Below is the story Cindy Jaret tells teenage girls she speaks to about breast health awareness through the 'Check it Out' program, sponsored by Haddassah and Northside Hospital.
It was 1994; I was 42, a wife and mother of two young children. I was on the phone with my cousin; my husband was across the country for work and my children were asleep. I said, “You know, I’ve been having this pain in my left breast; I know most people don’t experience pain with cancer, but I should probably go to the doctor and have it checked out.’ She responded emphatically, “You should; call tomorrow.’” And I did.
Even though my husband was flying back the next day, I didn’t wait; I got into the doctor’s office right away and the whirlwind began. The doctor found a sizeable lump- Stage 2 breast cancer - in my right breast, not the one that had pain. What followed was awful. I was more scared than I had ever been in my life.
I had listened to my body. I knew something wasn’t right and I didn’t waste time, but rather, took charge and followed up on each step of diagnosis and treatment.
I was overwhelmed and anxious, but I had responsibilities: a family, a job, friends, and taking care of myself. Since my early 20s, I believed I had a purpose: to know my body. We called it Women’s Lib, now we call it Empowerment. Some call it Honor, some say it’s Self-Respect. Whatever you call it, it is YOURS. It’s your body to know, understand, protect and love.
Life around me went on. My children had school and homework; my daughter needed a ride to dance classes, and my son wanted me to pitch a kickball to him in the backyard (I did draw the line at running the bases because I was so tired from the chemo!). But I know they kept me focused on what was important. I consciously set my sights on how I could keep my family’s life going in ways that were important to me, like planning for holidays and big family events. Fortunately, I had a part-time job and was able to have my chemotherapy treatment in off hours and my employer was very supportive, giving me time off when needed.
And I attended a support group that was very helpful.
Fast forward to 2015. Another cancer diagnosis- Stage 1 breast cancer in the left breast - and once again, decisions to make. Fortunately, with new diagnostic technology, the cancer was found very early, it was very small, and after surgery, no further treatment was needed. That was just a year ago.
So I challenge you – encourage you – to take charge of your health, your body. Know that we all look different and that our bodies will change as we get older. And, it’s all good – it’s yours – take care of it and embrace it!
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