I was 21-years-old the first time I went to the gynecologist.  

I realize you may be thinking that 21 is a little late to go, but my strategy was this - the longer I can avoid having a stranger poking around at the inevitable, the better.

The sole purpose that drove me to that awkward encounter in the first place was that I was in a long-term relationship with my boyfriend at the time, and I just wanted a prescription for birth control.  

So I sucked it up. 

I prepared myself for the uncomfortable questioning.  I prepared myself for the judgment.  I even prepared myself for the papered tables and the cold tools. What I didn't prepare myself for was the discovery of a lump in my left breast the size of two golf balls.  And I definitely didn't prepare for the surgical lumpectomy that urgently happened the following the week.

I can still picture the doctor's face during my appointment when he sharply asked me "can't you feel that?" It was as if I was getting scolded for not finding it sooner myself. But my breast tissue is dense, making it almost impossible to feel any sense of abnormality - even something the size of two golf balls. You see, that's the problem with detection - dense breast tissue makes it more difficult to screen, even with a mammogram - something 21-year olds just don't get. 

But I was lucky.  My results were benign.  My mom, years later, was not so lucky.  And neither was my Aunt.  Nor was my great Aunt.  

Today there isn't a family who hasn't been affected by this disease.  

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one out of every eight women is likely to develop breast cancer at some point in her life - that means your sister, mother, grandma, aunt, coworker, neighbor, friend, or even you will be or have been affected.

  • Breast cancer is currently the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.

  • And it's the second leading cause of cancer death among women.

Soon, we all will have a story to tell.

But there's hope. Innovations are forthcoming such as Cyrcadia Health's iTbra- a sports bra that can detect early stage breast cancer - where I'm proud to be a Board Member.  And through awareness that's building from the constant sharing of stories like mine to help change the narrative of detection.  

Every year, the pink color-wash of October can make it a much harder month for people whose breast cancer is a type that doesn't lend itself to standard treatment or survival. During this month and every month, I salute the courage of the fighters, the dedication of the caregivers and the innovators, the honor of those whose lives we lost, and the heroes of the stories that have yet to be told.

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Published on: Oct 29, 2018