The View From Here (23-10)

justine sitting in her car smiling wearing a black dress

The View From Here

By: Justine Chichester

“Having had Cancer, one important thing to know is you’re still the same person at the end. You’re stripped down to near zero. But most people come out the other end feeling more like themselves than ever before.” – Kylie Minogue, Australian pop singer, diagnosed with Breast Cancer at age 36

In 2019 I went to my primary care physician for a routine follow up. I was in the midst of recovery from a spinal cord injury, two thoracic spine surgeries and hydrocephalus which resulted in brain surgery and shunt placement in my brain. I had really been through so much, and the visit to my “regular” doctor was just supposed to be a routine follow up. During my visit, she said to me, “You turned 40 while you were in the hospital, after your fall, so you haven’t had a mammogram yet. And you need to schedule one as soon as possible.”

Now, the last thing I wanted to do was yet another medical test. Over the past several years since my fall, since my spinal cord injury, I had more tests done than you can possibly imagine. Plus, I didn’t have any symptoms, I didn’t feel any lumps or bumps. And, I was in a wheelchair. How was I possibly going to do a mammogram in a wheelchair? I didn’t see any need for yet another test, especially right now.

I explained all of my “reasons” (which were actually excuses), to my doctor, but she gave me the prescription anyway and she insisted I go for the mammogram as soon as I could. It was a struggle for me, at first, to find a place that would accommodate me, in my chair, for the mammogram. Baptist Hospital ultimately was the place and I went for the mammogram. I was shocked when they informed me that they found a mass that appeared to be “lobular.”

I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. I thought I was done with all of this medical stuff. Hadn’t I already done my time…endured enough? I’ve never, ever been someone who complained, but, really, hadn’t I been through enough? More tests ensued after the mammogram, and I ultimately got the call, that I indeed had Breast Cancer.

After finding the right surgeon, Dr. Mautner at The Miami Cancer Institute, and coming up with a plan with her, along with my family, I had a lumpectomy and subsequent 6 weeks of radiation. And, although the journey has been long and difficult, I endured, I survived and I live to tell the tale today. All because I got that mammogram I so did not want to do.

If I can go, in my wheelchair, after all of the medical issues and tests I had just been through, and get my mammogram, so can you. I know it can be scary. I know it’s a hassle. I know you have to find the time, I know you have a million things to do and you really don’t want to do it. But early detection is the key. If there is something there, you need to know now so you can take care of it and keep your life going. And, most importantly, keep on living…Just like I did!

“More than 10 million Americans are living with Cancer, and they demonstrate the ever-increasing possibility of living beyond Cancer.” – Sheryl Crow, American musician and singer-songwriter, diagnosed with Breast Cancer at age 44, after a routine mammogram that she almost skipped.