Every October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month reminds us that 240,000 of the women in our lives — our mothers, sisters, colleagues and friends — get the call that no one wants to receive each year. Men are also at risk: 2,100 get that call too.
You’ve likely had a brush with cancer, whether in your family or social circle: It’s estimated that 1,958,310 people in the United States will be diagnosed in 2023. I can still remember the day two years ago when my friend from the U.K. called me in the middle of the day during the workweek. I thought that was odd until she told me she had stage 4 breast cancer and was starting chemotherapy. She said she was scared she wasn’t “going to make it.” My heart and stomach plummeted for her.
My friend’s diagnosis gave me the kick I needed to book a mammogram, something many of us put off or never get done.
After my appointment, I carried on with life. But two weeks later, I got a call from the office asking me to come back for further imaging. Being a glass half full, optimistic person, I didn’t think anything of it.
However, after the extra imaging, they immediately pulled me into an office where I was told:
“I want to tell you it’s nothing, but I see this every day, and it’s definitely something.”
It’s a bit surreal when a doctor tells you something like this. I was booked for a biopsy the next day … a procedure I don’t wish on anyone. Within another two days, I got the dreaded call. I don’t really remember my reaction, but I remember my husband’s face, clear as day, when I told him.
Luckily, the mammogram caught the cancer early. Within six weeks of diagnosis, I’d had a double mastectomy and was able to avoid chemo.
Fast forward to today, I’m cancer-free and feel incredibly grateful for the amazing medical attention, love and support I received from family and friends. (And Maggie, my dog. I did maximize the opportunity to ask my husband for a dog, and I got one! Maggie didn't leave my side during recovery and will be my forever therapy dog.)
You never know how a diagnosis could change your life or how a treatment plan may work, but mine went quickly. And thankfully, my friend is in full remission.
I tell all my friends and colleagues to get the mammograms, annual checkups, colonoscopies, prostate checks and everything preventative that’s available because I know it’s worth it.
For more information about breast cancer, to get involved, to get support or to share your story, head to The National Breast Cancer Foundation.