We made it. Another "Pinktober" has come and gone. With each October that has passed since my own breast cancer diagnosis, I feel I have learned something new. I would like to share with you a few of the things that I have thought about and learned this month. Maybe you will agree with me, maybe you won't and that's okay. It's another case of "I am so happy that works for you! It doesn't work for me, but I am glad that it works for you."
This month, the American Cancer Society announced changes to their list of recommendations for women who are at an average risk of breast cancer. Before I was diagnosed, I was part of this list. No family history. No personal history. In my early 30's. You get the picture.
From the ACS website:
Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.
Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.
Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms associated with breast cancer screening. They should also be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a health care provider right away.
A few days ago, on my Facebook page, I posted a link for an article that was referring to the changes that have been made. In another case of "thinking before leaping", I posted my thoughts about the changes, without even looking at the ACS website to see what they had written there. Now that I have read what is written there, I can see that I mostly agree with what it says there. I think it is important to note that they used the wording "should have the choice." That is what I have been advocating all along. Women should have the choice to have a mammogram, or to do whatever else they and their loved ones feel is best for them.
Now, having said all of that, if I would have waited until I was 40 to choose to have a mammogram, I would not be here. Plain and simple. It is what it is.
This is where I always have to insert my personal opinion that being aware of your body and noticing changes is very important. Also, (and this is where I emphasize that this is what worked for me) I listened to what God was telling me. I found my lump by divine intervention. I was not doing self breast exams. I had an itch near my armpit one hot, summer day and I felt the lump. I went to my doctor and, long story short, I had a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy and discovered that I was a breast cancer patient.
And here's an interesting fact for you...my mammogram did not pick up my lump. It was too high on my breast. So, are mammograms helpful for early detection then? I guess you can decide that for yourself. My opinion is yes. If you feel that something is out of the ordinary and you want a mammogram, don't rest until you get one.
Because I was diagnosed at 33, my sisters and daughters are able to go in for regular mammograms starting at the age of 23. Am I recommending that they do this? Absolutely. Even though breast tissue is more dense at younger ages, I would much rather have them go in and be called back for "suspicious areas" that turn out to be nothing than to have them not go in until they are 30 or 40 and have it be too late. My sisters have chosen to have mammograms and when my girls reach the age of 23, I will let them decide for themselves what they want to do. It comes back to the phrase "should have a choice."
Breast cancer does not just affect women. I do not personally know any men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but I know they are out there and my heart goes out to them. We all are aware that breast cancer affects thousands of women every year. That is one thing that the pink campaign has accomplished, awareness for women, and that is good. However, this year, it is expected that around 2,000 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. They are out there and they need our love and support every bit as much as the women do.
No matter what stage or what cancer you have, everyone faces a battle, and as my shirt says, "Brave has many faces." Some battles are short, some battles are long. It doesn't matter what your cancer looks like- cancer is hard. It changes your life, for good and for bad, at least in my case it did. I wish that we could steer away from pitting one stage against another or one cancer against another. Cancer is cancer and everyone's journey is hard for them. We need to focus on loving people through the journey instead of saying, "Well, she/he was only a stage one, she/he had it easy. No. No cancer is easy, physically, mentally, or emotionally. It is hard for everyone. What we need to do is ask, "What can I do to help you?" and then be ready to follow through with action.
I have seen first hand how cancer has touched lives. I have seen it in my own life, and in the lives of the people that have been brought into my life because of cancer. That is one of the good things that cancer has brought into my life- more friends to love.
This picture was taken yesterday. It is a photo of me and my friend, Tia (AKA H2O). We met a little over two years ago during one of the most wonderful weeks of my life. I have watched Tia struggle with Stage 4 Breast cancer from afar, always praying for her and wracking my brain to know what I could possibly do to help her. After our conversation yesterday, I came to a conclusion.
The best thing, in my opinion, that we can do for people who are living with cancer is to listen to them. Find out what they are struggling with the most. Is it medical bills? Putting food on the table for their families? Needing a ride to doctor's appointments or someone to keep them company during treatments? Do they need their house cleaned, or a chauffeur for their kids? What is it that would truly benefit that particular cancer patient the most?
Everyone is different. My experience with cancer is very different from Tia's experience and her experience is very different from someone else's. However, the one commonality with cancer is that cancer patients need love and support. They need to feel like they are not just a number or a statistic on a page.
Listen, I am not a pink hater. Pink was very important on my journey and I will always love what the color represents for me. I also know that there are companies out there who do truly care about helping breast cancer patients and who do donate a good portion of the money they earn from pink sales to help fund research and support services.
Do we need to raise more money for cancer research? Absolutely. Let's find out what is triggering the disease and stop it before it starts. Yes, please. Let's do that. Let's also figure out what we can do to stop it from reoccurring. Yes, let's do that to.
While we are doing those things, let's also remember that every cancer patient has a face, a name, a family, and a hope for their future. Let's take a few moments to ask them, "What can I do for you today?" and then let's get to work by helping them beyond the pink.
Click here if you would like to purchase a shirt like mine. 100% of the proceeds goes to Metavivor.org who use the money for research and support for women and men with Metastatic Breast Cancer.
I love my husband.
I especially love my husband when he is inspired to say wise and profound statements that blow you out of the water.
That happened today in our Sacrament meeting and you can bet that I scrambled to find a pen and paper in my church bag so that I could document it before the beautiful words left my mind.
As a human being, I often fall into the trap of having negative judgmental thoughts run through my brain. I don't like it, but I am not ashamed to admit it. I am willing to bet that nearly everyone on this earth has struggled with negative judgmental thoughts at one point or another in their lives. I would like to point out that I included the word "negative" because there are obviously times in our lives where having judgmental thoughts can be positive. We have to exercise judgement when it comes to dating, choosing a job, deciding who to marry, what religion to practice or not practice, etc. The list could go on. Exercising judgment in certain situations can and is necessary to keep us on task and to help us draw closer to the Savior.
The problem comes when our brain is clouded with negative judgmental thoughts, especially when those thoughts are directed towards our family, friends, and neighbors. Those types of thoughts do not help us grow closer to the Savior, in fact, they push us further away and can even distance us from those we love the most.
As human beings- as children of God- as brothers and sisters, we have got to love more and judge less. We have to be able to look at someone and say, "Wow. I am really happy that what they are doing is working for them. It doesn't work for me, but I am glad that it is working for them." (That was inspired by a quote I recently heard form Amy Poehler.)
In short, I think my husband said it perfectly today. "Let Christ deal with the judgment piece. We just get to love. Our job is to love."
Today I have made a resolve to love more and judge less. I will not be perfect at it, however, I don't have to be. I just need to make sure that I am doing the very best that I can and my Savior's Atonement will make up for my shortcomings.
I feel like this has been my view about 50% of the time lately. I have been pouring my whole soul into finally completing my book and that means that every spare minute has been gobbled up in front of my computer.
I have also been focused on making sure my family's needs are coming first, my preschoolers are receiving my full attention while they are with me, and that my house stays marginally clean. This leaves me exactly no time to write blog posts here or on my family's blog. That's okay, but I do miss it. Especially writing on my family blog. That is our scrapbook- our journal. I feel bad when I can't keep it up to date.
All will be well in the end, however. This book writing process WILL eventually end, just like my cancer treatments did. I will be able to catch up on documenting all of our family's adventures and in writing (and recording) more blog posts here.
In the meantime...if you don't already follow me on Instagram, you should! I have been participating in the #100happydays challenge and I post something there every day. I am on Twitter and Facebook as well. So if you find that you are crying yourself to sleep because yet another day went by and there was no new blog post from me, please dry your eyes. ;) There are plenty of other places to read my ramblings.
As always, thank you so much for your continued love and support!
It's that time again. Ever since my cancer diagnosis I have a love/hate relationship with the month of October. I wrote about it last year on my personal blog. I feel like I was able to say everything I needed to say in that post so I am sharing it again.
The Power of Pink
or you can listen to it on SoundCloud here.
I am loving my second chance at life.
What's Happening on
Copyright Desirae Ogden, www.desiraeogden.com, 2015.
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