Why I PMC - Laurel Ainslie

Bill Alfano's picture
Bill Alfano

Why I PMC - Laurel Ainslie

Guest blog from Laurel Ainslie

We women, we all know the drill. When you turn 40 years old, it is time for you first mammogram. The majority of the women I know follow this general rule. I was no exception. I scheduled my appointment (in October – breast cancer awareness month) and thought nothing of it, fully expecting my results to be negative. I was a bit shocked when my images raised a lot of concern by my radiologist and her team. What started out as a routine appointment, quickly turned into a bit of a scare for me. Before I knew it, I was scheduling a biopsy, meeting with a breast cancer surgeon and playing the waiting game for my biopsy results. This is not what I had anticipated for my first mammogram. I had to endure a two-week wait for my biopsy results. I am not afraid to say that I was a bit nervous that first week.  

Over that first weekend, while awaiting my biopsy results, my partner and I were scheduled to see Melissa Etheridge in concert. Ironically, she announced she was cancelling her tour due to the fact she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would be undergoing surgery and chemotherapy. I cannot fully explain my reaction but I suddenly felt this overwhelming calm come over me. I was no longer afraid. I knew I would be OK if I was told I had breast cancer. It turns out I did not have cancer but my mammograms going forward for the next six years were anything but normal. Due to having dense breast tissue which is difficult to read on a mammogram, I would endure ultrasounds and MRI’s as well. After six years, I went back to having just a yearly mammogram. 

And that’s when it happened. I let my guard down. I found a lump in my breast two years ago in April but did nothing about it. I had a yearly mammogram in June of that year but did not mention it to my doctor. My images were clear - the lump did not show up on the mammogram. I did not tell my doctor. I forgot. Or I suppressed the thought. I felt the lump again in September and told my partner. We decided at this point it was worth bringing up to my doctor. I was scheduled for a second mammogram and MRI faster than you could think possible. I had a biopsy on the lump within the next two days. The results came back two days later. The breast surgeon called me at my home in the evening. 

You can probably guess what happened next. I was told I had cancer and it was invasive. Over the next year plus, I went through five lumpectomies and finally succumbed to having a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery last October (yes – breast cancer awareness month). I am fine now. I consider myself very lucky to have had a slow moving, non-aggressive type of cancer.

The moral of my story: Take control over your own destiny. Early diagnosis is the most powerful treatment available for most cancers. Don’t just go through the motions. Be in charge of your body and listen to it. Don’t ignore something so obvious. You may not be so lucky. 

Ten years ago, I was not in a place emotionally where I would have shared my story. I am a different person today because of the ordeal I have been through. It is a story I share because there are lessons to be learned… and I learned the hard way. 

My name is Laurel Ainslie and I will be participating in my 12th PMC and second year post-diagnosis. I continue to ride in this event to show my support to those who are not as lucky.  This includes those who continue to suffer from the disease and those who have lost their battle to the disease.