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Why Breast Cancer Awareness Month Matters Deeply to Me

Why Breast Cancer Awareness Month Matters Deeply to Me

My Personal Story on Breast Cancer Awareness

Dr Cynthia Bailey I am a breast cancer survivor in the middle of the five-year, “wait and watch” nail-biter to see if I am cured. The cancer I had was aggressive. It was the high-grade, triple negative type that got looks of sympathy and sighs of relief from the other women in my breast cancer support group. This is the one I attended during The Cancer Year. It was 12 months of chemo and surgeries that became my full-time job. This was after getting the cancer diagnosis and the test result that revealed I had lived 55 years with the BRCA gene mutation that now brought me cancer.

Two Rare, Separate Tumors – One in Each Breast

Even with inherited cancer, I somehow could not be “normal.” I had two, separate tumors of this high-grade monster, one in each breast. It meant I was on uncharted territory, even for my doctors, as they tried to give me some comfort from statistics. I sought out greater experience with BRCA cancer expertise from the best cancer doctors at Stanford and the University of California at San Francisco. And even they couldn’t spin the bad news about the chemo and surgeries into good news about statistics for survival because having two tumors was too rare. However, they all agreed that an aggressive approach was required. Now, I’m in the five-year window where we find out if treatments I had during The Cancer Year worked. If I make it one more year, they will pronounce me “cured” of the high-grade monster. I'm almost there, and yet, October brings tears close to the surface... even typing this sentence.

Cancer changed so much in my life. Most importantly, it changed how I look at life.

Cancer cost me the Pollyanna optimism that lived behind every thought and decision I made during my 55 years. I had this up until August 2014 when I read the mammogram with the technician and saw the tumor in my left breast. Optimism combined with hard work and good choices let me believe that, somehow, life would go the way I wanted it to and that I would not be that 1 in 8 women who gets breast cancer. In the pink mammogram suite, there were speckles of calcium flecking a grayish-white denser haze in the otherwise darker gray shadow of my left breast. I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she finally sees the man behind the curtain. The illusion of magic control over life dropped away. That same optimism is what had my day planned as a mad rush before seeing patients at 1:00 p.m. that afternoon. The mammogram appointment was efficiently scheduled before a DMV appointment for the mandatory update of my driver’s license photo. I was dressed up for the photo because this was going to be the first ever GOOD driver’s license photo in all my 40 years of having one. That photo has red eyes because I cried all the way to the DMV and at the DMV. They gave me a bottle of water and were really kind to me. They probably don't even know that I'm still alive.

Remembering the events of that day – and The Cancer Year – bring tears to dampen my eyes, even typing this post.

So much has changed. Deconstructed/reconstructed breasts sit on my chest, chemo side-effects turned nimble surgeon’s fingers into stiff and clumsy hands, a second menopause due to removal of my high risk ovaries and tubes to previve ovarian cancer has left me with double the fun and double the post-menopausal consequences of being a hormone-free woman (I was able to get extra support during this time by joining the hereditary breast and ovarian cancer community with the BRCA gene test results). The Cancer Year has replaced relentless energy with necessary afternoon naps and Pollyanna optimism and productivity with a new way of looking at how I spend my time. There have been new beginnings brought to me by cancer. My life is different. I rest (because I have to), I pace myself better (because I have to), I don’t work non-stop with my hands doing surgery anymore (because I’m one of the 40+% of breast cancer chemo patients who got nerve damage from chemo), and I really understand now that life is temporary – and precious – even for me. My daughter says, “and you also seem to be more at peace than before.” She called to chat as I was writing this post.

Yes, I am more at peace… even in October during Breast Cancer Awareness month when the wounds from The Cancer Year are still fresh.

Now, when September ends and I see 10/1 on my computer screen, I pause. I feel tears tinge my eyes, and I think about what I've got planned for the ongoing fight we all share against breast cancer. We are all touched by it. 1 in 8 of the women reading this will get it. This year, over 300,000 women and 2500 men will be diagnosed in the U.S. Hopefully, they will then go o to join the over 3.5 million of us who are breast cancer survivors. However, 41,000 of us will not survive 2017. These numbers are just in the U.S. I am sure every person reading this post personally knows someone touched by breast cancer.

Join us in the fight during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is an important month for breast cancer. Nationally, the major health advocacy focus is on the fight against this all too common disease. This month, my team and I support the fight, and I invite you to join us in one of the three, simple ways we have created: donate to fight breast cancer1. Make a small donation to our team that walks in the Making Strides event for The American Cancer Society’s programs directed at breast cancer. Click here if you would like to donate to our team. 2. Buy our 100% chemical-free Home Cleaner Bundle, and I’ll donate 50% of the profits to the team’s fundraising walk for The American Cancer Society and their breast cancer work. Click here to buy the Chemical Free Home Cleaning Kit and donate to the fight against breast cancer. (It's also a great gift… hint hint!) 3. Support the hereditary breast and ovarian cancer advocacy organization by Breast cancer awarenessbuying my Chemo Skin Care Kit for your friends and family members who are on chemo right now. I donate 50% of the profits year round to FORCE, the nonprofit organization dedicated to advocacy and research for the hereditary breast and ovarian cancer community. The BRCA mutation that I have is one of the genes mutations that put a person at even higher risk than the 1 in 8 every woman faces with breast cancer. Supporting FORCE supports every person at risk for any cancer because those of us with a cancer gene mutation are the ideal group for cancer researchers to study. My lifetime cancer risk was 87% for breast and 40% for ovarian. What’s learned from us helps everyone. Funding of FORCE is important for more than the hereditary cancer community.Breast Cancer Awareness - products for chemo patients that support cancer research Send my Chemotherapy Skin Care Kit to friends and loved ones undergoing chemo, and you give them comfort. And the check I send FORCE every month gets bigger and bigger. We are in this fight together. Click here to learn about the Chemo Skin Care Kit and donate to FORCE.

Know that I developed this for my own skin while on chemo…

 Dermatologist as lab rat grows the perfect skincare routine to prevent chemo-related skin problems, helps other chemo patients and funds cancer advocacy and research... It’s all good that came from bad. Thank you for reading to my story. Hopefully, you will now have a greater appreciation for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and help others who are fighting to survive. For more information and to provide your feedback, please contact us here.