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Why I Finally Decided to Have Surgery for My Breast Lump

Photograph by Getty Images

At Total Woman Gym + Spa where I work, we're wearing our pink shirts in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And nearly every morning talk show is dedicating time to highlighting the stories and journeys of people who have survived breast cancer due to early detection.

While this month's programs and events will be highlighting the experiences of survivors and the victories they embraced, I'm curious: Will you be doing the very simple thing of self-examination?

Two years ago, while lying on my sofa, watching television, I found a small knot in my breast, a lump. I had just skipped a mammogram, as there had been lots of news indicating that women under 50 no longer need to be screened for breast cancer.

RELATED: I Decided Not to Have Surgery for My Breast Lumps

But slightly concerned from the lump, I decided to have the mammogram, which showed that I have a cluster of cysts and they would need to be examined more closely to determine their nature. I was then sent to the radiation department where I received an ultrasound exam. The cysts were not dangerous, but they would need to be observed for two years, every six months.

Six months later, I was back in the radiation department getting another ultrasound followed by a biopsy. The biopsy results concluded the cells within the cyst were Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia of the Right Breast. From there I was sent to see a surgeon. I declined his recommendation that I have the cyst surgically removed, because I don't take lightly to having my body cut for any reason.

I dealt with great resistance from a few of my friends and my primary care physician. But I felt that I needed to do what I could to assist my body in healing before going under the knife.

After a second opinion and several conversations with medical professionals, I felt safe choosing a less traditional form of healing. Immediately I began cleaning up my diet; I started a regimen of Chinese herbs and weekly acupuncture treatments. This path was rigorous, and I dealt with great resistance from a few of my friends and my primary care physician. But I felt that I needed to do what I could to assist my body in healing before going under the knife.

When I returned to the doctor for my next six-month visit, the results showed the cyst was still there, but there was no sign of blood within it. With this information I asked my doctor for another six months to continue what I'd been doing and she agreed.

I recently had my follow-up appointment. Before returning for that checkup, I decided to have the surgery if the cyst had not dissolved. Because in light of the research showing that black women are at a high risk of having aggressive forms of breast cancer, and after a friend's insistence that my desire to heal naturally was no different from that of Steve Jobs, I opened to Western medicine. (The Apple mastermind opted for dietary and alternative treatments instead of surgery years ago. When he did embrace surgery later, it wasn't enough to save him).

RELATED: 8 Ways to Show You Care After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

So I've scheduled the surgery to remove my cyst at the end of this month. It's a precautionary surgery to remove a noncancerous cyst that could become so. And while I'm grateful for the media that encourages women to self-exam and to get mammograms, I have to say that there is a lot of mixed, confusing information out there today. To that end, I'll add a word of advice: All women, and black women particularly, should continue to speak to their doctors for clarity before deciding to forgo a mammogram. It just might be the step that saves your life.

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