Breast Cancer survivor shares her story
October 21, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - I found a lump in my left breast while in the shower doing my monthly self-examination. I didn't stress because 17 months earlier, I found a similar lump in my right breast. It was non-cancerous, and I had the lump removed. I made an appointment Aug. 3, 2009 to have my second lump checked and tested to see if it was cancerous. Same old routine - so I thought.
I received a call Aug. 17, 2009, informing me that I had breast cancer.
I had just moved to the area, had just signed into my unit, the 260th Quartermaster Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade. Simply put, I was scared. How do I tell my commander? Better yet, how do I lead Soldiers? I didn't want to look sick, and I definitely didn't want to lose my hair.
On Sept. 8, 2009, I had a lumpectomy and was informed that I had Stage One breast cancer.
My lump was 1.2 centimeters, which felt about the size of a pea when I did my monthly self exams. It was a little deep in the muscle, but it wasn't hard to find.
Women, this is why monthly self exams are so important. Take your hand and put it above your head and move your other hand in a circular motion around your breast. I could only feel the pea-size tumor if my arm was raised above my head.
The reason I take these exams seriously is because my grandmother died from breast cancer. If you have a Family history of breast cancer, there is no excuse not to conduct a monthly self exam. Early detection saves lives, I am living proof. If the cancer is found in an early stage, the survival rate is 98 percent with an aggressive treatment plan.
My journey has been a roller coaster, but I never feared death. Breast cancer came into my life like a thief; cancer took 15 months of my life away from me. I have undergone an aggressive treatment plan, which included chemotherapy, radiation, herceptin treatments and a five-year plan for a daily dose of Tamoxifen.
I have realized that I am not the same Soldier I used to be, but I am still a Soldier. I have realized that I have limitations of what I can do, and I have accepted that. But as a leader I have more compassion, and I understand that everybody does not have the same physical capabilities.
On a personal note, I've learned not to limit the things I want to do. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. It definitely opened my eyes to taking advantage of spending more time with my Family.
Life is a test to see if you can recover from bumps and bruises. Life for me has been a test to pick up the pieces and move forward.
I have a lot to celebrate; my cancer has been in remission for 26 months, and for that, I celebrate life.
Editor's Note: Captain Graham is a Breast Cancer Survivor, and still serves with the 260th Quartermaster Battalion, which hosted its first Paint the Town Pink run in her honor in October 2009. Her story recently appeared in the Savannah Morning News.