The summer has officially begun. The children are out of school and the days are longer. The air is heavy with humidity and the pool is officially open. I breathe a sigh of relief because the school year is ending and the picnics, parties and concerts are all winding down. It is a good feeling to be on the summer schedule, yet the season always takes me back to the year I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It was three years ago this coming August that the lump that I had found was determined to be malignant. So each year as summer begins, I tend to relive the moments that preceded that day when I felt a lump so different from anything I had felt before.
I remember that I hadn’t been feeling well for quite some time. It began when we moved to Philadelphia a couple of years earlier; I started to get migraine headaches. At first they were only right before my period and then it seemed like I was getting them all of the time. They were quite severe and debilitating.
I finally went to a neurologist who diagnosed the headaches as menstrual migraines. My hormones were fluctuating severely every month. I even began to get the headaches mid cycle. Eventually, it seemed like I was always on the verge of a headache and reaching for a migraine pill virtually every day.
One July evening of that year, I started to feel a headache coming on while we were on vacation. It put me in bed for two days. When I started to feel a little bit better on the third day, I performed my routine self breast exam which I did religiously every month. I felt something very hard in my left breast. I knew immediately that it was different. In fact, I actually screamed, “Oh my God!” Out loud.
My thoughts raced back in time to a story our next door neighbor told me several years earlier. She too found a lump and exclaimed the exact words aloud. They discovered that she had Stage IIIB breast cancer and after two years of treatment that included a bone marrow transplant, she nearly died. Every speck of my female intuition told me I was in trouble.
Sure enough, two weeks later, after a fine needle biopsy, the malignancy was discovered. The rest, as they say, is history.
So as the summer begins and the fireflies come out, I vow to try not to worry too much or dwell on the past. “Enjoy these days,” I think to myself, “the summer will be here and gone and you will be one more year out from diagnosis.” I cross my fingers, say a quick prayer to God and breathe a deep breath. “Yes,” I think, “I am lucky to have this summer, now go and enjoy it.”