October signifies different things for different people. The leaves are changing, the nights are getting colder, and if you're a baseball fan like me, you're hoping your team makes it to the postseason. One thing that might not always cross your mind is that October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month. There was a time for me when I would look at the pink ribbons and not pay that much attention to the purpose of it all. I understood what they were for, but I guess I couldn’t feel a connection to it.
My grandmother passed away from breast cancer in 2005, and I decided then to make myself more aware of the disease, along with what I could be doing about it. That year I started doing breast self-exams on a monthly basis. I didn't know it at the time, but that one decision would ultimately save my life.
Fast forward to January 2012, I'm sitting in the doctor's office to receive the results from my biopsy because a few days earlier I had found a lump. It's impossible to explain all the things that go through your head when you're facing the possibility of having something like breast cancer. One thought that kept playing over and over in my mind was the fact that I had just turned 29, I was young, and I kept telling myself it was nothing. Then came the words "it’s cancer," just like that I snapped back to reality this was happening I have... well it took me a long time to say the word. John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." All I can say is, yes it does.
Two weeks after my diagnosis I was having my port-a-cath put in, two days after that, I was getting my first chemo. The year that followed was a whirlwind, and I saw more doctors than I could have ever thought possible in a lifetime. Although my story is not uncommon, it is also something that doesn't always get talked about. For that reason I have a simple wish, which is to educate as many people as I can about breast cancer.
Breast cancer doesn't discriminate; it doesn't care if you're a male or female, how old or young you are, whether you eat healthy, or work out every day. This year alone there will be over 250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women, and over 2,000 new cases in men. If there is one thing that I believe in, it's that early detection saves lives.
So perhaps today when you see the pink ribbons around town you'll remember someone who has lost their battle, or maybe you, or someone you know is in the fight. For those of you fighting, you are stronger than you may think, so don't ever give up. Finally, I hope my story has been one of encouragement and that today you will decide to be proactive with your health, and perform a breast self-exam.
Jennifer Caudell Brown — Franklin, N.C.