In 1980 I was in graduate school at University of Georgia and got a call from Dad that he had breast cancer. He was soon getting surgery to remove his right breast and the associated lymph nodes. Dumbfounded, I wanted to delay my graduate studies to be with him. He convinced me to stay in school and I graduated in 1981. I accepted a job in my hometown, Greenville, SC, and felt blessed to help take care of him until he passed in 1984, as the cancer spread. He was my strongest supporter and faithful mentor. I often think of the advice he gave me and the many wonderful times we shared.
A few years ago my younger sister called me to inform me she had breast cancer and had tested positive for the BRAC2 gene mutation. Both men and women can have the mutation. In men, the mutation has proven to increase the risk for breast, prostrate, skin, and pancreatic cancer. My two other sisters and I got tested and we are all positive for the mutation. All four siblings got double mastectomies and the three sisters got breast implants. I elected not to. During this process my twin sister discovered breast cancer herself. I get a PSA test yearly to check for prostrate cancer, and see the dermatologist twice a year for skin cancer. I did a CAT scan of my pancreas to create a healthy base line. To me, knowledge is power. My younger sister and twin sister are cancer survivors because they had breast exams. My younger sister shared her BRAC2 diagnosis which prompted our family members to get tested. Preventative medicine is just smart.
During the 2020 Pandemic, I went through a scheduled colonoscopy and they found three benign polyps. The doctor successfully removed two but had a problem with the third polyp so he left it. He recommended me to a oncologist surgeon to remove the third polyp. The surgeon was the same doctor who did my double mastectomy. During the first visit he ordered some blood work, chest x-ray, and scan of the polyp. These preventive measures, I believe, saved my life. The x-ray found a mass on my left upper lung. It turned out to be Stage 3 Lung Cancer. The surgeon removed the mass, some lymph nodes, and the entire upper lobe of the left lung about a year ago. I had chemo for a few months, lost all my hair, gained weight, and was tired for months after chemo. It was all worth it because I have been cancer free since. I even have my hair back. Once again Preventative Medicine is just smart.