It was 40 years ago that my sweet Grammie was told she had breast cancer. 40 years ago that she underwent a mastectomy….a surgery that, at the time, was far less common and didn’t boast the potential life-saving statistics that it does now, but as a relatively young woman of 60, she was a fighter.
Today, at 100 years old, that tough lady is STILL a fighter. She refused to let breast cancer or the loss of one of her breasts steal her spirit and though we never talked about her experience, I always knew she was embarrassed of her scars.
But she beat breast cancer.
She beat it.
And that gave me an entire lifetime with her. You see…. I’m 40. Early detection is a beautiful thing.
I have her blood running deep through my veins and I owe it to her to honor her spirit by taking care of myself. Four years ago this October, I discovered a painful lump in my breast (and then my doctor found two more). This lead to my first mammogram, and my first ‘waiting period’ as I hoped for an all-clear.
I was one of the lucky ones. My mammogram showed that I was just fine. I stopped holding my breath, and my shoulders relaxed for the first time since I first discovered the small mass.
But I’m not naive enough to believe that positive results in 2009 mean that will always be the case….
I turned 40 in January. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), one in eight women will develop breast cancer and that risk increases with age and jumps substantially as one moves deeper into their 40’s and beyond. Breast Cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in women and it robs roughly 40-thousand woman – mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and friends – of the life they love each year.
I’m clearly not getting any younger.
And it’s October.
So, I figured now was the perfect time to think and act: mammogram anyone?
I’ve partnered with Hanes and NCBF to talk about making this somewhat uncomfortable act a priority. You may have been told that mammograms are painful, I was too. And hearing that may have scared you a bit. Allow me to try change your mind:
Most doctors (and the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society) believe that early detection – or utilizing screenings like mammograms – saves thousands of lives each year. By the time you or I were to experience the symptoms of breast cancer, it is quite possible that it could be larger or have moved beyond our breasts. I don’t need to tell you that would make it harder to treat, right?
I am beyond thrilled to share with you, as part of this campaign, Hanes is donating $50,000 to NBCF – and $1000 of that is in my name. The National Breast Cancer Foundation was founded in 1991 by breast cancer survivor, Janelle Hail. Its mission is to save lives through early detection and provide mammograms for those in need. The hospital where I had my mammogram done this past week, St. Anthony’s Breast Center in St. Louis, Missouri, offers a program called the Tour of Hope that allows women without insurance, or with a very high deductible, to have their mammograms done for free.
What an extraordinary gift. In return, they ask that the women receiving the assistance pen a brief thank you note.
So, have I inspired you to take this step? Or to at least think about it? One in eight women will be affected.
If you are that one, finding out early is the key.
Please join the conversation (look! We’re chatting on Facebook too!). Your voice matters to me, to us
Disclosure: I partnered with Hanes and NBCF to have this conversation with you, though, as always, all thoughts, opinions and experiences are my own.