“Your Aunt found another lump.”
I remember hearing those words come out of my Mom’s mouth last year… And just feeling… Well, numb.
I couldn’t believe that with everything my Aunt had already been through that she could have breast cancer again. I felt like all of the air had been sucked out of my lungs. I felt the blood drain from my face. I felt tears forming in my eyes. I felt sick. I can’t even begin to imagine how SHE felt.
I instantly thought of how many people I knew who had been knocked down by breast cancer: A grade school friend who I had just reconnected with a few months earlier had just lost her Mom to it (who I adored). My stepmom had been diagnosed a few years earlier and was still suffering through various treatments. The Sister of my partner at the last service I worked at. The countless hospice patients who had been told… “I’m sorry, there’s nothing else we can do other than make you comfortable.”
My Aunt’s world changed overnight.
Rediagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). We had every reason to believe that it was well contained. Everyone we spoke with believed it was. We spent some time doing some research on her options. It was a few weeks later that we found out that her options were significantly more limited than we had hoped. She was going to need a double mastectomy.
Fast forward another two months and we found ourselves in the hospital with her. Seeing her in so much pain that it hurt to take a breath in at times. Nauseous and in tears when she’d throw up from the high doses of pain meds they were giving her. We stood next to her as her body fought to recover after the mastectomy. We fought with her, begging her to let us help with the countless drainage tubes. Making sure that she was eating and that she was comfortable.
When the depression hit, it was… Honestly, I don’t know how to put this in to words. I felt like I was watching this beautiful vibrant woman fall apart. I don’t think that any of us truly knew what to say to make things better. I don’t think there was anything that could be said.
I remember telling her that her femininity, the stuff inside that makes her an amazing woman… It didn’t come from her boobs. It came from her head and heart. It sounded right at the time. I don’t know now. She went through hell. But she survived.
A two-time survivor. My Aunt is so badass it must hurt to be her.
This is my Aunt, and she really is as badass as I say she is.
A few weeks ago I was sitting at my computer looking at my account for the upcoming Race For the Cure. I started thinking about the thousands of people who would be there that day, and how each of them had been touched by breast cancer in some way. Then I started to think about my beautiful little girl with the sparkling brown eyes who loves life to the very fullest. I thought about my other Aunt, my Mother, my Cousins, partners and good friends. I thought about their little girls. I thought about all of the women in my life who could just as easily be diagnosed with this horrible disease.
And it’s not just women who are affected. 2,000 men a year are diagnosed. That’s right, guys… You’re not exempt.
I started doing a little reading and I found out that the five year survival rate for those diagnosed in an early stage is 97%.
That’s right, 97%. Prevention and early detection is the key.
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
1. Do a self breast exam every month.
2. Be sure that your doctor is doing an exam once a year.
3. Mammography. Sure, it’s not pleasant, but neither is stage IV cancer.
I couldn’t believe that such simple steps could result in such a high survival rate… I wanted to scream it from the rooftops.
I immediately wanted to do more than just run this year. I wanted to do more than just raise a little money. I wanted to do what I could to get this information to the public (and…. raise a little money for Susan G. Komen as well…)
I wanted to create some thunder.
If there’s one thing that blogging and social media has taught me in the last couple of years it’s that change can start with just one person. Get enough of the right people involved and you’d be amazed at what can happen. I sought out one of my favorite people, The Happy Medic, and asked him what he thought about possibly changing his blog background pink. Maybe linking to the Komen page.
Happy Medic being, well, Happy Medic… He ran with it.
I’m going to ask you to do the same. Please consider changing your facebook picture, an avatar, your blog banner… Anything… Pink. If you’re a blogger, consider doing a post on breast cancer awareness and prevention. If you need help with content or images you can always email myself or The Happy Medic.
Let’s make some thunder, ya’ll! You have no idea what impact YOU can have.