Davina’s Advocate for Health Contest Blog Story

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Here is Davina’s story of how she advocated for her health. She co-founded Fertility Within Reach a nonprofit organization where she educates the infertility community how to advocate for access to family-building benefits, including infertility treatment. If you like her story be sure to leave a comment below to help her win the $250 AMEX card!

“I don’t even have to examine you and I can tell you that you don’t have breast cancer.” I was stunned. I could not believe the doctor was saying that to me. I know I was only 30 and it was my great grandmother, who had breast cancer, but I was having an odd pain and it wasn’t related to my menstrual cycle, as the doctor had suggested. I fought through the shock and said, “Fine, than I want to know what it’s not.” The doctor seemed highly annoyed, “What do you want? You want me to order a mammogram for you?” I responded with a smug and victorious tone, “Yes, please. Thank you!”

However, the last laugh was on me. At the age of 30, breasts are typically too dense to show a good reading on a mammogram. After a complete waste of time, I was sent for an ultrasound. The technician could see a small mass. I was told it was likely benign and there was nothing to worry about.

Fast forward six months, I moved from Texas to Massachusetts and I was still experiencing pain. One day I watched a television program about dogs detecting cancer on people. What was most concerning was my Golden Retriever, Casper, would smell my left breast every chance he could. His persistence motivated me to get a check-up. I told the nurse I recently moved to Massachusetts and thought I should be seen by someone. I was referred to a clinic with a breast oncologist. I had another ultrasound which identified the mass had doubled in size. A biopsy was conducted and it came back with normal cells. My diagnosis was a Fibroadenoma. I heard them tell me it’s benign, I understood the diagnosis meant not cancerous and I didn’t need to worry. However, due to the rapid growth, I requested to come back in three months for another ultrasound. The doctor heard my concerns and agreed.

My next ultrasound showed additional growth and sprouting of an arm, like a potato, my doctor explained. She thought I was okay for now, but wanted to keep an eye on me because rapid growth and changing shapes was an indication that the mass could eventually become cancerous.

Following this appointment, different things ran through my mind. I wanted to start infertility treatment, I hoped to have a child and breast feed, I was still having pain, my beloved dog was constantly sniffing me, and I thought how in less than one year I went from being completely dismissed by my first doctor to realizing I have a growth which could become cancerous. I communicated all of this to my doctor and asked her to remove the Fibroadenoma. She agreed. The outpatient procedure was a success.

My pain stopped and my dog never sniffed my left breast again. Even better, after following infertility treatment, I was able to breastfeed my children. After several years of follow-up I was released by my breast oncologist. Now that I am forty, I will be vigilant about my mammograms.

Standing up to my first doctor, advocating for myself, was extremely difficult me. I was sweating and my heart raced. My dog was my conscious, my support system, giving me gentle reminders to advocate for my health. I am convinced these actions saved me in more than one way. I am now a practicing self-advocate. Using my voice and taking steps to advocate for myself leaves me feeling empowered and hopeful. Empowerment is contagious. I self-advocate in all areas of my life. Although I am sometimes intimidated, like when I talk with a mechanic, I know I will feel better about myself for knowing I have done everything I can to create a positive result.

I am dedicated to helping others learn how to advocate for themselves. Professionally, I educate the infertility community how to advocate for access to family-building benefits, including infertility treatment through a nonprofit organization I co-founded, Fertility Within Reach (FWR). Self-advocacy does not come naturally to everyone so FWR provides step-by-step instructions, a strategic approach and supportive materials to empower individuals to effectively communicate with doctors, legislators, insurers and employers. We also offer the gentle, supportive reminders to self-advocate (without the sniffing).

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Dee November 7, 2011, 2:11 pm

    This is a great example of self-advocacy!

  • Natalie James December 3, 2011, 3:43 pm

    A wonderful example of how to advocate for ourselves. Way to go!

  • Lynn fribush December 3, 2011, 4:40 pm

    I loved your story

  • Maria B December 3, 2011, 9:22 pm

    Go Davina!

  • Maria Shelton December 3, 2011, 9:52 pm

    Davina, you and your story are amazing. Because of you the world is a better place. Thank you!!!

  • Laura Camp December 3, 2011, 10:36 pm

    great story……and an even greater dog!!!

  • Julie Walden December 4, 2011, 12:15 am

    Thank you Davina! You are a true inspiration to us all! Keep up the great work!

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