My goal for 2012 is to attain the hard-won title of “Breast Cancer Survivor.” A year ago, I felt something unusual in my breast and scheduled a mammogram. As the technician was completing my screening, I mentioned my concerns about the lump I thought I felt. She assured me the mammogram showed “all clear,” and handed me a life-like breast model to probe, as an example of what a “real” tumor would feel like. With that assurance, I went home and determined not to think about it again.As 2011 came to a close, I wrestled with the fact that the unusual “lump” was still there, and perhaps bigger. So I asked a local CNP to feel it and give me her opinion. She advised me to get a mammogram immediately, and a breast ultrasound along with it. The tumor still didn't show on the mammogram, but was clearly visible, and sizable on the ultrasound. By this time, it had been detectable by self-breast exam for more than a year, not good. A biopsy proved it to be invasive ductal cancer.I wish the technician in 2011 would have noted my concerns and promptly alerted the doctor. In fact, I have discovered that to be standard protocol with breast screenings. The average person has no idea what further tests to request and is easily led to believe the professionals know best.My cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, and I start chemotherapy Monday. I want to urge other women to be their own advocates, to trust their intuition and to request further testing to address their concerns. We deserve a fighting chance, and to best achieve that, we must have the chance to fight early.To all those who perform these “routine” mammograms, remember: This might be your mother, your sister, your daughter or even yourself. Be attentive, listen with your heart and be proactive.