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Cancer Allowed Me to Embrace Life

Cure Magazine recently published my article on "Embracing Life." It's been 27 years since I heard the words "you have breast cancer." I'm now a two-time survivor -- diagnosed again in 2018. The first time, I wrote a bucket list of 27 things I wanted to do before I died. And I wrote another one in 2018. Parachuting out of an airplane is still on the list and I have yet to do it, but who knows maybe parasailing will have to do! To be honest, I can't wait for the month of pink to be over with. It's not that I'm not grateful to have lived and survived twice, it's just the constant bombardment of a system that failed me twice. Mammograms and sonograms were useless in my case. I have dense breasts. Both times I found the cancer myself. And then I had to convince surgeons to do a biopsy. The second time after following a lump in my breast for two years, I lied to my surgical oncologist. "It's growing," I said. And that's how I finally got a biopsy; otherwise, I'd be dead right now.

The surgical oncologist thought I was crazy. "Oh, it's just a 'fat necrosis' and you're overreacting." Really? What I should have demanded was a breast MRI. Instead I got that procedure for staging purposes. It showed a 1.3 cm mass -- the exact size of my first breast cancer. In pathology, it ended up being 2.0 cm (the cut-off for Stage I). We never knew the size of my first tumor because the surgeon made a stab incision and the tumor broke into seven pieces. The pathologist didn't know what to do since it had never happened before. So, he lined up the pieces on a ruler and measured them en bloc. Serial mammograms and sonograms every six months failed me not once, but twice.

Now I'm the CEO of my own health. I tell the doctor what to do or I find another doctor. Doctors are in the business of making money and they don't have your best interest in mind. It's just a job -- like any other job. Except they are dealing with a human life. A professor, who teaches at a Medical College, told me that if a doctor sees ten patients, he's lucky if he makes the correct diagnosis three out of ten. Those odds aren't good enough for me. With all the tools at our disposal, including AI, there's no reason why we can't be the CEO of our health. Just remember, you're in the driver's seat and if you feel something is wrong, you're probably right 99% of the time. Never surrender your rights to a doctor who doesn't have your best interests in mind.

I've embraced life by facing my own mortality -- twice. Despite all the medical errors, I've been able to complete both bucket lists and add a few more things that weren't on the original one. The month of pink is one that I'm thankful to say goodbye to. Instead I'm ready to turn the page on October and look forward to more sunny days on Anna Maria Island -- our home.

Until next time . . .

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