Normally I don’t post newsletter articles to my blog, but I’m making an exception this month. It’s just too important not to.
As many of you know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. I’m now cancer free, but not without a few new scars on my body and in my heart.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Obviously. You can’t go anywhere without seeing pink.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month was little comfort to me last year, when I was two cycles into a fairly nasty chemo protocol. But it’s of huge importance to me this year and probably will be for the rest of my life.
Here are some of the things I learned on my cancer journey:
01. Just keep moving.
When my treatment plan would let me, I tried to keep my life as normal as possible. I drove my son to daycare. I powered through Pilates. I kept working. I just did everything a bit slower than before. It worked for me. It kept me sane.
My friends would ask: “Ann, how can you be so cheerful at a time like this?”
My reply: “What’s the alternative?”
Cancer taught me that, no matter what, you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. That’s how you live a life worth celebrating.
02. People are beautiful.
How many people love you? Double that number and maybe you’ll be close.
Cancer (and the internet) taught me that people love me more than I know. Every cancer update on facebook got dozens of supportive replies. Distant relatives read my blog religiously. I got to visit with people I rarely see and routinely received homemade gifts, notably shawls, hats, and bandanas with skulls on them.
It only gets better with time. Last week, a long-time client and dear friend called to tell me he’d donated $200 to a breast cancer charity in my name. I want to cry all over again just thinking about it.
03. Cancer does not discriminate (but our healthcare system does).
I was 33 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have no family history. I was lucky I had symptoms that were difficult to ignore.
Too many women in their teens, 20s and 30s are told they can’t possibly have cancer because they are too young. They are unable to access diagnostic tests and life-saving treatment because of this bias.
According to the Young Survival Coalition, 10,000 women under the age of 40 were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. And many more uninsured women of all ages will wonder how they will afford treatment.
What’s worse than getting cancer? Getting cancer and not knowing how you’re going to pay for it.
You can make a difference.
The American Breast Cancer Foundation is a national non-profit that provides direct financial assistance to the uninsured and others who do not have access to the quality care so many of us take for granted.
Monies donated to ABCF pay for screening and diagnostic mammograms, biopsies, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. ABCF also assists cancer patients with wigs and prostheses to help them feel whole again.
Think healthcare reform’s going to solve this problem? Guess again. A full 65% of the people ABCF serves are under the age of 50. So-called universal healthcare won’t cover mammograms for these women. These are young women, often with young children. Just like me.
I am proud to serve as the Secretary of the Board of Directors of this amazing organization, which helped over 10,000 women and men in the past year.
Please consider giving to the American Breast Cancer Foundation. Because everyone deserves a fighting chance.