment of relief came: After the biopsy, we determined the mass was benign.

That was July 2014, but the start of my journey against cancer did not begin until six months later.

Fast-forward to January at my follow-up appointment. My radiologist performed another biopsy, but this time, the results were not so favorable. “Stage 2 Breast Cancer,” she said, which means the cancer inside of me was growing, but still contained in the breast and nearby lymph nodes.

Because of the cancer’s aggression, a treatment plan was immediately created.

I can’t remember any thoughts that weren’t concerned with my own disbelief.

I couldn’t have cancer. I have no family history of it! Did she really just say those words? How am I going to tell my daughters? What if I don’t make it?

I prayed for strength, courage, wisdom, hope and support, and the amount of each of these needs I received from my husband and daughters was nearly two-fold. Like me, they had no certainty of what was going to happen. Unlike me, fear was not their focus but, rather, the fight.

When my treatment plan was established, my breast surgeon informed me I would need a lumpectomy performed to remove the lump from my breast. In addition, I would have to experience 18 weeks of chemotherapy treatment plus 33 days of radiation. The information, tests and costs were overwhelming, but then I meditated on Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to give you hope and a good future.”

What this told me was that I was not near my end.

In my diagnosis, there was hope. After my treatment, there would be a good future.

If there is anything this disease has taught me, it is how to embrace the little things in life.

On this journey, I experienced a great degree of setback: hair loss, excessive weight gain, nail discoloration, lymphedema and periods of extreme fatigue. What I gained, however, was far greater. After my diagnosis, I smiled more. I shared more information with family and, even, strangers. I got excited more. I displayed courage more.

In the most unexpected way, I have become more grateful for the little blessings this experience has given me. It has brought my family closer together, mended broken relationships and been a common cause for which we can all show passion and compassion.

If you are someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, my advice to you is this:

Know there is hope. Stay the course. Stand in Faith. And never quit.

I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer, but genetic breast cancers only account for about 15%-20% of all breast cancers. That’s why it’s so important to get screened.

Because of this mantra, I preserved through the fight.

Because of my annual mammogram, I became a breast cancer survivor.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share my story with you.

Tamira Armwood

 

For more information about mammograms at UMC, visit http://www.umcno.org/mammograms.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Breast Cancer: Survivorship Begins at Diagnosis

Support Group

Delia Young, RN
Nurse Navigator

UMC Cancer Center

Each year, 1 in 8 women in the United States will hear the devastating news that they have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer is frightening for anyone. For women faced with breast cancer, the diagnosis is wrapped in a tangle of emotions and questions:

How will I get through this? Will it impact my family? Will it affect my relationships? Will I survive?

Steps to Survivorship

Every woman’s breast cancer journey is unique, but this holds true for all:

Survivorship begins at diagnosis.

From the start, it’s important to consider not only the immediate actions and treatments available, but also a complete plan that encompasses the entire breast cancer journey.

In UMC’s Cancer Center, we work to assist our patients with plans of care to help them navigate through treatment, providing a start- and endpoint and a way to see themselves outside of treatment.

One of the vital steps in survivorship is identifying support systems, whether it’s family members or close friends. Cancer treatments are long and exhausting, and many people need help coping with the process. At the UMC Cancer Center, we advise most patients to join a support group. Research indicates that people who belong to a support group are better able to cope with the stress of their disease. These groups can help patents see how people in similar situations are managing their care and experiences. Support groups can also be empowering because patients can assist someone else along their journey.

>> SUPPORT GROUP – Team Survivors: Breast Edition

Breast cancer survivors and their families are invited to join us for UMC’s supportive care program, Team Survivors: Breast Edition, every first Thursday of the month. Every month, we provide the opportunity to learn, share and discuss the different topics that affect breast cancer survivors. Our next group meeting will be on Monday, September 7, from 12-1 p.m. in the UMC Cancer Center Conference Room.

To RSVP, contact me – Delia Young, at (504) 702-3725 or Delia.Young@LCMChealth.org.

Life Beyond Breast Cancer

It doesn’t stop there. Once treatment has been completed, it’s also important that patients learn what to expect next – whether it’s prolonged side effect management post-treatment or overcoming social barriers to get reacclimated with their normal life routines.

Managing emotional, spiritual and physical health is essential. This includes healthy lifestyle promotions through diet, exercise, and mind and body relaxation techniques.

Another essential element is to give patients guidance on who they should follow up with and ensure they are set up with primary care providers for normal health maintenance screenings and surveillance.

All of these things provide a layer of support that helps to make breast cancer a little less scary.

A diagnosis isn’t the end.

There is life beyond this diagnosis and many avenues that lead to survivorship from breast cancer or any cancer.

>> FREE SEMINAR: A UMC Town Hall on Breast Health and Cancer

Please join us on September 16 for a FREE Town Hall on Breast Health & Cancer, taking place from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the UMC Cancer Center. Come to this FREE event to discover the comprehensive services that UMC provides for breast health, meet experts in the field of breast health, learn about the latest diagnostic and treatment options, hear stories of survivorship and gain insights on the role that diet, exercise and nutrition play and much more!

Click here to register.