Getting a mammogram at 35 was the furthest thing from my mind until I met a young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40. I was attending a luncheon held by the Yvonne McCalla Foundation (a breast cancer awareness organization) of which I am on the advisory board.
I, along with 200 other people, listened as this very successful woman delivered her survivor's story that left me in tears. One would think because I was affiliated with this organization that I would be more proactive about my health, but the truth is I was not.
In April of 2009, I was preparing for the biggest day of my life. I was preparing to marry my then-boyfriend. I wanted to ensure I was in tip-top shape and made doctor's appointments from head to toe, including my very first mammogram.
A week before my wedding, I received a call from my doctor and was told they "saw something" and I needed to get a biopsy! My head was spinning; I didn't want to tell anyone other than my fiancé because I didn't want my family to worry. My biopsy was scheduled for a week after my wedding. No honeymoon, Just a trip to the doctor to find out what was going on inside of me.
I am thankful to say that it was benign. However, I know this news is not the same for every woman. My mother-in-law Iris Scipio, Yvonne McCalla, two of my friends and countless other women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Their health was interrupted by this awful disease that has claimed too many lives. While October has been designated breast cancer awareness month, I challenge you to take ownership of your health and well-being year round.
Here are three steps to owning your health right now:
1. Be Proactive: Get a full physical yearly. Make head-to-toe doctor appointments including a mammogram (early detection is important). When visiting your doctor, make sure you ask lots of questions and keep record of your results.
2. Listen to your Body: Your body will tell you when something is out of order. If you are experiencing symptoms that you never had, do not ignore them. Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
3. Know your family health history: Often times, families do not like to discuss illnesses. However, this is a mistake that may save your life. Finding out if certain medical conditions run in your family can let you know if you are at a higher risk for certain cancers. This does not necessarily mean you will develop the condition, but at least you are aware of any increased odds.
To learn more about the Yvonne McCalla Foundation and what they are doing for Breast Cancer Awareness, visit: http://www.ymfinc.org