October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons were everywhere. You couldn't go to a store without being reminded to "think pink". Grocery stores lined their aisles with pink tags, indicating a portion of the sale would go toward breast cancer research. Retail stores stocked the latest pink clothing lines and accessories. Professional athletes and coaches supported the cause by wearing pink shoes, pink socks, pink ribbons.
As far as awareness goes, I think it's almost impossible to not be aware of breast cancer. Or is it? What does that pink ribbon signify? What does it make you think? And more importantly, how does it make you respond? Simply buying a pink item is not enough. While I do encourage us all to support such efforts monetarily, however big or small, we cannot stop there. There needs to be action. We need to take ownership of our health, our bodies and our lives.
I think we can all agree that early detection greatly increases one's chance of survival. Whether it's a mammogram, monthly self-checks, a pap smear or a colonoscopy, screening tests such as these can help detect disease in it's early stages so that you can proceed to treatment and ultimately to complete health. I had my first mammogram in February after an abnormal MRI showed lesions on my spine. The radiologists and oncologists considered breast cancer. I didn't know that over 25% of patients with Stage 4 breast cancer experience metastases to the bone, most often the spine. My mammogram ended up showing a mass in my breast and spots on my lymph nodes. I was immediately sent for follow up ultrasounds and two biopsies. Thankfully, both biopsies came back benign. Ladies, can we talk about mammograms for a second? Let me tell you - I walked out that test and couldn't believe that was it. It was quick (under 5 minutes), painless (a little pushing and squeezing, but definitely not painful - and I was breastfeeding a 5 month old so if there was ever a time to be ultra-sensitive it would have been then). Don't be afraid. If you are over 40 years old, make an appointment and get it done. If you are younger than 40 but have a history of breast cancer in your family, talk to your doctor, be sure you're doing monthly self-examinations and follow up with any concerns.
Okay, that being said, I want to talk about something that is near to my heart. While early detection may increase our chances of survival, how much more will prevention increase our ability to live. Ultimately, the goal is to not have anything to detect. Although we can't control everything, there is a whole lot we can do keep our bodies healthy, vibrant and free of dis-ease. And yes, I say this as one who lives with chronic disease and the pain that comes with it. It's not a contradiction. I am a wellness warrior on a quest for optimum health. I cannot and will not accept the idea that my condition has no cure. I focus instead on becoming whole, bringing my body, mind and spirit to a place of healing.
So my friends, I'm going to assume that you will take action and schedule your annual exams whatever they may be, but that's the easy part. It's what you do the other 364 days of the year that I'm talking about. Every morning that we wake up we have new choices to make: what will we eat? what will we drink? what kind of people will we surround ourselves with? what kind of toxic crap will we allow? are we educating ourselves? how do we treat our bodies? our minds? our spirits?
Hey, hey, no eye rolling. If you think eating well and living healthy cost too much or takes too much time, you obviously haven't spent much time in the hospital. Let me tell you, being sick is way more expensive than staying well. Having a disease is way more time consuming than preparing a healthy meal, going to the gym or taking time to pray or meditate.
We'll take time this month (during NaBloPoMo) to talk about health and prevention. There are so many bits of goodness we can get in to. Oh, and I'd love to hear from you, too. Leave a comment and tell me what you do to live your best life. Or better yet, let me know what you'd like to change or improve. There is no shame here - we all need encouragement and support. Together, let's choose to take back our health. You deserve it! Our families deserve it!
Let's do this!