It was early November and there was an itch near the top of my breast that would not go away. I vividly remember how annoying the itch was and thinking I felt a lump. During a boot camp workout, I asked my friend what she thought it might be, and of course she said what any good friend would say, ‘Go to the doctor.’ Well, the hardheaded, busy mom in me did not have time for this. So, I continued to ignore that itch for another month and a half.
The itch continued and then on December 31, 2015, I had a very sharp pain run through my right breast as I was watching tv. It was a pop, like my breast was twisting from the inside out. After I rubbed it for a bit, I brushed up against a small lump. For a split second the fear of breast cancer came to mind but then the thought went away. I was young, healthy; I ate all organic. How could I get cancer?
As I sat watching tv a memory from ten years prior entered my thoughts. It was the words of a doctor friend whose wife had breast cancer. She didn’t make it. I remember seeing him at the Palm Springs Airport. It was a complete random encounter. He had been a client of mine in Minnesota and was vacationing in our beautiful valley. I was traveling to Minnesota, saw him and asked how his family was. With tears in his eyes, I will never forget the words he told me next, ‘If you ever feel a lump, get it checked. Don’t second guess yourself until it is too late. Always check your breasts and just get checked just in case; get a second opinion.’ I could tell he blamed himself. He was telling me because of the experience he went through.
Why this random conversation happened I would learn ten years later as I felt a pop of pain while sitting in that chair New Year’s Eve night. Little did I know his words that ran though my thoughts so vividly 20 minutes later would save my life. As I went back to my bedroom I immediately did a self-breast exam. I found the lump and this time I knew it was not just random. I instinctively knew in that moment that those thoughts were for a reason. Things added up: the itch, the swelling, the tenderness of my breasts were a big change, and not normal for me. My body was trying to tell me something was wrong. I knew in my gut that I needed to get checked. I knew that my life would depend on it.
So, January 2, 2016, I called my doctor, and three weeks later I was in her office. I knew she thought I was crazy because when I called her, she reminded me that we just did a breast exam and bloodwork and said, ‘I am sure you are fine, but come in to make yourself feel better.’ At the appointment she felt what I felt. By the look on her face she now understood why I was so persistent to get in to see her again. She gave me the validation that I was not crazy to advocate for myself.
That was on a Tuesday. By Thursday, I was seeing a specialist and having my first mammogram and ultrasound ever. As they smashed my breast in the machine the tech asked, ‘Do you have kids?’ I said, ‘Yes, I have a 12-year-old daughter.’ She assured me that doctor would take good care of me. I went numb. I knew in that moment she saw something, and as I saw the specialist the ultrasound screen lit up. I asked the dreaded question, ‘Is that cancer?’ She told me she had been doing this a long time and that she saw a very vascular tumor, but that the biopsy would confirm it. She asked, ‘Can you come in first thing tomorrow?’ Then she turned to the nurse and said, ‘Get her in STAT.’ As my stomach dropped, I said, ‘Of course I can come in.’ Cancer it was.
Had I not had that itch, had I not had that random conversation while passing in the airport one day or that pop in my breast, I would not be here today.
I look back over the past three years and think of how many miracles have happened. My eyes are now open. We all have this ability to see the miracles that surround us if we only just listen; if we stop to believe that we are the biggest miracle of them all.
So I ask you…do you believe in miracles? I do and I am living proof of one.
Shay Moraga is E-RYT500, Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor. She teaches Yoga for Cancer Caretakers and Survivors locally at Eisenhower’s Lucy Curci Center and is founder of Shay’s Warriors- Life After Cancer. Contact Shay at [email protected], or reach out to her on social media at Namaste with Shay or Shay’s Warriors.