Facing Breast Cancer

My Bald headAs I recall that October in 2008, something was different about my breast.  I did what most women do, I ignored it, thinking it would just go away.  But the pain worsened, I only noticed it during morning PT (Physical Training).  I recently PCS’d from a stressful command, where I was too busy and always on the go to notice any body changes then.  However, at my new command it was a more relaxed environment and less work so I was able to breathe throughout my short period there.

That year I turned 29, my friends joked that I was soon approaching the B-I-G 30 next year!  I was ready for that milestone and promised that I would embrace it and go on.  After adjusting to my new command and getting comfortable with a couple of Drill Weekends under my belt, I started to worry more about that pain that wasn’t going away.  A few months have passed now its January 2009 and my push-ups during my workout was starting to bother me.  So now I  am persuaded to make my appointment at Madigan Medial Army Center, Ft. Lewis, Washington. This Army Base is huge and has everything.  I saw my Primary Care provider explained what was going on and I left with prescriptions for relieving pain and swelling.  Weeks go by and now I’m even more worried as I continue to feel my breast.  My Husband said, “Babe if it’s bothering you that bad, then go back to the doctor.”  I go back and this time I have to make sure this Doctor sees the desperation in my voice and on my face to get a Mammogram to rule out if there is anything for sure.  I spent a week going to different appointments and finally my biopsy revealed something that till this day I deal with.  I will never forget Nurse Jennie, she meant everything to me that day.  She was the one who told me I had breast cancer.  All I remember is her saying those words and her explaining to me on a piece of paper what type of cancer it was and how fast it was growing.  The room went silent as she continue to speak.  We both cried and she consoled me as much as she could.

I didn’t wear my uniform that day because they said wear loose fitting clothing after the biopsy was done.  For the next several months my uniform came off and I was fighting a different fight.  Fighting for my life in civilian clothes.  Cancer doesn’t care what uniform you are wearing, what matters is what will be on the inside of you as you fight the cancer battle.

I want to get to know other women who were diagnosed with breast cancer while on active duty.  Please email me at latina.starling@gmail.com, I would love to share your story on Veterans vs. Breast Cancer Blog.

Breast Cancer Screenings

While on active duty, most women with no family history or prior history of breast cancer will only receive a breast exam from their primary care provider. In between annual physical appointments its vital to listen to your body and perform self-breast exams monthly before and after your period to notice changes, if any.

Most women are busy with the day-to-day operations of completing the mission, standing duty, and being a wife and mom that we tend to forget about the well being of ourselves. Be your own best advocate when it comes to your healthcare.
After the military don’t be afraid of not knowing where to get care right away. Female veterans can receive breast cancer screenings at your local VA. Most VA Hospitals have a Women’s Health Clinic that provides services. Ask for the Manager of Women Veterans Program.

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