Skadi Gidionsen diagnosed at 49

I am the UX & Digital Director for a brand strategy and creative services agency and worked closely with the team at DetecTogether to develop a new website as part of their renaming and rebranding. Through this project, I quickly came to know DetecTogether’s approach to early cancer detection, and their education echoed in my head when, during our time working together, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Before my cancer diagnosis, I felt great, had no symptoms and always kept my annual mammogram appointment. I was scheduled for a physical and mammogram in April 2020, and because of COVID-19 shut-downs, my appointment was cancelled. In June 2020, I had a virtual appointment with my primary care physician, and I expressed concern about missing the mammogram. The doctor determined that because of my age and family history, it was fine to skip one year. Feeling a little uneasy with this decision, I was sure to do a self-exam, and I didn’t feel any changes. But, on a Friday night in September, just a few months later, I found a large lump on my breast while relaxing on the couch at home.

DetecTogether taught me that 2 in 5 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and that advocating for yourself when you notice a health change can truly be lifesaving.

DetecTogether taught me that 2 in 5 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and that advocating for yourself when you notice a health change can truly be lifesaving. I immediately thought of this when I felt the lump, was on the phone with my doctor on Saturday, made some contacts through a friend who is a physician, and by Monday, I had an appointment for a mammogram and biopsy. I wasn’t waiting.

I soon got the news that I had Stage II breast cancer. Had we not been in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, my cancer would have been found at my April mammogram and most likely would have been Stage I rather than Stage II. This furthered my resolve to take an active role in my health care, and two weeks later, I began chemotherapy treatment.

When I wasn’t feeling my best because of chemo side effects and the emotional toll of having cancer, I leaned on my loved ones. I learned how to advocate for myself and also to identify those who can advocate with me. This became a critical part of my lesson: identifying people to take different roles in my life because I was going to be busy just coping with the day-to-day. My husband became “Director of Communication” to let friends and family know how things were going. My physician friend helped overcome reluctance reaching out to doctors with any question when I didn’t want to bother them. She reminded me that it’s their job to answer questions, to help you through and pushed me to remain active, stepping up when I was lacking the strength or words. All the while, I kept in mind another important lesson learned through DetecTogether, to remain active and in control.

I am grateful for my family, friends, and the life-saving early cancer detection knowledge that I gained from DetecTogether.

Symptom:

  • large lump found in breast on self-exam