I have small breasts.

I love them. They’re just the right size for me. I like that they stay close to my body when I move. As a dancer then and an athlete now, I appreciate that I have never needed 3 extra bras to discipline their movement.

I have never yearned for them to be larger, softer or more voluptuous. I think my breasts are just amazing, and so does my husband.

And if you’re feeling sorry for me because they’re only a handful, sorry for you!

Which is why, as a good girl, I had them pummeled, squashed and flattened to pancake consistency every year from the age of 40 as advised by my ob/gyn during the annual dreaded mammogram. Because if I didn’t, I’d be an irresponsible wife and Mother, as I was led to believe, right? The irony is, no one taught me how to REALLY look after them other than have them screened.

The summer of 2016 was no different. With Ironman Vineman behind me, it was time to tend to all the medical screenings I had been putting off during training. (Ironman training equates to ‘who has time for anything else….?’)

Because my breasts are dense, I’m subjected to two screenings. After the super 3D Tomosynthesis mammography, I’m ushered to another exam room to have warm gel squirted over my ‘girls’ and examined under the ultrasound probe even more closely.

For the previous 7 years, I’d hold my breath until the radiologist would saunter back into the room and proclaim the news that the doctor had given the ‘all clear!’

And I’d feel safe for another year from the sinister “C’ word.

Except, on this day in August, 2016, the doctor herself (warning bell…) came into the exam room and asked for a ‘magnified mammogram’ of an area that showed calcifications which were looking ….a little different than the previous year.

The machine, however, had broken and I was asked to come back in 2 days after it had been repaired. She was a great doctor, very kind and reassuring and told me she wasn’t looking for cancer, only that there were ‘changes’

I’m an over thinker by nature, and that’s hard news to swallow. By the time I went back, I had worked myself up into panic mode when I was told the doctor wasn’t on location and I’d have to wait two more days before a call, again telling me she saw definite changes and strongly suggested a stereotactic breast biopsy.

Which is the same as having a large needle shot into the suspicious area and then having it vacuumed out and x rayed before the procedure has been declared successful.

That Friday, the results were in. She explained that I had ‘atypical lobular hyperplasia’

While this is not cancer, she told me that it was a ‘pre-pre cancer’ – cells which were not normal and were multiplying in the ducts of the lobules. And congratulations! I was now is the ‘high risk category!’

The gold standard to deal with this, is to have the affected area surgically removed in order to ‘clean things up’ so that it did not stand a chance to progress to full blown cancer. She also explained nobody knew if this would ever evolve into cancer. That it was just played safe. She ordered an MRI to rule out any other ‘surprises’ hiding in my breasts and referred me to 2 different breast surgeons for consultations.

Thankfully, the MRI revealed all was good except a massive hematoma from the biopsy.

Surgeon #1, a very pleasant female doctor, took time to explain everything. She also suggested I take a well known ‘anti cancer’ drug for 5 years to ‘prevent’ cancer, and to have the surgery, followed by a mammogram every 6 months, as well as a yearly MRI.

I was clearly under the microscope.

I got home, researched the drug, and decided I’d rather die than be a slave to the onslaught of horrific side effects it promised, two of which were instant menopause, and the second, a higher risk of uterine cancer. What the????

Surgeon #2 was a little more relaxed and evoked less panic. He explained that if I had been 60 years old, this would be a ‘watch and wait’ situation, but because I was still young, it was wise  to excise it. He did offer the ‘watch and wait’ option, but I was beginning to feel like I was being told there was a ticking time bomb in my breast. I wanted it out.

(I also chose Surgeon #2 because he (all importantly) assured me I could get back to training in the day after the surgery. Even it was a 15 minute indoor bike trainer ride at ‘no sweating’ pace. Surgeon #1 said 4 weeks. (No brainer for me, ha ha)

After the surgery at my follow up, I asked the surgeon why this had happened. I ate well, managed stress, exercised, had low body fat etc… and his response was “we don’t know. It just happens. You are doing all the right things…’

I left his office feeling confused. If I was doing all the right things, why did this happen? I was told to return to his office in a year for another mammogram and a bi annual MRI after that.

I’m not one to swallow information that does not sit well with me. I refused to believe I was now in the ‘higher risk’ category and that there was nothing I could do to stop becoming a victim.

So I researched, and I researched some more.

What I have learned during the past 18 months is that there are so, so many things we can do as women to increase the protection from risk of breast cancer. Your genes do not dictate your future. Your lifestyle most certainly does. While we may be more prone to certain diseases because of our genetic disposition, the true trigger is how you are managing your stress, your nutrition, your emotions, your childhood trauma, the toxins your’e exposing yourself to through smell, skin absorption or ingesting.

We hold the reins a lot tighter to our health than what we are taught to believe.

This, and I say this with all the respect and love in the world, does not mean you did something wrong if you are or ever have been the victim of cancer, or ever become one.

I despise this disease and no one should have to face what you did, and fought or are fighting so valiantly. I am merely trying to offer support and educate with what I have learned to help create awareness about true breast health (believe me, wearing the pink ribbon does not cut it..) There are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to cancer, but I refuse to sit by and watch women believe they’re a player in Russian Roulette. We have to throw everything we have in our power to put the lights out on this awful disease.

I have learned that detoxing the liver continually through simple steps everyday will lighten the load on our body, that lymphatic massage and brushing is imperative to keep lymph healthy and in motion. That we cannot keep dousing ourselves in make up, hair products and lotions,

potions or cook in or eat foods that are filled with chemicals and pose a threat over years of use. That most of us are deficient in iodine and that it is an important factor in thyroid, breast and ovary health.

While managing the body with good nutrition, movement and limiting exposure to toxins is a great step, the mind needs detoxing too. If you have encountered any kind of trauma that has not been addressed, if you are hanging onto any kind of anger, resentment, depression,  grief….I urge you take a big step and work with a professional to feel better and resolve those issues so that you are at peace. While life will throw lemons at us, we are not meant to be bound by toxic thoughts. It does not create room for joy and happiness which are keys to good health. And meditation is key.

I have since taken a more holistic approach to breast health. Mammograms have a place, but I also believe thermography gives a great idea into the inflammation surrounding the breast tissue and creates awareness and a game plan to find tools to tame it down before it has a chance to create harm. If you are already having annual mammograms, thermography is a great adjunct if you are truly serious about breast health.

With all the screening women undergo every year for early detection of breast cancer, there are still thousands dying despite it. We are not winning the war. The numbers are even higher.

Something is terribly wrong. I believe the key is education in breast health and not merely trying to detect the presence of disease. By that time, it may be too late.

My passion is as a Health Coach, is to keep the journey to great health FUN!! I truly believe we all need a cheerleader/coach on our side to help us navigate the hurdles in life. I also believe that it should not feel like a taxing process, only one which opens the door to self awareness and self love. Because when you love yourself, you’ll want to do the very best for it. I’m here to help you do just that.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a Medical Professional. This is purely my experience and all breast health questions or advisement should be directed to your Physician. All breast health issues should be examined by your Physician. I urge you to seek Medical advice if you have found anything causing concern in your breasts, or have any questions or other concerns. I cannot be held liable for action you have taken or not taken after reading this blog. Your health is your responsibility and all questions, again, should be addressed to your Physician.These are my opinions only.