I was 57. But since age 53, I had been too busy with graduate school and writing and research projects to get a mammogram.
When I finally got my mammogram - I was trying to beat the clock on my graduate assistant insurance running out in the months after I got my masters from the University of Florida - I went through an MRI and two biopsies before physicians at University of Florida Shands Medical Center in Jacksonville found my Stage 1 tumor.
At age 59, I'm a two-year survivor. But I'm lucky that I finally got that mammogram that I had put off for so long.
Never let luck rule your health. Especially when it comes to breast cancer. My piece in The Commercial Appeal's Pink Edition...
Weathersbee: When I found my breast cancer, I hadn't had a screening in four years. Don't be like me
In 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. And I was, on one level, lucky.
Lucky that, after not bothering to get a mammogram since 2011, I didn't discover a tumor that had spread to other parts of my body.
"After four years of not being screened, that is a blessing," said Keesha Green, community outcomes and relations coordinator at West Cancer Clinic.
Dr. Kurt Tauer, medical oncology chief of staff at West, said while I might not have necessarily discovered my tumor earlier, since Stage 1 tumors usually don't appear on a mammogram until they are 12 to 18 months old, my luck lied in the fact that I decided to resume my screenings when I did.
"I think the Lord intervened," he said.
But no woman should leave it to luck or the Lord when it comes to getting a yearly mammogram.
That's especially true for African-American women here in Memphis, where a 2014 study by the Sinai Urban Health Institute and the Avon Foundation for Women found that between 2005 and 2009, Memphis had the highest disparity in breast cancer deaths for black women among 40 cities.
Locally, black women during that five-year period died from the disease at a rate of 44.3 per 100,000 females — more than double the rate of 21 per 100,000 for white women, during that time.
But Memphis has since narrowed that gap, Green said. It now ranks seventh when it comes to those disparities.
Much of that improvement comes from efforts by Tauer, who wasn't pleased with Memphis leading in breast cancer disparities. He now leads West's Community Outreach Initiatives, so that lack of insurance, transportation or other issues don't prevent women from receiving mammograms or other care.
"I felt embarrassed, I felt terrible, I felt we let our city down," Tauer said. "So, we really wanted to do something to make sure that every woman gets care."
Through the West Cancer Center Institute, any woman can come in for treatment, regardless of ability to pay, said Leighanne Soden, West director of development and community relations. On average, 13 cancers are found per year per 1,000 women there.
Still, said Tauer and Green, it's key to raise awareness of the importance of mammograms.
Carla Baker, project director of the Memphis Breast Cancer Consortium, echoed the importance of mammograms and early detection for African-American women.
"That's what saves lives," Baker said, "but a lot of African-American women will put it off because of fear, or they may have no insurance, or they may have insurance but they can't afford the co-pay.
"However, in Memphis there are dollars available to help with that, and the treatment and the mammograms have improved tremendously."
Another witness to the importance of mammograms is Merry Moore, 52.
"Since age 40, I had never missed," said Moore, who was diagnosed with a Stage 1 tumor at age 49.
"I had been eating healthy, and I had been going (for a mammogram) religiously. But when they found it, they found it in the milk duct...without a mammogram, it would have never been discovered."
So, like me, Moore is a survivor. But she's a far better example.
She made sure she got a yearly mammogram. And now, with the resources in place here, at West and at other facilities, and with organizations like the Memphis Breast Cancer Consortium, more African-American women can follow her lead — and further reduce their chances of dying of a disease that can be dealt with in its early stages.
Be like Moore. Not like me. Because I was lucky. And when it comes to breast cancer, it's better to rely on smarts than on luck.