October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I'd like you to read about Sabrina Goble, my friend, Harrisburg neighbor, and breast cancer survivor. This is her story about how she found out she had breast cancer. She spoke with me in an interview recently in our neighborhood, Providence Manor. These are her words.
"I don't take credit for me, any doctor, or any mammography machine finding it," she said. "Pure and simple, it was a miracle. Most women do not do their self breast examination every month. I admit I rarely did my self checks.
"In February of 2007, I went for a routine mammogram. My gynecologist got the report back and said, 'Everything is fine, come back in a year.' Four months later, God got my attention.
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"My husband and I were touring homes on a Saturday. They had nice outdoor bathrooms with sinks and mirrors and skylights that let the sunlight come through the roof. As I went in, the spaghetti strap on my blouse, that had been falling all day, fell again. In the light from that skylight I saw an indentation on the top of my chest. I ran my hand over it and said 'What is this?' It felt distinctively different. Round. And hard. Like a BB. And I saw it with my eyes.
"So I was in the doctor's office on Monday morning. I want people to know this is not something you put off. You go immediately.
"The surgeon removed the 0.6 centimeter tumor the same week. Five days later, I got the devastating phone call. I was in shock when they told me it was malignant and that a second surgery would have to be scheduled because they didn't get it all.
"At that moment, I fell to my knees in anguish. God spoke to me and said that if I would trust Him, He would use it for something good to help others.
"The journey started with chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Handfuls and clumps of my long, strawberry blonde hair began falling out. Brushing it only caused more to come out. People told me to cut it short, that it would be easier, but I wasn't ready. I had to get to a point where I was ready before I could do that. I did eventually shave my head, but I couldn't do it then."
The first hint of tears appeared in her eyes.
"Thinking I was done, a year later, I said to the doctor, 'I want any test you can do.' That's when I found out about the BRCA tests."
The tests are for mutations in genes BRCA 1and BRCA 2. Some studies show that women who have the inherited mutated genes have up to an 80 percent chance of receiving a breast-cancer diagnosis during their lifetimes. Family history also plays a role in determining those odds, and doctors do point out that having the mutated gene only puts someone at risk and does not mean that breast cancer is definite in the future.
"I found out I had the gene," said Goble, "and that's when I had a double mastectomy and my ovaries removed. I went through menopause at 39."
"The things I want to get across to the readers are these: Take that five-minute SBE (self breast exam) every month for yourself, your family. Do your mammograms with your doctor and always ask to see your film," said Goble. "Check it with your eyes. If I'd waited the year, I'd be dead. Six eyes are better than two, so always have your film sent to your GYN and look it over with him, too. Ask questions. And, if you are diagnosed, get those BRCA tests before any surgeries or treatments. It does make a difference."
Coming later this month: More of Sabrina Goble's story and the organizations working to fight breast cancer.