More than 500 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer every day.
On March 13, I was one of them.
It was as if someone had strapped me into the cab of a roller coaster.
Each new test jerked me up a monstrous incline; each new piece of information flung me into an abyss.
And still I consider myself blessed.
I have the support of family and friends who believe in the power of prayer.
I have medical insurance and understanding employers.
And I have a team of compassionate, well-trained doctors.
On February 10, during a routine physical, my longtime family doctor, Dr. James P. Baraglia, felt a lump.
It just so happened I was scheduled to take a mammogram that same day.
Twenty-eight days later, after a follow-up ultrasound and a biopsy, I got the diagnosis over the phone.
"You have a cancer," the radiologist told me.
His words were paralyzing. I spent days weeping and praying before I had the strength to even begin researching my disease.
The work of Susan Love of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation was a good place to start. She is considered a breast cancer guru, and sees breast cancer as a "very common disease."
While it is news when a 30- or 40-something celebrity battles breast cancer, 77 percent of the cases occur in women older than 50, Love points out.
In fact, the average age for a breast cancer diagnosis is 61 years old. I will be 60 next month.
So on top of all the other age-related afflictions women can look forward to, there's a good chance we will get some form of breast cancer in our lifetime.
Yet for the most part, breast cancer gets the silent treatment among black women.
I cannot justify being quiet.
Because of the silence -- coupled with the limited access most low-income women have to quality healthcare -- cancer is often discovered in African-American women at late stages.
Because I usually get annual mammograms, my disease was discovered at a relatively early stage.
Still, the doctors described what I have -- ductal carcinoma in situ as well as infiltrating breast cancer -- as a "sneaky" and "wild" form of breast cancer.
Unfortunately, that is not unusual.
Black women, regardless of age or body weight, have a threefold greater risk of developing a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer compared with non-black women, Boston-based researchers reported recently, according to Reuters Health.
Without an aggressive plan to increase the availability of mammograms and other early detection screening to low-income women, the poor prognosis for black women with breast cancer drives the perception that it is a death sentence.
It is not.
Over the past 30 days, I have been embraced by black women who have survived the disease because of early detection.
Now I've been drafted into a war where tens of thousands perish every year, partly because of a lack of knowledge.
I can't hide.
After reading this, if just one woman gets a long overdue mammogram, I will be encouraged.
If just one woman stops ignoring the lump in her breast, I will be strengthened.
If just one more woman joins the fight for better breast cancer screening, I will be empowered.
As one radiologist pointed out, the medical community has done a great job raising breast cancer awareness.
Now it must get the word out that treatment does save lives.
Medical professionals must also address the struggle some women have with self-image -- a struggle so fierce that some would rather sacrifice their lives than go through radical surgery.
More women need to know that there are options available, including reconstructive surgery -- which is why expanding health care coverage is critical.
But please, don't tell me that my breasts have served their purpose.
It has nothing to do with vanity.
When breast cancer victims have to give up their breasts to save their lives, they are entitled to their grief.
We are mourning the loss of a part of ourselves.
On Friday, I begin my personal battle with breast cancer.
I am thankful to all of you who have helped me cope over the past two months.
And I'm thankful to God for giving me hope.