For me, having breast cancer is kind of like when you’re looking for a new car. Stay with me here, it makes sense… Once you know what you want, you see those particular models of cars everywhere… right? On the highway, on tv, all over the Internet… you know this happens. Well with cancer, which is all-consuming to me at this point, all I seem to see are other people who are also affected by this terrible disease. It’s non-stop – friends, family, friends of friends, segments on the news, commercials, and other young women on Instagram who have become my fast-friends and sources of compassion. The biggest difference between cars and breast cancer is the tens of thousands of dollars you’re about to spend are actually going towards something fun… (insert eye roll here)
In the short few months since I was diagnosed, I have touched base with SO dang many people who are walking with me – our paths are usually varied a bit, but we can relate on all the big bads of our disease. The craziest thing? Many, MANY of us are young. Like, so young that this should not even be on our radars. (And it usually isn’t.) We should be worried about building our families and enjoying our young bodies while we are strong and able to do.all.the.things. We should NOT have to be subjected to the poking and blood draws and testing constantly. We should also not have to worry about things like: Will I lose my hair? Will I gain weight from steroids? And worst of all, will I make it out of this alive?
My point here is that this sucks, it’s not fair and I’m MAD that cancer education/prevention isn’t more of a “thing” in our country. Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and guess what, it’s typically a subject people avoid talking about UNTIL THEY HAVE TO. The stats are seriously scary – 1 in 3 people will get cancer. In my case, 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer… it’s baffling to me.
I’m just being real here; before my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I was incredibly lucky to not have been “touched” by it. Of course I knew people who had been through it, but it had never hit close to home, so therefore, I was naive and honestly pretty ignorant. Maybe I’m the only one, I don’t know… I had no real grasp on the fact that some cancers are genetic, but sometimes, you just get cancer, and it can come from a HUGE number of things in our environment (things we can mostly control): foods we eat, chemicals we use in our homes, crap in the air, the list goes on and on. I’m not saying we have to live in a bubble, or stop enjoying a delicious cheeseburger from time to time, but education and advocacy are SO important. My eyes have been opened to so much since my own diagnosis, and I’ve learned there is a lot I can do to control my health.
When I was diagnosed, my sister – who is 30, immediately decided she wanted to have a mammogram because well, why wouldn’t she? Of course she wanted to get a base-line because even though I do not have any of the really scary gene mutations, she was obviously concerned. When she brought it up with her doctor, they were not only surprised she would ask for one, but they basically told her it was unnecessary due to her age. I’m proud of her for pushing and refusing to back down – even though she would have to pay for it out of pocket and face the skepticism of the medical staff. And you know what? This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this story. WHY? WHY? We shouldn’t have to wait until we’re 40 years old to get a mammogram for the first time, and if someone wants to get one – it shouldn’t be a huge pain or expense because they’d like to take their health into their own hands. Moreover, no one should be judged or looked at like they’re crazy for advocating for themselves.
The American Cancer Society website literally states that breast cancer is common in young adults (people ages 20-39) so why on earth wouldn’t a mammogram be used for early detection until age 40, I don’t get it.
My friends, educate yourselves about cancer and be diligent with awareness of your body. Casey and I talk all the time about if I had ignored the lump – or even if I had waited a few extra weeks, what could have happened… I’m thankful I listened to that inner-voice urging me that something wasn’t right. The moral of the story is, advocate for yourself – do self-checks, call about weird things you feel, ASK FOR HELP. If you want to learn more about cancer – of any kind, visit the American Cancer Society’s website – there is SO much good information.