Why should you care?

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Gloria Wilson
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
What if you were offered information that could save the life of someone you loved, but didn't take it because it didn't seem important at the time? What if your family had access to information that could save you, but a "That'll never happen" mentality caused them to not bother with it?

As children we were warned to look both ways before crossing the street because you could get hit by a car, not to run with pointy objects because you could stab yourself or someone else, and chances are you were informed that you should wear a helmet when riding a bicycle because you could get into an accident.

The situations mentioned aren't absolutes. You won't definitely take someone's eye out because you run with scissors, but it's about being proactive and taking steps to minimize risks. So here's something to add to your list of things to protect yourself and others - educate yourself about breast cancer.

Breast cancer awareness is a part of my daily life as my mom had breast cancer, and I am high risk. I've had two benign lumps removed, a family history, and "suspicious" mammograms, which means I must have mammograms every six months.

It's hard for me not to think about it, search for it on the Internet, donate to it, ask about it, walk for it, and even cry about it, but I know that isn't the case for everyone. The various things I learned may one day save me, but you or a loved one may need saving one day. Do your research now.

Early detection can mean the difference between life and death. I understand that "doing your homework" can't prevent everything, but neither can wearing a helmet and many people follow that rule. Why? Because it can make a difference. It's the same principle.

Even if you never get breast cancer, your life may somehow be touched by this potentially fatal disease. American Cancer Society officials estimated there were 232,620 U.S. cases of the disease in 2011, and 39,970 deaths. One percent of those statistics were men.

My mother was 46 years old when she found out she had breast cancer. I remember the tears of fear, confusion and disbelief. I remember the panic, the anger, the sadness.

In my mom's case, because of it's size, her doctors said the tumor must have been growing somewhere between five to 10 years. A possible 10 years and it wasn't found. Not until my mother experienced such a drastic change in her breast that medical professionals had to aspirate a cyst larger than a golf ball. My mother, who has annual breast exams, has had cysts in her breasts for many years. They are why the doctors didn't notice the cancer tumor; it was hiding behind her non-cancerous cysts.

Mom went through radiation treatments and was told that she had to be on medicine for five years, but because she didn't need chemotherapy or a mastectomy (she had a lumpectomy), she is considered one of the "lucky ones." Through the ordeal she tried her best to combat depression and think positive even while undergoing multiple other surgeries due to various complications.

So what does this mean? Why should you care?

I'm not asking anyone to care about my mother's plight, but I am asking you to be aware and educate yourself. There's support and information out there thanks to the people who do great things to increase awareness, raise money for research, and show support for the men and women fighting this disease.

I started learning more about breast cancer because of my mother's situation and my own various high risk factors, but know that just because you or a loved one may not have an increased risk does not mean you are immune.

October is breast cancer awareness month, and now is as good a time as any to start learning. Listed below are some resources. I hope you'll take a moment to check them out and take action instead of waiting until it's too late. It can happen.