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Thinking pink and knowing your breasts could save your life…it saved mine!

Do you ever check your breasts…for lumps I mean? We hear messages all the time on TV, radio, in the press that we must regularly check for lumps and changes to our breasts that could indicate a horrid, sneaky little cancer growing inside.

October is Pink Ribbon month and in addition to raising funds for breast cancer research, this month is also a great reminder to check our breasts for changes.

I never ever checked my breasts …ever. Why would I? I was a healthy 35 year old woman who is barely ever sick and has no family history of breast cancer. Nothing like that would ever happen to me, right? Sista, was I wrong!

So it was about five years ago when my husband was getting a bit frisky with me in bed one Sunday morning and I felt a sharp pain in my left boob. When I grabbed it, I felt a lump. I didn’t really think it would be anything significant, just a bit of breast tissue maybe. And I don’t like to be a drama queen about these things or go looking for what might be wrong with my health. I’m more of a ‘lets just see if it goes away on it’s own’ type of girl.

But this time, I listened to that little voice in my head telling me that maybe I should go and have this lump checked out by a doctor. So I went to the doctor who had trouble trying to find it at first.

It was way over the to the side of my left boob, only a couple of centimetres from my armpit. When she did feel it, she wasn’t too sure about it but gave me a referral to have an ultrasound done. I’m so grateful she did!

I nearly didn’t have the ultrasound. I kept chastising myself saying, ‘Mel, you’re just being a drama queen, there’s nothing wrong with you…you’re just wasting everyone’s time.’

But I did go, and at first the sonographer couldn’t find the lump either; it really was a sneaky thing hiding away, not wanting to be found. But eventually she did find it, and I remember her calling for the doctor and I knew there was something wrong.

Doctor Mariola Wierner is a beautiful doctor – I think of her as an angel. She was so kind and supportive and reassuring for the next two hours while I had a mammogram and then my left breast biopsied. I won’t lie, it freaking hurt!

I remember she said to me, ‘You must make an appointment to see your GP for two days time.’

I said, ‘But I can’t get into see my doctor for at least three weeks, he’s always booked out.’

Doctor Wierner looked me in the eye and told me firmly, ‘You have to tell them it’s an emergency and you must be squeezed in.’

I knew.

So it began, 12 months of my life being about breast cancer. That little 2cm lump was both invasive and aggressive. I had a partial mastectomy, followed by 6 rounds of chemotherapy, 5 weeks of radiation treatment and 12 months of Herceptin administered intravenously every three weeks.

It was crappy time: I was in pain for months from my surgery; I lost my hair – everywhere; my mouth tasted like a metallic ashtray from the drugs; I felt sick most of the time after chemo; and I thought my nipple was going to fall off after being hit with radiation every day for 5 weeks.

My youngest son was embarrassed by my bald head and told all the kids at school I had joined the airforce and I had to get a ‘buzz cut’.

But their was some good stuff too. I learnt to be alone and like my own company. I had to, I was alone at home all the time when Craig and the kids went to work and school everyday. I am quite extraverted and have always loved having people around me. It was a big change to suddenly be by myself all day, everyday. One time I didn’t leave the house for 3 weeks.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted my life to be when I got better. I knew that I wanted to worry less, be more joyful, for my family to be more happy and loving to each other. I knew I wanted more adventure in my life, to travel and capture the world with my photography.

I knew that something good had to come from this crappy situation.

I had to win, not the cancer. I began speaking about breast cancer at various breast cancer fundraising events and became involved in the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation who provide amazing grassroots support for breast cancer patients.

But I wanted my life to have purpose…and ultimately my cancer started me on the yellow brick road to you via The Sista Code. The first seed of an idea to create The Sista Code was planted during days in bed staring at the ceiling with nothing but my own thoughts.

To all the sistas who are reading this, check your breasts please every month. Or get your husband or partner to check them. If you think you might feel something, get it checked out by a doctor. I nearly didn’t and may not be here today if I hadn’t.

To any men reading this, be aware that men get breast cancer too so keep an eye out for any changes to your breasts.

And lastly to everyone, be happy, be joyous, look for the good in life and others. Make this life you live a good and happy one!

Make a difference, make it count!

Mel xx

P.S. I wrote a blog during my chemotherapy treatment…if you are interested you can read it at http://www.melissahiston.blogspot.com.au/

For more information about breast cancer, please visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation at http://www.nbcf.org.au/

To find out more about the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation, please visit http://www.hbcf.org.au/

Melissa Histon, creator of The Sista Code

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