The next morning I woke up and immediately gave myself a breast self-exam. The lump was still there. For a moment I froze. What should I do? I didn't really have a family doctor. I e mailed Diane and asked her if she could recommend someone. I also reached out to my colleague and friend, Deborah Roberts. She referred me to a doctor who agreed to see me when I returned to New York the following week. I tried my best to enjoy the remainder of my vacation, but Joel was really resonating in my heart now. I kept thinking about his message of early detection.
Monday morning, July 16, I was back on the air at GMA. That afternoon I went to Dr. Albert Knapp for a general checkup. Now, here's the crazy part. I didn't mention the lump. Maybe I thought if I didn't tell him about it, it wouldn't exist. Dr. Knapp gave me an examination and took my family history. He had a warm, easygoing nature that put me at ease. I felt as if I'd been going to him for years. But no mention of a lump, and why would there be since I hadn't mentioned my concern to him?
However, just as Dr. Knapp was about to leave the examining room, I stopped him. "Dr. Knapp, before you go, could you please check out this lump I have? I'm sure it's nothing." My voice was shaking.
Unbelievable—I'd almost chickened out! Here I was, doing the right thing, being diligent about my health care, but I had to force myself to speak up. I guess that sometimes the unknown is less fearful than the known—or at least it feels that way.
Dr. Knapp gave me a breast exam and felt the lump. He immediately ordered a mammogram and an ultrasound. I walked a couple of blocks to the radiology center. Luckily, it was the end of the day and they told me if I could wait they would squeeze me in. I've heard countless stories of others having to wait months for a routine mammogram. But I'm told if you have a lump, most places around the country will make an exception and see you in a more timely fashion. Remember what I said earlier about being patient and persistent. That is especially true when it comes to your health.
My mammogram came back normal. It was fortunate that Dr. Knapp had also ordered the ultrasound. As the technician was performing it, Dr. Mona Darwish, the attending physician, watched the screen. Dr. Darwish had an extensive background in breast cancer work, and her trained eye picked up a tumor that had not been detected with the mammogram. I later learned that is quite common to get a clean mammogram but discover a tumor on the ultrasound. This is especially true for young women whose denser breast tissue makes it harder to detect abnormalities. It is recommended that younger women and those with a high risk for breast cancer have ultrasounds. Of course, I see the wisdom of that now.