This month’s photography portfolio is dedicated to my sweet friend Leigh. I had the honor of photographing her a few weeks ago. Leigh is one of the strongest, most positive, and inspiring women I’ve ever met. At just 37 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. As you know, October is breast cancer awareness month. And for those of you who have never had a mammogram, I implore you to take a few moments out of your day to schedule yours. It’s a call that could literally save your life. Leigh’s story, shared below through her own words, will touch your heart. Let it also move you to action.
“It has been said that there will be life events that will forever change you. My life-changing event occurred on December 28, 2015, when I was diagnosed with Triple Negative, Stage 1a breast cancer at the age of 37. I’ll never forget the days that led up to that particular date. I first discovered a lump on the outer portion of my left breast one night, just by crossing my arms before going to bed on December 22nd. I remember feeling this hard, lump and immediately checking the other side to see if it was there too. But it wasn’t. This was foreign. This was not supposed to be there. But what could it be? I pondered this for the rest of the evening and decided to take action immediately the next day. I started with my regular family physician. Luckily, I was quickly seen by noon the next day. After my examination, she determined that I needed to see a breast specialist and surgeon ASAP. I needed to have an ultrasound performed on the hard lump to determine what exactly it was we were dealing with. Ultrasounds can differentiate a cyst from a mass, I quickly learned, as I was sitting in the breast specialist office about an hour after seeing my physician.
I’ll never forget walking into the breast specialist office. I was overwhelmed by the number of women sitting in the waiting room. They were of different ages, different races, some had hair, some did not, some were wearing scarves or hats, and some looked like me, just another woman going to see a doctor. I think that’s when it “hit” me…this was bringing this to a whole new level. I could possibly be dealing with something very serious, and obviously, I was. I saw the doctor and she conducted the ultrasound, confirming that I did indeed have a mass measuring a little over 3 cm. and that we needed to take action.
I was scheduled the very next day for testing, which was on Christmas Eve. I spent my entire day at the breast cancer center at Memorial Hermann Memorial City. I was fortunate enough to have my cousin with me because I had no idea that I would walk out of those tests carrying any more information than I did walking in, but I did. The radiologist did the ultrasound and knew immediately what he was looking at..it was more than a mass. It was cancer.
He asked if I wanted to know his thoughts. Of course, I said yes and was told that he was 99% certain it was breast cancer. This moment seemed to stop my heart from beating, my lungs from inhaling and my eyes to fill with an ocean of tears. Due to the urgency and fast actions on my part and my doctors, I was diagnosed and treated quickly. I underwent a double mastectomy, 5 ½ months of intense chemotherapy, and two reconstruction surgeries.
The road was difficult, but I truly believe I am here today to tell my story because I took action so quickly. We always hear about early detection and it could not be more true. I just happened upon finding my lump which was such a blessing and the events to follow saved my life. Do your annual physical self-exams every single month and don’t wait to get a mammogram or ultrasound. Being proactive is the single most important thing we can do for ourselves and for our loved ones.”
In the Pink of Health…
Leigh and I are both affiliated with Northeast Hospital Foundation In the Pink of Health. Since 1987, the Foundation has touched the lives of thousands of people in the Lake Houston community by providing funding to develop and nurture new programs and purchase new equipment to benefit patients. Proceeds from the 2017 “In The Pink of Health” luncheon will benefit Project Mammogram, a program that provides free mammograms to qualifying men and women. Please visit www.northeasthospitalfoundation.org for more information.