My topic today really has nothing at all to do with advertising. So anyone looking to find the secret to unlocking the door to the creative soul and creating a marketing campaign that will have the masses lining up at 4 in the morning to purchase your product or service… it will not be found in today’s blog. (And in all honesty, if I knew the answers above I would not be blogging in the first place—unless it was from my ‘winter home’ in Bermuda.)
This morning I had the rare opportunity to spend time with 3 professional women that not only share a common interest of mine, but to whom I truly felt connected with by the thread that tied us all together on this rainy October morning: breast cancer.
Dr. Florence Gin, Susan Ashe, Pam Pyrc and myself were all part of a panel that were asked to speak on a half hour radio program about breast cancer for the Spokane Forum on Clear Channel radio stations. There was an instant rapport with this group of vivacious and intelligent women. 4 different personalities and perspectives but one very solid common goal: to promote awareness about breast cancer and save the lives of wives, girlfriends, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and friends.
Dr. Gin struck me as the kind of radiologist I would want on my side if I was faced with a breast cancer diagnosis. With her kind face, gentle manner and wealth of knowledge I could sense her empathy and ability to put her patients at ease in an anxiety-filled situation.
Susan Ashe simply carried herself in a manner that bespoke the fact she is a cancer survivor. Immaculately dressed and extremely well-spoken, there was something invisible yet completely perceptible that indicated this woman had walked through fire and came out forged like steel on the other side of it. There was something so incredibly awe-inspiring yet approachable about her. More than once during the interview I felt tears behind my eyes listening to her story of courage and survival.
Pam Pyrc, Marketing Director for Inland Imaging, is always the picture of charm and optimism. Armed with information for the ‘Every Woman Can’ campaign it was clear to see how passionate she is about her work of educating the Spokane community about the availability of low and no-cost mammograms and the importance of early detection. Pam always reminds me of the best friend who would literally DRIVE you to your mammogram appointment to make sure you got it done, and then take you out for a lovely glass of Merlot afterwards.
Angela Monson, host of the Spokane Forum, had a southern accent that reminded me of Paula Deen. Her upbeat approach and casual style put the entire panel at ease and made the interview seem more like we were a group of friends meeting for coffee than sitting in a radio studio talking about such an intense topic.
My own experience with breast cancer was almost a year ago. After my 40th birthday I had meant to make time for a screening but always seemed to be preoccupied with other things that seemed more important. Never one to miss a doctor’s appointment, violin or chorus lesson for my daughters, somehow I managed to push that looming mammogram to the bottom of my own ‘To Do’ list. Of course, being the multi-tasker I am, I was able to come up with multiple reasons besides just lack of time available, to put it off. While I did have insurance, I had a high deductible and simply could not rationalize the expense when being a single mother of three has always meant we continuously stretch things this way and that to make ends meet. There was also the nagging thought of ‘what if something is wrong’ creeping through my mind. I won’t lie and say that there are not times I prefer to be blissfully unaware. I’m like an ostrich in that respect. I can stick my head in the sand and assume the rest of the world cannot see my butt in the air. And the last and final reason… from what I had heard about mammograms it sounded like something equivalent to being put in a medieval stock. Except it wasn’t your head and hands being confined in an uncomfortable manner… it was ‘the girls’.
Fortunately circumstances took place that eliminated one of those concerns. A friend on Facebook had posted an upcoming ‘free mammogram’ event. It was a one-day-only opportunity for women over 40 to schedule and receive their annual screening free-of-charge. It was enough for me to put my other excuses aside and schedule an appointment.
I approached the day of the mammogram with dread. I was quite certain from what I had been told that I would wind up feeling like my breasts had gone 8 rounds with Mike Tyson. To my complete and utter delight the procedure itself registered as slightly uncomfortable but nothing even resembling painful. The technician who worked with me was helpful, knowledgeable and was so pleasant I was immediately put at ease. I was stunned by how quickly I was in and out and smugly patted myself on the back for taking care of business. I made a mental note to schedule another in a year and put the entire event out of my mind.
Two days later Inland Imaging contacted me and said they needed to do some additional procedures. Mildly concerned initially I was put at ease when told that this was a fairly common occurrence with a baseline mammogram. I was scheduled for a secondary mammogram and back-up ultrasound the following week.
The following week my world turned upside down. Immediately following the ultrasound I was notified that there was an area of concern in my right breast and that a biopsy was necessary. As hard as I tried to be unemotional and rationalize that this was not a breast cancer diagnosis, I was in such a state of shock that holding back the tears would have been the equivalent of holding water back in a dam once the floodgates had been opened. I cried non-stop for an hour. I was scheduled for a biopsy the following week.
That was the longest week of my life. For the first time, Supermom had to ask for help. Friends and family came out of the woodwork to support me emotionally and to try and help me remain positive. My phone was full of encouraging messages and my mother came by every day. As much as I tried to remain positive, dark clouds of uncertainty built each time I thought of my daughters. What would happen to them if something happened to me? How would they react if I became too ill to care for them at times? If the worst scenario occurred, how would they adjust to everything in their world changing? I began to realize how selfish it had been for me to not have taken better care of myself all these years. I began to look at everything in a new light. Everything previously fuzzy became crystal clear. I reevaluated my life and my relationships. It was completely evident to me where my importance in this life was. It was also evident to me who truly loved me and who loved me only when I was convenient to love. I took note of these things and did some serious emotional housecleaning when all was said and done.
The day of the biopsy I was terrified. Not only was I scared that I was about to get life-changing news I was not prepared to hear, but my fear of needles is so legendary it is spoken of only in hushed tones. Both my mother and father came with me to the appointment. As far as the procedure I had nothing to fear. My technician was a woman named Rosemary but who I refer to simply as ‘Angel’ and the surgeon treated me as though I were family. They explained everything so there were no surprises and the biopsy was far less painful that what I had expected. I breathed a sigh of relief and prepared myself for the agony that comes with waiting for news that will literally rock your world.
The news when it came was an enormous relief. While the biopsy was negative for cancer, the cells had the capability to potentially become cancerous. The course of treatment was to closely monitor the areas of concern every six months. The resounding message was how this was a perfect example of the importance of early detection and routine mammograms. It had nothing to do with luck. It had everything to do with being a proactive participant in my own health.
Like the group of women I was with this morning, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. My friends will tell you that I am the human equivalent of an Outlook alert when it comes to this all-important appointment. I strongly believe this is not a conversation to be whispered about among just women. This is a topic that men who love women should be talking about. Our daughters should be educated about this at a young age to dispel any notion that there is anything silly or shameful about a woman’s body. Make it funny… make it serious… however you choose, just make it known and make it a priority. It is no coincidence that our breasts are so close to our hearts.