Stop it…

I’d like to send a message to doctors & to ladies. Doctors: Stop telling women they don’t need a mammogram. Just stop. Stop saying it’s not needed until 40 or 50 years old. Just stop. I was 41. Two of my friends were also 41. If I hadn’t had a baseline done years prior, they might have dismissed the findings. They might have told me to wait and see if it changed. I heard someone tell the story about their doctor who told them they should just “wait and see” if things changed in 6 months. My cancer grew from nothing to stage 1 in 12 months. I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait until it progressed to stage 2 or 3 or 4.

My friend told me her Doctor said she didn’t need a mammogram even though it was covered by insurance. Thankfully, she didn’t take “no” for an answer. She at least has a baseline to compare others to. Hopefully she never needs it, but it’s there and could possibly save her life.

Ladies, stop. Stop making excuses.

  1. You’re busy. I get it. We are all busy.
  2. You’re scared of having a mammogram. Being told you have cancer is scary. Telling your kids that their mom has cancer is scary.
  3. It hurts. Guess what? Having surgery hurts. It hurts longer than the 45 seconds of having your boob squished for a mammogram. Catching it early makes the treatment less invasive.

My mother-in-law had breast cancer shortly after we were married (more than 20 years ago.) A few years ago, she stopped going in for regular check ups. She stopped putting herself first. We aren’t sure why, and now we won’t get the chance to ask her. She was 70. She didn’t make it to her 71st birthday. She won’t see her grandkids graduate high school or get married. Last Friday we lit a luminaria bag in her memory at our Relay for Life event.

Our Relay for Life is one of the largest in MN. I was co-captain last year and team captain this year. We raise funds all year and our Relay night is 8 hrs long. We don’t go through the night anymore… not enough people stayed that long. I think that’s common for several Relay events. People have other commitments during their short summer. It is a powerful, emotional night. People of all ages wearing purple “survivor” t-shirts walk the survivor lap. I thought for a moment “maybe I shouldn’t go or be involved…. maybe it’s not a big deal.” And then I thought of my mother-in-law, my aunt, my friend’s wife… and I realized it’s a big deal.

My husband took a picture of the survivor on the back of my shirt. At first I thought it was silly, but it’s one of my favorite pictures of the night. My good friend decorated a bag for me with a cat that looks like ours and some chickens in clothes… perfect. It gets to be in honor of me and not in memory.

In general, please stop thinking that being survivor is not a big deal. I have a friend from a recent retreat who is traveling all over the United States to try and find a cure, a solution… something to buy some more time. Life isn’t guaranteed. We don’t know our end date. Supporting the American Cancer Society helps to fund research, provide rooms or travel assistance or valet parking.

It’s a subject that gets me fired up. I am passionate about prevention. If one person gets checked because of this awareness, it’s worth it. Mammograms don’t only happen in October. You can get checked anytime.

Stop and watch a sunset. Stop and smell some flowers (they don’t have to be roses). Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you stop doubting, procrastinating or worrying and start living.

The dance…

Last Friday, we had our local American Cancer Society Relay for Life. It used to be that people walked all through the night, but too many people left early, so ours goes until 1am. The picture is of my husband quickly walking away after a little two-step we did at the Relay event. They had a live band and it was playing some good country songs… and I just thought we needed to dance. Why? Because we can. Because it’s been 3 1/2 years since I was diagnosed & 3 years since a hysterectomy & broken foot all at once. Because dancing with my husband makes my heart happy. Because we don’t dance enough. Because it was a day to celebrate survivor & remember those no longer with us.

I’ve participated in Relay for Life for the last 4 years. The first year, I was still recovering & had a boot on my broken foot. This year, I was a team captain for our team at work. The survivor lap is more emotional than I am ever prepared for. With a sea of purple shirts & purple balloons, it’s an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We walk as one… each with a different story but all connected together. Then we walk a lap with our caregivers. My two sons and my husband walked with me. Our kids were 8 & 11 when I was diagnosed. I participated in this event so that someday, kids won’t have to hear their mom say, “I have cancer.”

The band played a song that made me cry… “I’m gonna love you through it,” by Martina McBride. Just typing it out, my eyes are welling up with tears. Grateful… just so grateful that I had someone to love me through it. I only had to change a couple of words in the song & it could have been written for me. When you’re weak, I’ll be strong. And he was. And so were many other special people in my life. Just take my hand, together we can do it. I’m gonna love you through it.

They also played “The Dance,” by Garth Brooks. Tears filled my eyes as we lit the luminarias in honor of a survivor & in memory of someone who had passed. I could have missed the pain, but I’d have to miss the dance. Oh, how true. So, while we were the only ones two-stepping on the track, I didn’t want to miss the dance.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you take the time to dance, because there are those who cannot… and those who would give anything to have one more dance with the one they loved.