Breast cancer does not pick and choose, so why do doctors? As a small town in Illinois plans a fundraiser for a recent cancer victim, a family mourns. Only the loss was not of an elderly grandmother who’d lived a long anecdotal-filled life; she was only 27 years old. She had been married for less than three years and was the mother of a beautiful little girl who’d just turned 1. While there are still great memories to share amongst family and friends, her book will remain unfinished, but her story will be told.
Cancer does not care about inner beauty
Anyone who ever knew her would say that she could light up the room with her smile, toss a heap of kindness at a stranger and love wholeheartedly both family and her friends. She was one of a kind and had a beautiful soul that just made others happy to be around her. Her untimely death left all who knew her absolutely devastated, heartbroken really. There was no warning to those who knew her, many didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye and no one ever thought they would be paying their last respects to her so soon.
Cancer does not have an age preference
According to the Young Survival Coalition, which is a not-for-profit organization that works as a resource for young women with breast cancer and survivors of the disease, “in 2011, there were 13,110 cases of breast cancer in women under 40, approximately 1200 die each year as a result.” Heather was one of them. It happened so fast and it was a complete shock to all. In family pictures leading up to her death, she appeared healthy.
Cancer does not always show on the outside
Although it was said that she had been in pain since Thanksgiving, what no one knew was that she found a lump in her breast this past summer. She did the right thing and saw a doctor about it. The doctor said it was a clogged milk duct and that she was too young to have breast cancer. The doctor told her to take Tylenol for the pain and that is what she did. Eventually, she went back to the doctor, but it was not soon enough.
Cancer is not always slow
She was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to her liver on January 14th, 2016. Many were in disbelief and everyone thought it would be a struggle, but in the minds of many she would be just fine and everyone had hope. On January 17th, she was released from the hospital and went back home to be with her husband and daughter, which was a huge step forward.
Cancer is not worried about what others think
On January 20th, her mom posted on Facebook, updating the group of over 500 supporters with a message that made hearts sink a bit, as it was scary news. The message read as follows “Heather is on her way back to the hospital. Please pray. She is not staying awake and won’t walk.” Anyone who has watched others suffer from cancer would have been deeply concerned, as that was not a good sign.
Cancer has broken the hearts of many
The next day, January 21st, at 6:45 am, everyone in Heather’s world was heartbroken. She had passed at the age of 27, not even nine days after being diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to the liver.
Cancer does not care who it hurts
Parents are not supposed to say goodbye to their children ever; it is just not natural. She will not physically be at her sister’s wedding. Instead, she will be an angel looking down upon her in October. Her husband is now a single father who is hurting immensely and their beautiful daughter will only know her mother from the stories that others tell her. What she does not know yet is that every time she looks in a mirror, her mother will be smiling right back at her, for she is the spitting image of her mom.
Cancer picks on both men and women
Breast cancer is not selective; it can happen to anyone. According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that over 2500 men will acquire breast cancer in this year alone. Over 400 of those men will succumb to it in 2016. Cancer does not speak up and tell us when it will attack. Instead, it can be quite sneaky. It is important to follow a well laid out preventative medicine plan for health in general, but especially for cancer screenings. There are way too many people who take their health for granted and feel invincible because they are young.
Cancer is always a possibility
While cancer does occur more frequently in the elderly population, it must never be assumed by doctors, family, friends or the patient that it is out of the realm of possibility. If a doctor ever tells a patient they are too young for any major health problem, it should be a red flag to the patient to get a second opinion. Their job as a medical professional is not to guess haphazardly. Patients are dying each day from this kind of poor judgment call.
Cancer doesn’t have perfect timing
The CDC recommends getting a mammogram once a year starting at age 40, although it is okay for a patient to ask for one sooner, especially if there is a family history. After 45, women should have one done every two years. They are no longer recommending self-breast exams either, because they have determined that they have no benefit. This, of course, is not taking high-risk patients into account. If it runs in the family or the BRCA gene is found, then a plan of preventative action should be discussed with a doctor sooner.
Cancer is a bully that can’t be trusted
It is also very important to be an advocate for oneself, as this can aid the doctor in discovering the problem. People tend to forget that doctors are human and they can make mistakes. These are more likely to happen when the puzzle is missing some pieces. If the patient is not comfortable speaking to the doctor, then it would be wise to find a more compatible one. The days of people blindly trusting doctors needs to end. While most doctors know exactly what they are talking about, a second opinion should always be sought when pain does not subside quickly or when a doctor brushes a patient off as being “too young.”
Cancer wins when doctors brush patients off
Patients need to speak up, especially when their gut is telling them something is not right. Remember that this does not hurt the original doctor. If they were in pain, they would do the same. If a family member or friend has unresolved medical problems, encourage them to go back to the doctor, even offer to go with them if necessary. Baylor College and Houston’s Veteran Affairs Hospital did a study that came back with stunning results. 12 million people a year are affected by misdiagnosis, most of which could have resulted in major illnesses or death.
Cancer could care less if mistakes are made
John Hopkins University Medical Center found that over 160,000 people die or become permanently and seriously harmed from medical misdiagnosis or mistakes made each year. It should be mentioned that not all misdiagnoses are reported. More often than not, people who are diagnosed incorrectly end up with a new doctor and never report it. Just like any occupation, it is impossible to improve and be more thorough if the doctor does not know that he or she made a mistake. If a doctor knows he/she made a mistake, at the very least he or she will be less likely to brush off a concerned patient in the future. Life experience is the ultimate teacher.
Cancer takes too many loved ones and must be stopped
Heather, a young vibrant woman, was taken away far too soon from family and friends that loved her very much. Knowing her and the compassion she had for others, as well as her strong faith, she would not want to die in vain. She would have wanted to help as many people as possible. Breast cancer can happen to any human being, at any age, male or female. My darling cousin Heather was 27 and did not have a chance to fight, but because of her, you might.