I am forever grateful to the various Pink October initiatives as they were the push that made me go and get a routine mammogram. I think it was listening to a survivor on the radio along with all the events that suddenly prompted me to get checked. I had no obvious symptoms (or so I thought) – no lump – so was totally shocked when I was called back for further tests. I had no history of breast cancer in the family although we did have many other cancers. I was extremely fortunate in that my cancer was caught very early. I had a bilateral mastectomy and lymph node removal and immediate reconstruction. All was caught before any invasion (spreading) so I did not have to have chemotherapy.
That’s why events such as the one BBG had inviting a survivor to speak and encourage early detection is so vital. Do not wait until you feel a lump before getting checked. There are some other symptoms to look out for, other than finding a lump. In retrospect I had some of those symptoms but dismissed them. I had an internal itch that I just could not really locate which came and went often. I had sharp pains in both breasts that also came and went; which I ignored as they were not constant. Another symptom I had which was very subtle was thickening under my arms to the side of my right breast. It just felt slightly fatter under that arm and this is a classic symptom. I would recommend checking yourself the same time every month a few days after your cycle ends. If you are post-menopausal, then just check yourself at the same time each month. Get to know exactly how your breasts and the area around them feel so that any change can be detected. If you are at all concerned about any change, go and get checked.
There are many good clinics you can go to and so many provide offers and promotions during October to encourage ladies to get checked. This year, for example, Emirates Speciality Hospital are offering free screening. I went to Allied Diagnostics who were first-rate; and City Hospital has an excellent breast health unit. The Pink Caravan have a mobile unit that offers free screening; you can check them out online.
My real passion now, apart from raising awareness and encouraging early detection, is prevention. There are many things you can do for prevention or, at least, to put the odds on your side. Look at your diet - Reduce your chances of inflammation by eating greens, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, wholegrain and vegetables galore. Dump processed white stuff, especially sugar. Reduce the amount of meat you eat and try and only eat organic. Pesticides, hormones and the other chemicals weaken your immune system as well as being carcinogenic. Avoid drinking water from plastic bottles, they disrupt your endocrine system. The plastic leaches chemicals that mimic oestrogen leading to too much oestrogen and, consequently, increasing your risk of breast cancer. I have a reverse osmosis filter system in the house to purify the water and avoid use of plastic. Exercise - Raise your heartbeat every day for at least 20 mins. Reduce stress – Stress is one of the biggest cancer triggers. Exercise often helps with stress reduction. Yoga and deep breathing are also good. Experiment as much as you can and find whatever it takes to minimise your stress. Safe personal care - Avoid parabens, phthalates and aluminum (just to name a few). A good website to look at is the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which recommends good chemical free products both for personal care and household cleaning products. If you only do one thing: change your deodorant and make sure it’s free from the above, especially aluminum, as it has been heavily linked with breast cancer and you are putting it directly near your breasts.
Finally, laugh a lot and do what you dream, now. Stop putting things off until another day.