For over four decades, the month of October has been National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and has been devoted to educating everyone on the importance of early detection and timely high-quality care. It is called “Pink October” as people around the country pink out their football games and 5K runs to raise awareness about the importance of prevention and routine screening for the early diagnosis of breast cancer.
Iris Park knows well the importance of regular checkups. At 62, Park was preparing to go on a trip to Spain for a month when she realized she didn’t have enough of her hormone medication for the trip. So she called her doctor in hopes he would just fill it for the two weeks she lacked and then she would come in later for her doctor’s visit.
“I just wanted enough to get through my trip,” Park said. “Then I could come back and worry about getting my next exam. After all, I had been doing them every year like I was supposed to do so I didn’t think anything about it. Thank goodness my doctor did though.
When I called my doctor and asked if he could just fill the hormone replacement prescription he said no and insisted that I come in that afternoon and he would fit me in for a quick exam. He just wanted to make sure I was good to go.
“However, when he did the exam he found a lump and so he immediately sent me over for a mammogram and ultrasound. That’s when the technician took pictures and she couldn’t tell me if it was cancer or not. So I told her I was leaving for Spain in five days and I needed to know if I needed to cancel my flight or not. That’s when she said ‘I’d heard that if you have a letter from your doctor then the airline has to refund your money.’ So then I knew it was positively breast cancer and I canceled my trip.
“I had surgery fairly quickly and they did a lumpectomy and thankfully it had not gone into the lymph nodes. It was still small, only the size of my fingernail. So I had six weeks of radiation and then was on another pill medication for five years. After that I was cancer free and grateful that my doctor had insisted I come in that day.
“The secret is catching it early and thank God my doctor did. Now I’m 84 and I just went in this month and had my yearly mammogram. It’s still all clear and I’m grateful for every year it is.”