The idea of breast cancer, well really any type of cancer, has always been an “it’ll never happen to me” situation in my own head. I try to maintain a healthy diet, a healthy attitude, and a healthy body (Studio Barre is a clear representation of that positive lifestyle!), so I just never even considered it an obstacle I might have to deal with at an early age.
And then it happened, and it happened to me. Blindsided is an understatement, but I’m sure no different of a feeling than any other person who suddenly gets the same news from their doctor. The whole world begins to spin a little faster on its axis, and you search for a way to get off the ride as quickly as possible. All of a sudden, October being Breast Cancer Awareness month truly has a personal meaning. Breast Cancer has presented itself in my life front and center, and I’ve begun documenting my own journey on a new Facebook page called “Fight Like a Girl.” Why? Well it’s funny that friends and family tell me that they can’t believe I’m smiling ear-to-ear in pictures while getting chemo treatments, spending time in the ER, or even exiting the shower with handfuls of hair. But what’s the better option? And what’s the use of having to fight like hell, but not be able to help anyone else in the process? That’s not how I’m programmed. I can spend the entire time crying and feeling sorry for myself, but that won’t help me or anyone else for that matter. I’m HERE, my cancer has been DETECTED, my chemo is ONGOING, the tumor is SHRINKING, and my prognosis is POSITIVE! Every day is a celebration in my opinion, and because I’m clearly not the only one saddled with this burden, I want to offer my love and support to all those around me; the more you give, the more you get.
So to that VERY IMPORTANT end, it’s time to discuss the importance of steps we can take to promote early detection of breast cancer. Yup! This is a lecture about giving your boobies a good feel, because EARLY DETECTION IS THE KEY!
The whole idea behind early detection is to get screenings often enough that a potential cancerous threat never has the opportunity to settle in and create symptoms (like a lump in your breast).
- It starts in your 20’s, where you need to develop a level of breast awareness (i.e. the underlying anatomy), and you should learn how to complete a thorough breast exam. Your gynecologist or your general doctor will be all-to-happy to help get you proactive in this respect. They KNOW how important a simple self-exam can be. And frankly, if you’re too embarrassed to ask, just Google it! There are a gazillion instructional videos and pictures and blogs and what have you!
- In addition to your own self-check, you should be getting a clinical breast exam every year along with your annual. What does that mean? It means DON’T SKIP YOUR ANNUAL! Not only is early detection key in breast cancer, early detection is key in cervical cancer as well! These are important yearly steps as you enter adulthood that CANNOT BE SKIPPED!
- Once you hit 40, a mammogram is considered the most effective screening tool out there, and it’s recommended that once a woman turns 40, that she gets one every year. A mammogram is essentially an x-ray of the breast, allowing a trained radiologist to identify potential spots or areas that might be cancerous in nature. Think about it – a tumor forms in the breast as cancerous cells begin to increase in size and number. Once you feel that lump, steps like biopsy, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have to be taken. So instead, a screening by mammogram can potentially identify areas at risk BEFORE they become tumors.
- And remember, it’s important to consider whether you have multiple risk factors that might increase your chances of developing breast cancer (or any type of cancer for that matter). Are you a smoker? How’s your diet? Do you drink? Do you exercise? Are you exposed to toxic substances in your line of work? Do you have a family history? These are ALL reasons to go and consult your doctor. I’m not qualified to tell you whether you are at risk, but as your friend, I can tell you that an unhealthy lifestyle has definite links to progressive diseases, such as cancer.
Have you heard enough? Have I inspired you to schedule your next doctor’s appointment or mammogram? Are you online looking for additional resources and information? Are you pulling your spouse/daughter/mother/best friend aside and asking them the same? I’ve done my job in this post if you’re personally taking steps, or encouraging others to take steps, in support of early detection. Heck, I’ve done my job if after reading this, you give yourself a good feel…up!
I love each and every one of you. Together we are strength defined!
Happy Tucking (and feeling and squeezing and early detecting)!