All my life, I’ve been a healthy eater. I started running when I was 19 and exercise has been an important part of my mental and physical health. I’m a non-smoker, enjoy a glass of red wine on occasion and and am very comfortable in my own skin.
My life over the past two decades has been filled with many things: multi-tasking, moving from point a to point b, goals, strategies, marriage, managing family life, a full-time job, projects including co-authoring a book, starting a small business, moving on from it, and starting another job.
I’ve come to embrace how living life is an experiment — that the choices we make aren’t guaranteed and that no one really knows how things are going to turn out. With that ethos, I’ve dealt with failure, pain, success and blessings as an amalgam of experiences, each bringing me more wisdom along the way.
And then August 2018 happened. The life I had known — the life I just described — was altered forever. I was told I had a mammogram finding — micro-calcifications in one of my breasts. In pattern formation, they can indicate breast cancer.
As women, we’re taught to care for our breasts — we get messages from our primary care physicians and ob/gyn’s — do self checks, get your mammograms. Yet I had never heard of, or been aware of, micro-calcifications as a risk-factor for breast cancer. Doctors say that’s what mammograms are for, but women need to know so much more about them. We’re taught to look for lumps, but not taught to understand the genesis of calcifications, especially micro-calcifications and what they mean.
From that moment in August, I had a biopsy which led to pathology results, which led to meeting surgeons, which led to choices, which led to surgery, which led to more pathology reports and from there medical oncologists.
You never know when life will take you down from behind and challenge everything you are. I’ve always believed if you live long enough, it happens to us all at some point, in our health, in our relationships/marriages, or in our work/jobs — hopefully never at the same time.
No one is ever truly ready for it for a life altering change. For me, it’s felt like living in a haunted house, ghouls popping out at every turn, a house that you can’t get out of fast enough, because you’re trapped — having to face every landmine, every dark corner with as much inner strength, fortitude and intelligence you can muster — all against a backdrop of fear. Over the past few weeks, I kept thinking, how fitting…it’s October, it’s Halloween.
Today, 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. For a majority of these women, breast cancer is not hereditary. There are many things women can do to learn more about breast health throughout their lifecycles that include, but are not limited to: lifestyle choices and reducing stress, understanding hormonal changes before and after having children, understanding body changes after 40 and peri-menopause, environmental awareness — knowing what products to use in your house and on your body — understanding what’s in our food systems and what food choices help mitigate risks and promote healing.
Today marks the end of October breast cancer awareness month for 2018 and happens to be the 31st, Halloween. For me it’s the beginning of a new chapter. It’s a chapter that will involve writing about my experiences for women, families and providers about what I’ve faced and what I’ve learned, and from there, speaking about it. I want to speak about it because I firmly believe, as many others do, breast cancer awareness needs to extend well beyond the month of October — we need to raise more awareness every day, week, month and year and we need to transform the ways we are living.
I’m committed to carrying these messages forward and will join an army of women in the world who are attempting to do the same — for our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, our families, our providers, our friends, and more.
As for Halloween, I’m planning to enjoy it with family and friends and reclaim October as my favorite month of the year — just this year it’s catapulting the once more private me into a more public part of my life.