Listening to her gut led to...
A lifesaving mammogram
Linda Lemma, 42, Nutley, NJ
"One hot summer evening four years ago, I decided to take a shower before going to bed. While I was washing up, something told me to lift my left arm and examine my breast, which was weird because I had never done a breast self-exam before. Still, I have always felt in tune with my body; for instance, when I became pregnant with each of my four kids, I had a 'feeling' that I had conceived long before I missed a period.
"This time, as I did the self-exam, I felt a lump. I shifted my body in different directions, but the lump was still sitting there, right beneath my underarm. I couldn't believe what I was feeling and my heart started to race. In that moment, I was sure that something was wrong.
"I went to the ob/gyn a few days later. I had talked to this same doctor six months earlier, when one of my nipples was cracked and bleeding, and he had said that it was dry skin and told me that I should 'just put cocoa butter on it,' something that I had never felt quite right about. At this visit, my nipple was still bleeding and cracked, but it was as if my doctor didn't even see it or didn't want to deal with it. And when I showed him the lump, he insisted that he didn't feel anything. But I knew what I felt, so I insisted on a mammogram. My doctor told me that it wasn't necessary, and then he actually left the room to see his next patient! I really couldn't believe the way he was blowing me off, and I just knew that I could not accept his reaction I was sure that something was wrong.
"After a few minutes, this doctor came back into the exam room, telling me that there was nothing more that he could do for me. I told him that I would absolutely not leave his office until I had a referral from him for a mammogram. The doctor kept leaving and coming back, and every time, I just refused to leave the room, insisting that I needed the test because I knew deep down in my gut that something wasn't right. I had never in my life acted quite this stubborn before, in any situation, but I was so completely certain I needed that mammogram that I never once even considered leaving his office without it. I guess the doctor got tired of me taking up space in his exam room because after about an hour of this back-and-forth, he finally handed me that referral.
"I had the mammogram a few days later it revealed that there wasn't just one lump in my breast but a total of three, along with swollen lymph nodes. I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer, and I spent the next two years going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Today, I'm completely cancer-free, but I still get tears in my eyes every time I think about what could have happened. My children could be motherless. My husband could be a widower. I am forever thankful that I followed through and acted on instinct that weird little feeling saved my life."