Nina Ha and Michelle Quiogue Sperber

Nina Ha with Michelle Quiogue Sperber in December 2014

Five years ago, one of my dearest friends suggested that we get mammograms since we had both recently celebrated our milestone 40th birthdays.

Michelle Quiogue Sperber and I scheduled our appointments together and we challenged our friends to get mammograms, too.

We took silly preexam selfies and I jokingly thought of my hospital wrap as an elegant gown.

We never expected that one of us would be diagnosed with breast cancer.

It was a difficult road to recovery, but my beautiful, strong friend faced surgery, chemotherapy and radiation with tremendous grace, gratitude and grit supported by her family and friends.

Fortunately, the cancer was detected in its early stages. Dr. Quiogue Sperber is now cancer-free and back to caring for others as a family physician. Inspired by Michelle and other survivors who exemplify the warrior spirit, I get screened annually.

About three years ago, my routine mammogram required a biopsy to further examine a small area that appeared concerning.

Oftentimes, illness, or the possibility of it, forces us to pause, reevaluate priorities and charter a different path. While waiting for the pathology results, I focused on eating healthier, writing in my journal and having conversations with God.

I prayed that I would be at peace with any outcome the Lord had planned for me. After what felt like an eternity, I learned that my results were clear. No cancer. However, I would need frequent appointments to monitor any changes for the next two years.

The experience strengthened my faith, gave clarity to my life and helped me to pray harder for those facing, fighting and surviving cancer.

It also motivates me to help alleviate the fear for anyone apprehensive about getting screened. The mammography process only takes about 20 minutes, with the compression of each breast lasting only a few seconds per image.

Chief radiologist Dr. Steven Wang from Kaiser Permanente Kern County says, “Technologists can work with you to minimize discomfort while obtaining the best images possible for an accurate diagnosis.”

Physicians recommend scheduling mammograms when breasts are not tender or swollen, so avoid the week before your period.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month and throughout the year, let’s make breast health a priority so we can all live long and healthy lives for ourselves and those who love us. 

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Nina Ha.

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