By Shannon Ford

And I’m not talking offspring … I’m talking tatas, boobs, boobies, whatever you call them!  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Do you know the statistics?  Are you in a room with eight women at this moment?  Look around.  It is estimated that one of you will be diagnosed with breast cancer during your lifetime.  It is real.

I grew up in a house of three women (plus my dad).  I looked at my mom and sister my entire life and never imagined that both of them would be diagnosed with breast cancer.   My mom was 50; she had sharp, shooting pains in one of her breast.  The doctor decided to do a biopsy “just to be safe”…he was 99% sure that it would be benign.  Unfortunately, it was CANCER – and to this day I regret that my mom went to that appointment alone to find out the news.  Mom had a very successful lumpectomy followed by radiation.  She has been in remission for 13 years.  We are so thankful.

This year my sister called me one day in early spring.  I could hear something wrong in her voice.  She had been to her first mammogram (my mom had finally convinced her to go).  The tests were inconclusive and she was very uneasy – almost a gut instinct.  After more thorough testing and a biopsy, at age 41 she had to sit in a doctor’s office and hear those dreaded words – I’M SORRY, IT’S CANCER.  My sister also had an amazingly successful surgery – although painstakingly emotional.  She had a bilateral mastectomy, but she is now cancer free.

Sometimes I feel like a ticking time bomb.  I have had breast cysts since my freshman year in college, shortly after my mom was diagnosed.  At first I thought it was psychological.  It was real.  I have had surgery and needle aspirations.  My first mammogram happened before I was 20.  It was inconclusive as every subsequent mammogram has been.  My breast tissue is too dense.  Therefore, I have had various breast ultrasounds.  After my sister was diagnosed this year, my doctors kept pursuing my insurance company to allow a baseline MRI.  (I actually had to do the MRI twice because the first reading was not accurate due to high hormone levels.  Sometimes I am convinced that I am a science project.)

I’m not going to lie.  Mammograms suck.  There is nothing about the experience that is fun.  I can understand why people procrastinate.  But I’m begging you – just do it.  If that doesn’t convince you – look at your children, your husband, your family members – and lastly, look in the mirror at yourself.  Make YOU a priority.  Take some time and “put your girls first.”

I realize this can be an uncomfortable topic.  I am always available offline to answer any questions about my experiences.  Nothing is dumb or stupid.  It’s just one tiny way that I hope to make a difference!