Monday October 2, 2017

Focus on the Goal, Not the Struggle

By Arnika Edwards

Arnika Edwards has been a part of the University of Dayton Women’s Basketball Coaching Staff as Director of Basketball Operations since 2013. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. This is her story.

“It’s not a death sentence. It’s a stumbling block. Sometimes in life you just have to work a little harder to get over the top of the mountain.”

I underwent my annual screening mammogram and yearly physical with my gynecologist in March of 2010. All was fine ... “see you next year,” he said. I was physically fit and healthy. Probably the healthiest I had been for a long time considering I had just started an extreme workout regimen and changed my diet.

It’s funny how one health issue prepares you for another. I was told I had fibrocystic breast at age 16 and began self-exams at that time. Self-exams became a daily routine for me. No matter how routine they were I was not prepared to feel anything different than what I was used to.

In July 2010, I found a lump in my left breast during a self-exam. It struck me as odd that I would find something the size of a pencil eraser when I just received the “all clear” just four months earlier. I did not call my gynecologist right away. I wanted to do my own research and diagnose myself. I thought...surely this is just a cyst. I was so scared. I monitored it for about a month, checking for changes in size and the feel of it. There were no changes, which almost convinced me that it was a cyst.

I finally got the nerve to meet with my gynecologist in September; yes, I waited another 2 months before I got it checked. My gynecologist looked at my chart and immediately thought it was a cyst considering the 6-month span from the clear Mammogram. A mammogram, ultrasound, and a needle biopsy were taken in late September only to reveal it to be cancerous. I was diagnosed with invasive mammary carcinoma, pure tubular type. The good news was the cancer was low grade and small. I had the lump and three lymph nodes removed a week after diagnosis. However, two of the lymph nodes also tested positive, so I went in for a second round of surgery in late October to remove the rest of the lymph nodes, which thankfully, all tested negative. As my Oncologist described it, I had 2 horses to get out of the barn but they didn’t run up the road. Hallelujah!

My oncologist was concerned about whether I truly needed chemotherapy. Several tests were run including the Oncotype DX test. This test determined that my rate of reoccurrence was low enough that I didn’t have to have chemotherapy but I did have to do radiation therapy. I started an 8-week daily radiation treatment program that started in December and ended in February, and the prognosis was good.

My mental state was at that time and continues to be just as important as my physical condition over the course of my treatments. Your mental being is really who you are. It makes the difference in how you handle things in life. Many times, we can make things worse on us physically because of our mental state. I was determined from Day 1 to approach this with positivity. "Focus on the goal, not the struggle,” is what I have grown to live by daily.

Would you like to receive free breast cancer self-examination shower hangers? Complete this google form and the Women’s Center will send them to you via campus mail.

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