By: Renee Coakley (Kindbody Atlanta)
Growing up, there were always clubs everyone wanted to join. These clubs could be based on hobbies, interests, personal growth, or often, what their friends were doing.
Throughout adulthood there were a few clubs that I unwillingly got initiated into that I never would have chosen. A few years ago, I joined the baby loss club at 36 weeks into my pregnancy and, more recently, the breast cancer club at 32 years old.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re also a club member, but my strongest desire is that you aren’t and you have a different story. My goal is to support you in learning preventive measures you can take to ensure you avoid this breast cancer membership enrollment.
One evening a few weeks ago, after my decompressing shower, I was putting on my new rosemary mint body butter from Sprouts (a must try), I felt a tiny little lump on the very side of my breast. I found it where my breast and underarm intersect. It was surprising because I know my body pretty well and that was never there before. I questioned whether the lump was new but ultimately decided to book a Gynecology appointment since I work at Kindbody.
I was able to get in immediately with our provider, Laura. She felt exactly what I was feeling and told me that the best next step was a breast screening ultrasound at the imaging center which quickly turned into my first mammogram.
I’d never had a mammogram before, so I honestly didn’t know what to expect but it sounded like it was going to be uncomfortable. Commonly, these screenings aren’t recommended for women under the age of 40 which is why it was never on my mental radar. I’d just had my annual well-woman exam in March of this year and everything was great, so this never crossed my mind.
After my visit, I had a follow up biopsy appointment scheduled to have the tissue of the mass tested. We quickly noticed that not only was there a small lump, there was also swelling in my lymph nodes under my armpit, so I had both areas tested.
I just knew in my mind everything was going to be fine. That’s how we position ourselves to try to avoid the worry. I mean, I’m a baby-loss survivor, a holistic nutritionist, I even buy all organic for crying out loud! How could anything be wrong? This lump just had to be benign.
Your profession doesn’t exempt you from life’s challenges and traumas but it can support you in the way you navigate them.
Less than a week’s time had passed and my work shift was coming to a close, but my providers wanted to speak with me before I left for the day. September 28, 2021 is a day I’ll never forget. It felt just like February 12, 2017 when my son passed away. They confirmed that my results were positive for breast cancer and wanted to give me the news prior to the phone call from the imaging center.
I cried and sulked in my bed for 2 days and then went into warrior mode. The same warrior mode that came over me after child loss. I didn’t know any other details about my diagnosis besides being positive for cancer. When you hear “cancer” you kind of instantly think “death” but that isn’t the case.
The doctor’s visits started rolling in. It started with the MRI, cardiac testing, meeting with a surgeon, oncologist and then, more recently, having my port valve inserted for chemotherapy treatments. In the end, it was confirmed stage 2, triple negative breast cancer.
I’ve never called the diagnosis “my cancer” because I’m not claiming that in my life. I’m aware of the diagnosis, respect the reports of the doctors and I’m ready to do what’s required to BEAT it with everything in my body.
One thing that blew my mind was when my surgeon said; “Renee, you literally just saved your own life.” He pulled up the mammogram imaging report for me to see for the first time and he told me; “You see, the type of cancer we found in you is best detected through the guided breast ultrasound with the biopsy. You caught this at the early stages because if you ignored this lump, (which would have been easy to do), things would have progressed.”
This made me SO grateful that I’d completed my fertility assessment consultation months ago. That made the decision to freeze my eggs before chemotherapy even easier. Kindbody made this entire process so simple for me and I’m so grateful for, not only the Atlanta team, but the company as a whole for this continued outpour of support and resources.
I desire to be a mother (again) in the near future and I do not want chemotherapy to change or take that option away from me.
I’m waiting for my genetic testing results to come back to better understand my bloodline, and I’ll be starting 8 rounds of chemotherapy this month and I’m ready for it!
Early detection of Breast Cancer
Friendly reminder, prioritize your annual well woman exam and at-home mammogram exams so you’re frequently checking for overall health!
Watch for breast cancer signs or symptoms
- Lump or mass
- Nipple tenderness or discharge
- Change in size or shape of the breast or nipple
- Dimpling of the skin
Schedule a clinical Breast Exam
At home exams are a start, but shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all if you have signs, symptoms or a true concern. Meet with your health care provider to have your clinical exam completed.
This allows you to meet with a specialist at an imaging center to complete further testing such as an assessment ultrasound, mammogram, and biopsy if needed.
1 in 8 patients may have a cancerous genetic gene passed down to them. So testing your bloodline will better help you navigate your specific type of cancer diagnosis, as well as better informing your family for awareness. You do not have to have a direct diagnosis to do this testing. I’d suggest it as a means to prevention and of course work with a genetic counselor for supportive next steps once you’ve received these results.
Lifestyle and Nutrition
Nutrition is the foundation to overall health whether you’re focused on optimizing your fertility, dealing with hormonal imbalances or a cancer diagnosis. Consuming healing foods that support estrogen dominance, cancer prevention, and cellular revitalization are essential to the body’s function.
You can do this by focusing on:
- Reducing Inflammation
- Balancing Blood Sugar levels
- Essential Fatty Acids
- Reducing toxin exposure and endocrine disruptors
We want to function in the space of prevention, because who wants to be sick, ill or deal with chronic challenges? Nobody!
We truly can’t ignore the signs our body is giving us. Anything that doesn’t feel normal, or seems out of place, I encourage you to get it checked out, immediately. You will always be worth the investment because you only get one life and you’re worth every single second. The world needs who you were always meant to be, and if this membership shows up in your inbox, please know you’ve already won the battle.
Renee’ Coakley is a certified holistic health coach and nutrition therapy practitioner in Georgia and Michigan. She specializes in helping women, with fast-paced lives optimize their fertility, manage their weight and reverse hormonal imbalances such as PCOS.
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