Breast cancer is personal for many of us and I wanted to take a minute to share with you why it’s personal for me.
Growing up, cancer came in and out of my life in waves.
My first encounter was in kindergarten. I remember a girl I went to school with who I used to pass in the hallway everyday. She was bald, which I didn’t really understand. My mom explained that she had a type of cancer called leukemia and was very sick. But I didn’t think much of it. She was always smiling and playing at recess like everyone else so it didn’t seem that bad. At the end of the year, she stopped coming to school which was hard not to notice. The somber faces of teachers and parents one day told the tale…she had passed away. The school assembled to celebrate her and a tree was planted. Today, a big beautiful oak tree stands in her honor.
At the age of 12, I had a scare when I found a solid lump under my armpit. Early trips to the doctor hypothesized a number of possibilities. “Please don’t let it be breast cancer,” my mom would pray and pray. I had no real idea what cancer was except for my memory of Melinda and was so incredibly terrified. The doctor said this was normal for a girl my age who was “developing” and eventually the lump went away which was lucky for me. But this memory and that moment in the doctor’s office while waiting for my diagnosis, I’ll never forget it.
As an adult, I would hear my mother speaking with girlfriends about those they knew who had been diagnosed with cancer or breast cancer. Then, all of a sudden, it became a very real topic of conversation amongst my college friends. While riding a bike through campus, my best friend’s brother was hit by a car. Hospital tests had unexpectedly revealed that his body was riddled with tumors. The cancer, they learned, was a rare form called Ewing Sarcoma. He was so young and healthy – I could NOT believe it! I didn’t know what to do or say. I felt so helpless. At that time, Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG movement had just begun and I bought as many yellow wristbands as I could afford so our friends could stand in solidarity with Christine and her brother. I remember witnessing the strongest girl I know crumble, then stand up…vowing to be her brother’s rock and the rock of her family. She left no stone unturned and began researching experimental treatments and experts who could help. I followed her lead but still felt so helpless as no words could ease her pain. I remember her telling me about how weak and pale her brother was and that she hardly recognized him. I’ll never forget the phone call she made when Todd finally passed on. She was exhausted. ”At least he can be himself again,” she said. He was 23.
Three years later I was married, working insane hours and just trying to juggle way too many things. Then one day Facebook punched me in the stomach. My childhood best friend, who I had lost touch with in recent years, had announced her diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 28. She found her lump, just a year after having her first child. My soccer and beach buddy. My lovely and funny friend that I adored more than anything. I couldn’t believe the news. Her photos told the tale of what I had missed in two years time. “I saved myself,” she proclaims. Today, Jenny is a Survivor. I’m constantly inspired by her, whether she knows it or not.
Two summers ago I was reminded of the effects of cancer when my 11 year old stepdaughter was trying to cope with the news that her favorite teacher, Miss Fawcett, was losing her fight with breast cancer. At the time, we had just moved to L.A. and my husband, who works for the X Games, brought home Boarding for Breast Cancer totebags and wristbands. I couldn’t believe how uplifted Lily was when she received the goodies. Right away she got to work, making a care package for Miss Fawcett, and sending B4BC gear to her friends. Months later, Lily’s teacher passed away at the age of 30. It makes me so sad knowing how much everyone loved her and how deeply she impacted my daughter’s life. After the passing of Miss Fawcett, I jumped at the opportunity to join the B4BC family.
B4BC was established 15 years ago by women who knew no better way than to honor their friend. Like Lily or myself or those of you reading this who have been inspired to action, no gesture is too small or too great in support of those that are battling or coping with the effects of cancer in their lives. Just a tiny moment of reflection reminds me of that.
Life is so precious. Thank you for inspiring me to share my story. Now, I’m going to go give someone I love a giant squeeze hug
(If you’d like to share your story, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org)