Please welcome Lilly Gale, author and cancer survivor.


She has a message she wants to share with us, so I’m going to skip the interview stuff and jump into her blog.


Blog-

At night and on weekends, I am a wife, a mother, and a writer. My first novel, Out of the Darkness, a paranormal vampire romance was released from The Wild Rose Press in May of this year. But my day job is in a hospital. I'm a radiologic technologist and mammographer. And I've always been an advocate of the FDA and the American Cancer Society's recommendations for women concerning their breast health.

  • Women 20-39 should have a physical examination of the breast (CBE or clinical breast exam) at least every three years, performed by health care professional such as a physician, physician assistant, nurse or nurse practitioner. CBE may often be received in the same appointment as a Pap smear. Women 20-39 should also perform monthly BSE.(Breast Self Exam)
  • Women age 35 should have their baseline mammogram.
  • Women 40 and older should have a physical examination of the breast (CBE or clinical breast exam) every year, performed by a health care professional, such as a physician, physician assistant, nurse or nurse practitioner. CBE can often be performed in the same visit as a mammogram. Monthly BSE should also be performed.
  • Women 40 years of age should receive a screening mammogram every year. The National Cancer Institute recommends mammography every one to two years for women between 40-50 years of age. Beginning at age 50, screening mammography should be performed every year.


But in June 2007, I was lax. It had been 18 months since my last mammogram (which was normal.) I had an appointment with my doctor to follow up on my migraine medicine and mentioned the gap. He immediately wrote an order for my annual screening. My clinical breast exam was normal and I had not found any breast lumps myself. In fact, I had no risk factors for breast cancer.


What are those factors?

Being female- Okay, I had one risk factor!

A first degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer: (mother, sister, daughter, maternal grandmother, maternal aunts)- my father's first cousin had just been diagnosed in April, but that's not a first degree relative and she was the only one.

Early menarche--younger than 12 I was 13. TMI?

Older age at menopause--over 55 I was only 47 in 2007.

Years of artificial hormones after a hysterectomy I had a hysterectomy in 2005 and never filled the hormone prescription. Ironically, I didn't want to increase my risk of breast cancer.

Nulliparity (Never having children)- I have two beautiful daughters.

Not breast feeding- I breast fed both my girls for at least the first six weeks.

Late first time pregnancy- I was 25 the first time I got pregnant.


On June 14, 2007, after I finished with my last patient, I got one of the other mammographers to take my mammogram. We didn't have digital mammography then and had to wait for the films to fall from the processor. And the moment I saw that spiculated lesion lying next to my chest wall in my right breast, I knew. I would have to wait for a diagnostic mammogram and then a biopsy, but I knew deep in my gut that it would prove to be cancer. I had seen too many cancers on film in my career not to know that I had just become the one in eight women diagnosed each year with breast cancer.


I underwent two excisional biopsies on my right breast and a lymph node biopsy to see if the disease had spread to my nodes. Thank God it hadn't. I was stage one. But the tumor was aggressive and would not respond to hormone treatments. So, I had a MUGA scan, which is a Nuclear Medicine test to assess the heart and then underwent eight weeks of chemotherapy.


Thankfully, I didn't throw up. I had constant indigestion and a lot of nausea but it wasn't as bad as I anticipated. I think the new meds they give cancer patients helped but I did lose all my hair and was completely bald for months. Then before I could start radiation treatments, I had to have an MRI to make sure the chemo destroyed all the cancer cells. If it hadn't I would have had a mastectomy. But again, I was lucky. The remaining breast looked clear, as did my left breast. So, I had three months of radiation and was declared "cured" in December of 2007.


I see my oncologist every three months and I still have blood work drawn. And until my last mammogram, I was getting mammograms every six months. I graduated to yearly screening mammograms this year. Yay me!


FYI. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) came up with new "guidelines" for woman. You can see these guidelines at:

http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/clickToGive/mammogramguidelines.faces?siteId=2#USPSTF

They have decided that women don't need to screen for breast cancer until they are fifty.

My problem with this, besides the fact that I was a 47 year old breast cancer patient with no family history whose cancer was discovered on a screening mammogram, the statistics don't mention the fact that cancers found in women under 50 are more aggressive. If they are not caught while the patient is still asymptomatic (before they find a lump) the mortality rate risesThe American Cancer Society, the FDA (also a federal agency), and every mammographer I know recommend screening mammograms for all women over 40. And with the new health insurance laws that came into effect October 1 that prevents insurance companies from charging co-pays and deductibles for mammograms, there is no reason why women 40-80 shouldn't have a screening mammogram every year.


Since mammography screening reduces breast cancer death by 15% for women ages 39 to 49, I can't imagine why any agency would recommend waiting until age 50 or why any woman would hesitate to schedule her annual screening.


It is your body. Your breast. Your life. And your right.

You can find out more about breast cancer at www.cancer.org or www.breastcancer.org


OUT OF THE DARKNESS: Available now from The Wild Rose Press-- Her research could cure his dark hunger if a covert government agent doesn't get to her first.
www.lillygayle.com
www.lillygayleromance.blogspot.com

18 comments

  1. Scarlet Pumpernickel // October 12, 2010 at 12:35 AM  

    Lilly, welcome to the Pink Fuzzies! Thanks for bringing us this important information. Congrats on your book and especially on being a survivor. You caution about cancer in younger women being more agressive is a timely message. We must be very conscious of our health.

  2. Mary Marvella // October 12, 2010 at 12:38 AM  

    Mama Mary welcomes Lilly and her important message today.

    Your book sounds intriguing.

  3. Joanna St. James // October 12, 2010 at 7:24 AM  

    This is a great message, i strongly believe everyone should get tested at least once a year irrespective of what anybody else says.

  4. Judy // October 12, 2010 at 8:04 AM  

    Lilly, Thank you so much for giving us valuable information. It can be very confusing when different approaches are mentioned. I'd much rather hear the "Truth" from you! Good luck with your book!!

  5. Edie Ramer // October 12, 2010 at 10:06 AM  

    Lilly, I was diagnosed with BC when I was 45. Like you, I did not fit into the statistics. Also, I was exercising regularly, I ate healthy, and I was thin (at that time). I didn't have a lump, and it was only caught through a mammogram.

    So I'm furious at the recommendation changes. I know it can happen to anyone and at ages younger than 50.

  6. Joanne // October 12, 2010 at 12:21 PM  

    Lilly,
    A warm welcome to the Pink Fuzzies. Thanks for bringing us such an important message. And congrats on your book, and, more importantly, on being a cancer survivor.

  7. Nightingale // October 12, 2010 at 2:12 PM  

    Your post brought back memories for me. Thanks for encouraging people to keep an eye on their health. I didn't have any of the markers either.

  8. Barbara Monajem // October 12, 2010 at 2:47 PM  

    Thanks for all this useful information, Lilly. Would you please tell us a little about your book?

  9. Patrice // October 12, 2010 at 3:39 PM  

    Lilly, you sound like a remarkable woman and I'm so pleased that you fought this courageous battle and won. Thanks for your advice and I need to schedule one soon.
    Congratulations on the release of your book. Stay healthy!

  10. Lilly Gayle // October 12, 2010 at 5:41 PM  

    Thanks ladies for having me here today and allowing me to share my story and message.

    Edie & Nightingale. Hooray for survivors! And you're right, Edie, the government is clueless when it comes to women's health. I'm interviewing a good friend and radiation oncologist on my blog www.lillygayleromance.blogspot.com on 10/29. According to her, most doctors are not paying any attention to the new guidlelines. Thank God! She also has some added risk factors she's going to share.

    Patrice, October is a good month to have a mammogram. Most hospitals (mine included) give away free goodies to their mammogram patients during the month of October.

    Here research could cure his dark hunger if a covert government agent doesn't get to her first.

    Vincent Maxwell is a vampire with a conscience seeking a cure to his dark hunger. But when a scientist looking to create vampire soldiers captures and kills a fellow vampire, Vincent seeks out Dr. Megan Harper, a research scientist who discovered a link between a genetic light sensitivity disorder and vampirism. Dr. Harper could hold a key to a cure and the answers to Gerard’s death. But getting close to the beautiful scientist could endanger both their lives.

    When researcher Megan meets Vincent she believes he suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum, the genetic disease that killed her sister. Sensing a deep loneliness within the handsome man, she offers friendship and access to her research files. But she and Vincent soon become more than friends and Megan learns the horrifying truth. She's entered the dark and unseen world of vampires and Vincent is her only hope of survival.

    Out of the Darkness is available from Amazon at: http://goo.gl/LnL3
    and from The fabulous Wild Rose Press at:http://goo.gl/wt39

  11. Lilly Gayle // October 12, 2010 at 5:44 PM  

    Ok, Blogspot did something weird to my prior post. It squished two paragraphs together. But at least the blurb makes sense. The blurb, BTW, is for for Barbara M. Thanks so much for asking about Out of the Darkness.

  12. Autumn Jordon // October 12, 2010 at 8:11 PM  

    What an inspiring post! Thank God you had the testing done. I can only imagine your thoughts and feelings looking at the image. So glad you are here.

  13. Beth Trissel // October 12, 2010 at 8:34 PM  

    Hello Lilly and welcome to the Fuzzies. Thanks so much for sharing your life saving message. After my sister was diagnosed a few weeks ago at the age of 43 with breast cancer and will be undergoing a double mastectomy (with reconstruction at the time of surgery) later this month, I am very aware of the need for all of these breast exams.

  14. Lilly Gayle // October 13, 2010 at 6:06 AM  

    Thanks Autumn & Beth. And Beth, I'll be keeping your sister in my thoughts and prayers. I wish her luck with her treatments.The best thing she needs now is positive thoughts and her family's love and support.Hand in there!You're a wonderful sister.

  15. Mary Marvella // October 13, 2010 at 11:48 AM  

    Gayle, you are an inspiration, as are our ladies who beat the "BIG C" and those with family members facing that battle now.

  16. Mona Risk // October 13, 2010 at 7:42 PM  

    Lilly, thank you for sharing your ordeal. I must be considered high risk since my mother, two aunts and a cousin died of cancer, and I had a biopsy at thirty. For five years, the hospital insisted I have mammograms and ultra sound every six months and then they said every two years because the insurance doesn't allow it more often. So I didn't have any this year.

  17. Laurie Kellogg // October 14, 2010 at 9:34 AM  

    Wonderful post, Lilly. I get a mammogram every single year because I'm a strong proponent of preventative medicine. I am a endometrial/uterine cancer survivor who also got lucky with early detection from extremely minor symptoms I could've easily ignored. I've also had a large precancerous polyp.

    Therefore, I'm putting in a plug for everyone who has ANY family history of colon cancer OR endometrial cancer should not to wait until they are 50 to have their first colonoscopy. Having a family history of uterine cancer also puts one at higher risk for colon cancer. Go when you turn 40--even if you have to pay for it yourself. As you said, Lilly, cancer under the age of 50 is much more aggressive. Please everyone, don't gamble with your lives.

  18. Lilly Gayle // October 14, 2010 at 6:22 PM  

    Thanks Mary. And Mona, if you live in the states, new insurance laws allow annual screenings over 40 (for now!) and no deductible or co-pay.

    Laurie, Hooray for surviving! I had a total hysterectomy before my breast cancer diagnosis ( guess that's why my cancer was triple negative--HER2 negative, FSH negative, and BRACCA negative. And because I have a strong family history of colon cancer AND irritable bowel syndrome, I've already had 2 colonscopies.

    BTW, everyone regardless of family history should have a screening colonoscopy at age 50.