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Standing At The Roundabout

Menorah Medical Center October 23, 2014

Gina Shay-Zapien, MSN, APRN, CNS-BC

By Gina Shay-Zapien, MSN, APRN, CNS-BC, breast care nurse navigator at Menorah Medical Center

A few years ago, the city engineers in my Kansas City suburb decided to try out the quaint concept of European-style roundabouts by placing four of them between my house and the closest main road. I have imagined the engineers as briefcase-toting pencil pushers wearing thick glasses, short-sleeve white dress shirts and a slightly evil grin. How dare they make me slow down and try to interpret the impossible signage four times in less than a mile while listening to my motion-sick passengers grumble and moan! I have things to do, places to go.

I don’t have time for nauseating circle after nauseating circle.

Turns out I’m not the only one who has trouble navigating these new-fangled traffic circles, as evidenced by the frequent chopped-off tree stumps, mangled signposts and skid marks.

Personally, I have had a few metaphorical roundabouts, too. Mine came in the form of a breast cancer diagnosis. Somehow the cosmos didn’t get the memo that I was under 50, had no family history, drank green tea every day and loved doing yoga.

Breast cancer — slam on those brakes! It wasn’t the little microscopic, pink-fest thing that I had imagined it to be since I got my first mammogram. It was big, ugly and had spread to my lymph nodes. It required surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. More roundabouts, and each one slowed me a down a bit as I tried to interpret the signs and learn the language of oncology. Each trip around the circle gave me a new view of my surroundings as I spun in different directions. And truthfully, each one made me more than a little nauseous!

In the end, though, I have learned gratitude. I am thankful for roundabouts.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, a roundabout is a proven safety measure, reducing the risk of injury by 78 to 82 percent compared to a regular intersection. I am thankful for those roundabout engineers as I watch my kids pull out of the driveway, knowing they are a bit safer because of those traffic circles.

And yes, I am thankful for breast cancer. Like the roundabout, cancer taught me to slow down a bit and listen to my fellow passengers. My career traveled in a new direction, too. Now as a nurse navigator in the Breast Center at Sarah Cannon at Menorah Medical Center, I have the privilege of standing at that first roundabout in so many women’s lives. I can travel with them from the abnormal mammogram and through biopsies, procedures, treatments and therapies and onto the road of survivorship.

This month as we recognize breast cancer survivors, take a moment to travel your roundabout. If you still have breasts, stop and check them — just like checking your tires or your oil! Mammograms are essential. They can detect cancers that are too small to feel.

But don’t stop with your yearly mammogram — you need to know your breasts. Feel for lumps, look in the mirror, tighten your chest muscles and look again. Don’t assume that because your last mammogram was normal you can ignore a tiny lump or that new dimple until next year. See your doctor about any changes in your breast. Be persistent, take care of yourself and slow down on those roundabouts. You’ll be glad you did.

Courtesy of KC Nursing News

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