Sunday, January 16, 2011

8 Degrees of Separation

Please know first of all that the title has nothing to do with Kevin Bacon!  Not that he isn't a great guy (although personally, I can't vouch for this either), but I am not talking about the ways in which we are connected to this movie star of "Footloose" fame.  No, I am talking about the way we are all connected through breast cancer.

You see, 1 in 8 women that are around you today will be diagnosed with breast cancer soon.  We all know at least that many women in our lives, so the chances are that you WILL be touched by breast cancer in your lifetime...and usually more than once.  In my church alone, there are four of us who have been diagnosed and are being treated currently...and a number of others who are sitting in the pews who are survivors.  I am sure right now you know someone, your family has someone, or you yourself have been touched or diagnosed by this insidious disease.  And it is NOT only women affected!  In 2010, it was predicted that 207,900 females would be diagnosed into this "club"....and there would also be 1,970 males!  (There are statistics available also for different cultural and ethnic groups.)  There is no proven way of knowing just when it will hit you or someone you know.  In women with a clearly defined genetic predisposition for the disease, only 5-10% are actually diagnosed within their lifetime (you didn't expect that, did you?).  A scary statistic is that in this year alone, about 40,000 females and 400 males will die of breast cancer.

The lucky ones are the ones who get detected early.  If you are waiting to feel some symptoms or a lump before seeing a doctor....then you are waiting until it is too late and you run the chance of being one of those in the "scary statistic".  Most early detections and diagnoses can come only through the miracle of modern technology...those dreaded mammograms and the test I still think everyone should also get...the ultrasound (mine was picked up on ultrasound, but not on the mammogram!).  The encouraging statistic is that there are 1.7 MILLION (yes, I said MILLION) people out there still alive and kicking after being diagnosed and treated!  But to be one of those million,  you need to be proactive with your own body. 

Breast cancer is now the leading cause of death for women ages 15-54; and the second leading cause of death for women 54-74.  While there are ways to keep our bodies healthy with good eating and exercise, that alone does not always prevent you from hearing the same words I did in a doctor's office behind a closed door.

However, 96% of those treated early for the disease have been found to be cancer-free after  five years and many, many go on to live wonderful, active, inspiring long lives.  If right now you have a lump you are worried about, and you are ignoring your instincts to call your doctor, please also know that 80% of lumps turn out to be non-cancerous!!  But you need to hear loud and clear that early detection is the absolute key for a good outcome!

This journey has not been one I can take lightly and I feel I would be wasting this opportunity if I didn't try somehow to get just one person out there to understand the significance of that one phone call to make your appointment to schedule your mammography.  If you are that person I am talking to (and you will know if you are), please do not wait any longer.  I am here to tell you that it will be worth it if you do.

I also want you to know that this journey has not been one of complete anguish and sorrow.  As I have said before, this journey has had me hit the "pause" button on my life and I realize now just how much I needed to do that.  Somehow, I am feeling more and more that this diagnosis for me was not so much a curse as it is becoming a blessing.  I now have a second chance at doing some things right and forgiving myself for those things I have done wrong!  If I ever thought I was totally in charge of my life, I have definitely found out I am not.  And I am glad to turn that job over to God since I was totally unprepared the "lead the charge" all by myself.

Don't be the 1 in 8 who will be surprised...and surprised too late.  Make that appointment today no matter how old you are.  Don't let fear of the unknown or fear of diagnosis or fear of the exam or mammogram itself stop you.  You will be so glad you listened to your inner voice and I am glad to be prompting you to listen!   

3 comments:

  1. Thank you, Sharon!! Awesome post!!
    My thoughts are with you..I think about you everyday. I haven't read your blog in a while (Holidaze).. got some catching up to do!!! Wishing you a peaceful day!

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  2. A reminder that we're all in this together.

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  3. Thank you, thank you, bless you

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