Dionne Polite

Age: 57
Profession: Non Profit Management
Type of Breast Cancer: Non Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Stage 0
Year of Diagnosis: 2008
Number of years as a survivor: 10
Relationship to Susan G Komen: New to Komen

I had my first breast biopsy at the age of 23, just two months before marrying the boy next door and the love of my life. Shortly after, I was told that I had fibrocystic breasts, just like my mother and some cousins. I figured since Mom was fine, so would I.

I am not certain of how many family members have been affected by breast cancer, because, everything that should not be a secret is a secret in my family. I know that I lost two cousins from breast cancer. As it turned out, my mother was diagnosed with non-invasive ductal carcinoma at 48 years old.  She had a lumpectomy and, luckily, did not need any follow-up treatments. After a short recovery period, her cancer diagnosis, her health, or anything related was never mentioned again. This is not abnormal in my family. I am originally from Guyana, in South America, and in my culture, your health is your business, and there is no talk with others. My mother, before retirement, was a Clinical Social Worker. She knew the importance of seeking help, but again, culture told her your business is yours.

My journey with my breasts continued with at least ten or so procedures which varied from aspirations and biopsies. I even developed an extreme case of mastitis after the birth of my daughter. Whenever I breastfed her, my breasts literally bled. Although I was extremely uncomfortable, I struggled to push forward to make sure she was getting all the nutrition she needed. Eventually, I had to be hospitalized.

Years later, at the age of 47, I saw my doctor for my yearly check-up and usual tests, which included a mammogram. I still recall the odd look on the face of the technician during the exam. She explained that she had to call the Radiologist, but having heard that before, I simply replied “cool beans.” The Radiologist did come to speak with me and said that he would be speaking to my doctor about getting a biopsy. After two biopsies, it was determined that I would need surgery for the doctors to examine the questionable area in my right breast.  They inserted eight titanium chips as markers in both breasts and scheduled the procedure. While at the station, my husband, a former New York State Trooper, was encouraged to get a second opinion from Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital.  We made the appointment, and at the young age of 48, I had surgery.

I, unlike my mother, shared this journey with my daughter. I believe in keeping secrets, but not when it comes to my health or that of those that I know and love. We are responsible for the temple that we are blessed with.  My body is my responsibility, as is my mind, my heart, and my spirit. I am determined not to let this situation determine how I show up in life or how I approach each and every day. I enjoy sunrises and sunsets, and know, trust and believe that they are lots and lots more that I am to enjoy. I have taught my daughter to be aware, be in the know, not to let the unknown stop you from living your life, and trust and believe that all will be well.

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