Kylie Armstrong, a Melbourne-based textile designer and mother of two teenage boys, was in her mid-forties when she noticed something didn’t seem quite right with one of her breasts. There was no discernable lump, no discharge, no discoloration. Just three tiny dimples, barely visible, especially if she hadn’t been looking carefully.
Luckily, Ms. Armstrong knew her body well and had the wisdom to see a doctor about her symptom, subtle though it was. Her doctor took her complaint seriously and ordered a mammogram. When the results of that were inconclusive, Armstrong went back in for an ultrasound. And that’s when she was given the devastating news that the dimples on the underside of her breast were a symptom of breast cancer residing deep in her tissue, near the muscle.
Sharing the news with friends and family felt like reliving the whole devastating diagnosis over again and again, but Armstrong new her story was important. So after she shared it with those nearest to her, she turned to Facebook and posted a photo of the part of the dimples on the underside of her breast in the hopes of encouraging others to know their bodies and get checked out when something doesn’t seem right.
“These 3 very, very subtle DIMPLES on the bottom of this breast are a sign of BREAST CANCER!” her message read. “This is what MY BREAST CANCER looks like. I felt no lump. The GP felt no lump.”
“We are shocked, we are numb, we are emotional, we are sometimes okay, we are pretending it’s not happening, we are trying to absorb information, we are dealing with tests, we are crying, we are trying to continue as normal,” Armstrong went on. “We are angry, we are sad. We have more questions than answers. We are doing our best to cope.”
And her final message to the thousands who would read the post? “Please go straight to your GP if you notice ANY change in your breast.
It could save your life. Please share to spread awareness.”
Armstrong underwent surgery for her breast cancer and is now cancer-free, although she will continue to take medication for several more years to keep the cancer from coming back. She is a success story and has already inspired many other women to take charge of their health as well.
Two years after her devastating diagnosis, Armstrong is surprised at the impact her Facebook post has made on the world. She even heard
back from 10 women who got checked out because of her post and were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer. “I would never have thought it could have been spread as far as it went,” she says.
So, in an effort to thank those who reached out to support her and shared their stories, as well as to provide an update on her own story, she posted the same photo again, with this message:
“It’s been 2 years today since my DR reviewed my scans and said, ‘I’m sorry, you have Breast Cancer.’ So much has happened in those 2 years. Life has been a roller coaster, but I’m out the other side of it now and doing well. I never dreamed this post would receive the reaction it has. I would like to thank each and every one of the almost 55,000 people that have liked this post and the 225,000 who have shared this post to help spread awareness and the countless people who have sent me messages and taken the time to write a comment. An especially massive thank you to those who shared their own personal stories. These stories have not only helped me get through some really dark days but also helped many others who have read this post. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. xx”
Thank you, Ms. Armstrong, for your bravery in sharing your story with the world. So many women needed to see your warning so that they could save their own lives, and many of them who would later be diagnosed with breast cancer also needed to see the conclusion to your story, needed to see the possibility that everything could turn out okay. You are a true warrior and a hero.
If you notice one or more dimples or an “orange peel” texture on any part of your breast, please consult a physician. Catching breast cancer early is important for successful treatment, so women of all ages should perform monthly self-exams and focus on being familiar with what’s “normal” for their bodies so they’ll know when something isn’t right.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?