We’re about a week into Breast Cancer Awareness month and already this year feels very different to me. I always acknowledge the month and try to do my share to raise awareness. I will typically write a blog about it or sometimes donate to the cause. But aside from having great compassion for those who are inflicted with the disease and their loved ones, it hasn’t really resonated on a much deeper level than that. Not until now. For various reasons it just feels more personal this year.
My first indication that something was different was when I had my mammogram a few days ago. This was my third mammogram, my last one was two years ago. During my previous appointments it felt like a routine visit. Those appointments were in November – this one just happened to be during breast cancer awareness month, so the waiting room was full. As I prepared to settle in –reaching for my iPad to catch up on my reading and also to browse Facebook and Twitter, it quickly became clear to me that many of the women waiting with me were not there for “routine” visits. There were several women who were clearly battling cancer. Some women were frail, one was bald, and others just radiated pure strength – a strength that only comes from going through, or I should say, overcoming. That made me think of how important my appointment was, and how there are so many women warriors out here dealing with this devastating diagnosis.
Obviously, breast cancer is something that touches all of us in some way – either directly or indirectly. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 230,000 women in the U.S. learn they have breast cancer every year. For the past couple of years it has hit close to home for me. I’ve had family members and dear friends impacted by the disease. I’ve seen it effect women on opposite ends of the spectrum. I know people who live what you might consider an unhealthy lifestyle who have been diagnosed and those who live what you’d consider optimally healthy lifestyles. We hear so many statistics about risk factors and things that contribute to the likelihood of receiving the diagnosis. Naturally you think if you do the opposite of those things you’re pretty safe. So, I typically walk in denial about the fact that even though healthy choices make an impact, it doesn’t exempt you. I tend to get really scared when I find out that someone who seemed to have been doing everything “right” gets diagnosed.
Case in point, and also my second indication that this year was different. I was watching CBS This Morning the day after my mammogram, and it featured Holley Jacobs. Her story really grabbed my attention. She’s a woman who writes a wonderful blog (www.thesilverpen.com) about her life. She’s a nurse, follows a mostly vegan diet, she runs marathons, and at age 39 in 2010 was diagnosed with breast cancer. Furthermore, she had no family history or any known risk factors.
I’m sad to hear when any woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s just these kinds of stories in particular remind me that I have no control over this disease. It’s beyond my control, and truth be told, THAT is what scares me.
So, although I can’t control whether or not I get diagnosed, I still need to do my best to prevent it. I believe I have an obligation to do everything within my power to preserve my life. I realize that even though living healthy can’t ensure you won’t be diagnosed with breast cancer, it does help in preventing it and recovering from it.
In closing, I want to salute every woman warrior out there who is surviving and thriving in the midst of a breast cancer diagnosis. You INSPIRE me and I HONOR you!
Question: Do you have a personal story with breast cancer?