This past June, just before a planned five-week summer vacation to Italy, author Judy Blume decided to undergo a routine breast ultrasound. After reviewing the results, her gynecologist recommended a biopsy; which ultimately led to a diagnosis of ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer in women.
"Wait – me?," she wrote on her blog. "There’s no breast cancer in my family (recent extensive genetic testing shows no genetic connection). I haven’t eaten red meat in more than 30 years. I’ve never smoked, I exercise every day, forget alcohol - it’s bad for my reflux - I’ve been the same weight my whole adult life. How is this possible? Well, guess what – it’s possible."
In a long and intense sharing of events, Blume goes on to reveal how she weighed pursuing a course of treatment - either via lumpectomy followed by radiation, or mastectomy with or without reconstruction. She ultimately chose the latter with reconstruction, saying that it wasn't a difficult emotional decision for her "because my breasts have never defined my sexuality."
Blume had surgery on July 30th, six weeks after diagnosis, but adds that it was quick and resulted in very little pain. She also revealed that this wasn't her first brush with cancer.
"Anesthesia can be dangerous but I'd had a hysterectomy seventeen years ago (cervical cancer caused by HPV)," she writes. "We didn't know it was cervical cancer before the surgery but we knew something was going on. Caught it just in time, extensive but still in situ. No other treatment necessary."
The 74-year-old says the support she received from friends that had also battled breast cancer was immense, calling them "her inspiration." She also had a message for others that have similarly dense breast tissue.
"I have to thank Dr. S, the radiologist who's been doing my mammograms for 20 years. If she hadn't decided I should have a sonogram because of dense breast tissue we still wouldn't know. This didn't show up in a mammo or in physical exams, and I'm checked by doctors four times a year. Even the breast surgeon couldn’t feel this one. If you have dense breast tissue ask your radiologist about having a sonogram."
To read her full account, jump here.