October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Until a few years ago, this meant something to me, but not as much as it does today. My first experience with the disease came many years ago when my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a mastectomy, but was lucky – she didn’t need chemo or radiation and went on to live many more good years. But still, it was cancer.
My second run-in with the disease was worse and hit me much harder. Not only because I was older and understood more, but because it was my husband who was diagnosed. I remember being on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean when he told me about the lump.
We were celebrating his dad’s 80th birthday with a special trip. We were in our cabin when he told me about the lump he had found a week before. It wasn’t big, but the circumstances were concerning. We agreed he’d see his doctor immediately upon return, but it never crossed our minds that it could be breast cancer. That was a woman’s disease, wasn’t it?
We had to find out the hard way that woman or man, breast cancer could still find its way into your life. Within weeks of his diagnosis, he had gone through a mastectomy, had a port put into his chest and was getting ready to undergo chemotherapy. To say this was a frightening time in our lives wouldn’t quite cover it. How was I to know it would get worse before it got better?
After my husband’s first chemo treatment, he decided he was just fine and continued to travel for work. I suspected he wasn’t well, but who was I to tell him otherwise. Sadly, he fell ill while away on a business trip. He ended up in the emergency room and then ICU, where he spent several days. Thank goodness he was “home” in Chicago where we still had family!
To make what could be a really long story short, Mike, my husband, has been a breast cancer survivor for almost 2 years now. To say that his situation made me more aware would be an understatement. I was never a believer in breast exams – Heck, that’s what I go to the doctor for once a year, right? WRONG! Once a month, male or female… We need to be aware. It can happen to me, to you, to your best friend, to your mother or your grandfather. Be aware or beware!
Take care of yourself… Take care of your health. Be in tune with what’s going on with your body. I’ll admit, I’m not a giant fan of going to the doctor, but in order to remain “well”, it has to be a part of your life. Take it from someone who knows… You can eat right (almost all the time), exercise regularly and still need to seek medical attention. Do your part at home and make the phone call when there’s concern.
Carri, Mike and their team “Mike for the Men” will be Racing for a Cure with the Susan G. Komen Foundation on October 23rd in Hunt Valley. Click here to join their team or to support their efforts by making a donation!