Be Your Own Advocate
By: Annie Mileto
Hi my name is Annie Mileto and I’m 37 years old. I was diagnosed with DCIS Zero stage breast cancer 2 years ago, it was not found on my routine mammogram instead it was only found because i kept pushing my doctors. For years after the birth of my son Michael , I had milky discharge that seemed to only come out about on or around my period. I was told because i breast fed that it was probably “old milk / hormones “ and I’m far to your for any concern. Finally when my right breast leaked to the point of waking me up in the middle of the night i called my doctor and pushed for a MRI with contrast. Unfortunately because of me pushing for this testing it is the only reason I was able to catch my breast cancer and thankfully early enough to have options .
Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of. That’s what I was trying to do with my life. When i was diagnosed with DCIS cancer for me it felt like i was graced by god that it was at stage zero and did not travel. I had a lumpectomy done and was thankfully cancer free.
However I didn’t want to live a life of” is today going to be the day that my small cancer turned into the big one”. I saw myself as very lucky I’ve dodge a bullet by the grace of god, but i won’t push my luck was my biggest thoughts. You see my well being isn’t just about me and living for me, i live for my family but most of all for my son Michael who has special needs. I spend each and every day of my life making sure what is necessary for him to strive to be self sufficient is being done. I didn’t want to live my life in a loop of testing, every day waking up thinking: Is today the day I will get cancer again? I no longer wanted to have these scary thoughts, and I knew the only way to make these thoughts stop was to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery done.
You see to me the answer was very clear i do this and i move on with my life and my mind is healthy again and i am healthy . To me this was about my quality of life, it’s avoiding going through 30 years of mammograms, MRIs, and other scares on top of my daily worries and future worries. I won’t be here forever for my son and i know this but i want to live long enough to make sure that each day we have as a family is enjoyed and that it’s one day better than the one before. When i am no longer able to physically be here for him i want to know as a mom i pushed him i stood by him and i made sure to always do the very best for him. I want to lead by example that once you’ve been through tough times, you can only become stronger and you will prevail!
I’ll never forget how alone i felt in my new diagnosis and also how lost ! You see I’ve been lost before and afraid ( when i found out my son had special needs ) but this time it was effecting me ( and i didn’t have control ) and this time that mama instinct didn’t kick in. It wasn’t the usual fight or flight mode that tends to kick in for me. Instead it was omg what do I do ? How can I handle this? No one understands me. I don’t even know anyone this has happened too. This can’t be happening to me I can’t deal with any of this. I googled I searched high and low for answers and I finally came across the breasties and they posted a meet up . I tossed it around I don’t know anyone how weird is this going to be. Guess what ? I went and I left that meeting feeling more prepared, less scared , more educated and truly supported ! Never underestimate the value of a community – they will carry you when you’ve fallen, comfort you when you’ve lost, laugh with you in your joy, care for you in your weakness, walk with you in your loneliness. I begin to discover more about myself and life after a double mastectomy , after a cancer diagnosis, after several surgeries. I find that my gratitude for life is so much more different and my gratitude is even for some complete strangers I may of never met in person but no matter what that gratitude is never ending!
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