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Sunday
Oct302016

Angelia McGowan: In Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

A view of the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: Angelia McGowan/Canady's Corner. A self portrait...

Shortly before my birthday in August 2015 I felt a hard marble-size lump on the outside of one of my breasts. I called my doctor's office almost immediately to make an appointment, and it took forever (a couple of weeks) to get on their schedule. Leading up to that appointment I kept feeling myself. I couldn't stop touching my breasts. I wondered if there were more lumps? Strangers probably thought I was being obscene.  

While I waited I spent way too much precious time searching the Internet trying to diagnose myself. I agonized over whether I should be gearing up for a fight or saying goodbye to loved ones and checking off my bucket list, which would include one more time on an Atlantic beach. By the time I walked into the doctor's office the lump had grown to the size of a lemon, and pain was shooting down my side all the way to my legs. My brain was exhausted from it all.
 
During the few years leading up to this experience, I had endured a modern-day odyssey where the Gods truly had to take the wheel.  My faith did not fail me. To mark how far I had come, I proudly proclaimed Whitney Houston's "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" as my theme song.  But when this possible health issue revealed itself, I questioned whether the real battle was behind me or ahead of me. I thought, "Now this? Really? This, on top of stuff, on top of stuff, on top of stuff! Is it really going to go down like this?"

 
I finally made it to the doctor and received a stone-faced response after she touched the area.  She said, "remarkable." My response: "What does that mean?" She said little and sent me straight to get a mammogram. They had to do it twice, squeezing the paddles tighter and tighter on an already sensitive area. Each time I felt myself rolling my eyes back as far as I could and taking deep breaths, and holding it when instructed. 

Both mammograms were non-definitive. Next up that morning was ultrasound. The radiologist was perplexed. I kept pointing and saying it's right here, but I gathered that they needed to see it the way they needed to see it. She stepped out of the room then came back in with the second doctor of the morning. He said I should make an appointment to come back for a biopsy, specifically a needle aspiration. Almost immediately, he dismissed what he said, and offered to do it "right now" if I had time. 

Well Yeah!
 
The first shot was a local anesthetic.  Finally, the needle aspiration. For the record I felt both. They determined it was a cyst and there were no issues. Relief, so I thought. After the area was drained, the physical pain was gone. Then I was informed that it's common for them to return in a few weeks, and if it did that would require more attention. Wow, I thought, this just keeps going and going. Days leading up to my birthday I went home and prayed it did not return. It did not. 

My orders were to return in a year for a mammogram, and not to hesitate to call before then if I had any questions. 

In the Meantime
During the "waiting" year I started working on a number of rewarding programs and writing projects, two of which are published by my company, Canady's Corner. Through "Black Women: Celebrating the Road Less Traveled" I've enjoyed shining the light on African American women who are walking their unique paths with no apologies. Many thanks to the following women who were open to sharing a bit of their journey in this inaugural year of the series: Lea L. Porter, Dr. Allison Cotton, Donna Mejia, Phaedra High, Rev. Dawn Riley Duval, Patricia Houston's EspeciallyMe, Gabrielle Bryant, Phoenix Jackson and Emem Horton
 
A special thanks to Jackson, co-founder of Phoenix Affect, Inc, for helping me to gain some traction with my website, Creative Auto Reviews by Canady's Corner.  Yes, I'm a woman celebrating the road less traveled by combining my love for creative writing with car reviews. 
 
...So my birthday comes around in August 2016. Time to set the appointment. My mind starts to worry and wonder. Within two weeks (forever), I stood in the same place getting another mammogram. I only had to do it once this time. I was given the usual verbiage of if there's bad news, we'll call you; if there's good news, we'll send a letter. That's not exactly what they said. But that was my takeaway. 
#PinkBeetle has made its mark in breast cancer awareness. Photo: Volkswagen of America, IncThankfully, I had an automotive press event for Creative Auto Reviews to attend that same month where I would have my choice of dozens of new cars to test drive in the Colorado mountains. I welcomed the scenic distraction. 

As fate would have it, during one of the presentations a representative for Volkswagen of America introduced the first U.S. limited-edition 2017 Volkswagen #PinkBeetle and the auction of it for FAB-U-WISH and The Pink Agenda to raise money for breast cancer research and care, including granting wishes to women undergoing breast cancer treatment and increasing awareness of the disease among young professionals. The exclusive run, available in coupe and convertible configurations and offered in a unique shade of Fresh Fuchsia Metallic paint, is the first factory-offered shade of pink in the Beetle’s history and the first-ever vehicle officially named as its own hashtag. 
Lesson learned. Running away from the subject was not an option. During this presentation I found myself at a certain level of peace, taking note of the fact that countless individuals and organizations across the globe are working to support those fighting this disease. 
Angelia McGowan on the beach in the rain. Photo: Angelia McGowan/Canady's Corner
Mid-September
I received the letter. I was in the clear. That same week I flew to Texas to attend a family member's beautiful wedding, followed that up with a last-minute road trip with a cousin that detoured through the French Quarter of New Orleans (a bucket list item finally met) and ended on the Atlantic coast of Florida. I knew I would only have one morning to get to the beach before returning to Colorado. Thunderstorms were forecast, but when I woke up and looked out from the balcony, the sun was shining brilliantly. Perfect. 

By the time I began to strike my signature I-finally-made-it-to-the-beach pose, the clouds came rolling in, the rain started to spit in my face and then it just started to come straight down. I could have said, "Really? Now?" I chose to embrace the moment knowing that the next is never promised. Being a good sport, my cousin braved the wind and the downpour to capture images of a Black woman on the beach in the rain... feelin' herself.
“Black Women: Celebrating the Road Less Traveled” is an online series published by Canady’s Corner to honor Black women who are making a mark in the world in their very own way