Breast cancer survivor: Early detection is the key

The wind whistling, leaves rustling and birds chirping never sounded so sweet, until, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Kimberly Connor found out she had the disease eight years ago after performing a breast self-exam. She was 29 years old and in shoc

The wind whistling, leaves rustling and birds chirping never sounded so sweet until she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Kimberly Connor found out she had the disease eight years ago after performing a breast self-exam. She was 29 years old and in shock, she told the Defender.

“It scared me. I immediately made an appointment. They did a sonogram and a mammogram,” said a baffled Connor, who does not have a family history of breast cancer.

Connor, now a 38-year-old State of Illinois employee and journalist, said once the diagnosis was confirmed, she had two lumpectomies and radiation treatment. Then the cancer went into remission.

A few years later, it came back, she said.

“That time, I had a mastectomy on the left side. It hasn’t spread, and I’ve been cancer-free for five years now,” said Connor, who suspects her diagnosis is linked to her many years of taking birth control pills.

According to a 2006 study by the Sinai Urban Health Institute, the breast cancer mortality rate for African American women in Chicago is 68 percent higher than that of white women.

The report stated that while advances in mammography screening and treatment in the city have benefited white women over the last 23 years, it has not helped minimize breast cancer mortality for African American women.

Connor, who also counsels and educates others, especially younger females, about breast cancer, said she can’t stress enough about the importance of doing breast selfexams.

“You know your body, so you should know when something doesn’t seem right. When you are doing the exam, take notice of everything. If it’s something so small that seems out of place, get it checked out. Don’t have the attitude that you will just monitor it for a few months before going to see a doctor. There’s no reason to just sit and watch it. You never know how much those few months could impact you. Early detection is the key,” she said.

From the initial diagnosis and throughout the treatments, Connor said she’s realized some “blessings in disguise.”

“There’s nothing that compares to your family and friends. I have a more profound appreciation of life because tomorrow is not promised. I value nature more. You just never know what people take for granted each day that could just be taken away without a moment’s notice. I’ve never enjoyed hearing birds chirp as much as I do now,” said Connor. The State of Illinois offers free mammograms and breast exams through its Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.

Uninsured women over the age of 35 can receive free cervical cancer screenings, and women over the age of 40 can receive free mammograms and breast exams.

For more information, call the Illinois Dept. of Public Health’s Women’s Health Line at (888) 522- 1282.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Comments

From the Web