Celebrity Survivor Spotlight: Judy Blume

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The beloved young adult literature author was getting ready to leave for an idyllic writers’ retreat in Italy when her ductal carcinoma was discovered. Here is her story, in her own words.

We were supposed to leave for five weeks in Italy on July 29 — four of those weeks would be spent at an artists’ colony housed in a castle in Umbria where I was hoping to finish my new book. A castle! Sound too good to be true? Uh huh…

A [trip] to the radiologist on June 12 for a routine ultrasound (dense breast tissue) led to a core biopsy. Not that I didn’t try to jump off the table and tell [the doctor] I’d have the biopsy at another time because I had a really busy summer coming up. Oh, yeah–I actually did that, saying I’d discuss it with my GYN and get back to her. She convinced me, in her very quiet way, that my GYN would tell me to have the biopsy. Now.

The biopsy report came back a few days later while I was with my GYN in her office (a long standing appointment). It was good that I wasn’t alone and that she, who has been my doctor for seventeen years, could explain it to me. Very early. Very small. Well differentiated. All good news.

But it was ductal carcinoma. Wait – me? There’s no breast cancer in my family (recent extensive genetic testing shows no genetic connection). I haven’t eaten red meat in more than 30 years. I’ve never smoked, I exercise every day, forget alcohol – it’s bad for my reflux – I’ve been the same weight my whole adult life. How is this possible? Well, guess what – it’s possible.

My friends who’ve had breast cancer have been so helpful and supportive I can never thank them enough. They got me through this. They were my inspiration. If we can do it, you can do it! They were right. And I got off easy. The cancer hadn’t spread anywhere. I didn’t need chemo, which is a whole other ballgame. (I’m considering taking a daily med but haven’t yet made up my mind.) Also, I’m older, which is very different from being diagnosed when you’re young.

I have to thank Dr. S, the radiologist who’s been doing my mammograms for 20 years. If she hadn’t decided I should have a sonogram because of dense breast tissue we still wouldn’t know. This didn’t show up in a mammo or in physical exams, and I’m checked by doctors four times a year. Even the breast surgeon couldn’t feel this one. If you have dense breast tissue ask your radiologist about having a sonogram.

As I’ve told my friends who’ve also been treated for breast cancer, I’ve joined The Club – not one I wanted to join or even thought I would ever be joining – but here I am. I’m part of this Sisterhood of the Traveling Breast Cells (apologies to Ann Brashares). Medical diagnoses can leave you feeling alone and scared. When it comes to breast cancer you’re not alone, and scary though it is, there’s a network of amazing women to help you through it.

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