October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I love October. I love the crisp fall days in the Pacific Northwest when the weather takes a left hand turn right out of summer and smack into autumn. I love all the pink products that hit the market place that benefit organizations like the Susan G. Komen Foundation. And I love that it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (www.nbcam.org).

Honestly, the importance of breast cancer awareness was lost on me until I turned 40 and had to get a baseline mammogram before my breast augmentation procedure. I have no history of breast cancer anywhere in my family and I was really bad about doing my monthly exams. I know about 5 breast cancer survivors, but they are acquaintances. No one close to me has had breast cancer. The disease hadn’t really touched me in a significant way, so I really didn’t think about it.When I had my mammogram, a doctor came in right afterwards to tell me that there were some “suspicious” areas in my films. My right breast had calcifications that needed further study and I needed to schedule a needle biopsy. Wow. Talk about having the wind knocked out of you. Here I was: 40-years old, in the middle of a divorce with two children, getting ready to embark on a new life (with new boobs no less) and there might be something seriously wrong.I went in for my biopsy a week later and waited for three sleepless nights for the wonderful women at the breast center to call me and tell me that everything was okay. After getting on my knees and thanking God, I knew that I was forever changed. That was by far, the scariest 2 weeks of my life, and I had a perfect outcome.

So, what’s different for me now?

I do my monthly breast exams. After breast augmentation surgery, this is especially important because it’s that much more challenging to negotiate around the implant. If you’re bad about remembering, either schedule a time monthly in your planner or your iPhone/Blackberry, or get a shower card from your OB/GYN. If your doctor’s office doesn’t carry them, you can the Susan G. Komen Foundation at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) to request a free one. Check out their site: www.komen.org.I stay on the mammogram schedule that has been outlined by my physician. After my baseline mammogram, I had a mammogram every six months until the doctors told me last year that I only have to go in every two years for a while. Luckily, I have fantastic insurance. If you are currently uninsured or if you insurance doesn’t cover mammograms, Google “free mammograms” in your city and often times, you’ll find local events in which a mobile mammogram unit is onsite giving free or discounted mammograms. Take advantage and get yourself scheduled now! I also go to The Breast Cancer Site (www.thebreastcancersite.com) and click to donate a free mammogram.

I donate to the Breast Cancer 3-Day. Truth be known, I’m not a good joiner. Never have been. But I’m really good at supporting my friends that do the 3-Day with my dollars and have done so yearly (www.the3day.org). This year, I just happened to be at the Seattle Center with my family when the 3-Day walkers were getting to cross the finish line. In comes a huge sea of pink, and as they entered the stadium, all of the walkers’ family, friends and supporters cheered loudly. I literally stood in awe with my daughter in her stroller and cried. I thought to myself, “What wonderfully brave women to walk for their friends or themselves. Would I walk for my friends? Yes! Would my friends walk for me? Yes! Then why aren’t I doing this?”

I buy lots of pink stuff. Like I said, true retailer that I am, I “vote” with my dollar. When October comes around, I buy the items that donate back to breast cancer causes. Pink M & Ms? Check. Pink water bottle? Check. Pink Ribbon Sharpies? You bet. There are a variety of products that give back in the month of October. My 14-year old son tried to convince me that he needed an “I Love Boobies” t-shirt (www.keep-a-breast.org), but I had to draw the line there. He’s not supporting the cause, he’s being a teenager. However, I will say that Keep a Breast does a great job at educating and increasing breast cancer awareness among young people.

These are just small things that I do, and quite honestly, I should be doing much, much more. What kinds of things do you do? I’d love to know other ways that my time or my dollars can make an impact to eradicate a disease that has affected so many of our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends.