Breast Cancer Awareness Month: I did it and I’m fine.

29 Oct

Two weeks ago, I wrote a special post in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Little did I know, how much of an effect it would have on me.

Two weeks ago I posted on here in honor of breast cancer awareness month. I wrote about a local teacher who had been newly diagnosed, and about 39 year old Meredith Israel and her three year battle with breast cancer. I wrote about how it’s stories like theirs which drive me to do what I do each day. I want to live a life with no regrets, for as much as is possible.

But I was 41 and had never had a mammogram. At 40 you can have a baseline and every year thereafter, have another.

Imagine what kind of regrets I would have if I ended up with a disease for which early detection is such a big part of the fight? Imagine what kind of role model I’d be for my three daughters if I missed this?

It was a comment on my blog from my new Kids’ State Dinner friend, Debra, that jolted me into action, booking my own mammogram that very day. Since she wrote it on my blog for all to see, I am copying it here for you to see:

I sometimes forget that people like you, Jennifer, who only met me after my treatment was complete don’t necessarily know that I’m also a breast cancer survivor. Four years ago this Halloween I did my “I turned 40 so I should have a baseline” mammogram and it came back abnormal. At the time, Madeleine was in half-day Kindergarten and Avi was in preschool 3 half-days/week. Many tests and rechecks later, I found I had an early-stage form of breast cancer. In February and March 2009 I had 2 lumpectomy surgeries and then 6 weeks of daily radiation from late April – early June 2009. Fast-forward a few years and I’m a survivor — I get checked a few times/year. Cancer-free for 3 1/2 years and counting! Get your mammogram — the best way to survive cancer is to find it early enough.

Like I said, it was this very comment that hit me on the head like a ton of bricks. What was I thinking? I’d had the paperwork for my baseline mammogram since January, five months after I’d turned 40 and nine months ago now. What was I waiting for?

I wasn’t afraid of taking the test. I wasn’t nervous about getting the results (yet). I guess I was just guilty of letting the days go by and not being one to put myself first, almost ever. Those of you who know me well, know that I spend PLENTY of time in doctor’s offices. I could practically BE a doctor by now, in any number of pediatric specialties. I guess my own “well visit” type of test just fell by the wayside.

So thanks to Debra, I called that day. I scheduled my mammogram for a week later, Monday, October 22.

I even had scheduled TWO, for a minute there, as after I scheduled one, I found out from my mom that a different place was giving out free Alex and Ani bracelets with the breast cancer “Hope” charm on them if you went and got a friend to go too. So I scheduled one there, a friend scheduled hers, and then later on I canceled the first one I’d scheduled. No free bracelet, no mammogram there for me.

It wasn’t until the night before the test that I started to get a tiny bit nervous. Had I waited too long? Was I going to be sorry for not doing it sooner? Was I going to have the biggest regret ever? What would the test show? I think I’m fine, I feel fine, but would I be surprised like Debra and so many like her had been?

Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about. They read my results right then and there, and I was fine. I got my bracelet and I even made my appointment for October 23, 2013 for my next one.

So thank you Debra, thank you Meredith and thank you to all of you who are my heroes in this fight against breast cancer (shout out to Meri K and Nicole W). There are so many out there who have lost their battle and so many still fighting today.

And I beg you: if you are 40 and haven’t had your baseline yet, take Debra’s advice above and go out and schedule it now, bracelet or no bracelet. (Although I realllly love my bracelet).

Don’t let this be your one big regret.

My new bracelet will be a constant reminder of all my friends who have fought this battle and won, those who lost the fight, and of those who are still fighting, as well as my reminder to put my own health first.

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6 Responses to “Breast Cancer Awareness Month: I did it and I’m fine.”

  1. Susan Marchetti October 29, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    So touched by your post. Sending you a big “Ten finger Whoo!” (It’s cheer we use in my class. Check out Whole Brain Teaching).

  2. Debra Steppel October 29, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    ! Jennifer, I am typing this through tears of joy for you; grateful that you listened, grateful that you are fine, grateful that my post had such an impact on you as I had intended, and grateful for your blog’s ability to broadcast the importance of early detection far and wide. i read your posting today to my kids, who hugged me. I hugged them right back. You know how when you hear those flight attendants tell you to use the oxygen mask first before giving it to your kids? Same thing here. Your kids need you to take of yourself so you can be there for a long time to take care of them.

    • thewholebagofchips October 29, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      Debra, I always think of that Footsteps poem where they talk about how people come into your lives and quickly leave or come into your lives and leave their mark. Although those of us on that trip were together only 36 hours, for many of us, the relationships we gained there have changed our lives forever. I will be forever grateful to you and I will think of you whenever I wear my bracelet and whenever I get my mammogram each October. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. xoxoxo

  3. now at home mom October 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Beautiful post, beautiful words. as I read this, I made my mom read it with me too! very touching! 🙂

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