Thursday, July 25, 2013

Your mammogram

Earlier this spring, I threw something of a tantrum on facebook.  Someone out in cyperspace conceived this "game" in which they email or message a letter explaining the "rules" to the game.  Then people start posting answers on facebook.  The game they claim will raise breast cancer that's why you should do it.

While I was going through chemo a facebook meme "what color is your bra?" started circulating.  Of course those not privy to the rules were questioning "Why all the posts on colors?"  Eventually it was said to promote breast cancer awareness.

But only to those who knew the rules of the game.

The next year we began to see things like..."on the floor next to the sofa" or "on the counter"  Again, supposedly promoting breast cancer awareness...but only to those who knew the rules.  

In 2012, it was a "going to China for 16 months" another supposed awareness game.  The single flaw in all of this nonsense had to be aware of the game.  If you were were left scratching your head, and aware of nothing.

They call it a game.  I called it an insult.  

They say they're raising beast cancer awareness.  I say, enough with the awareness and DO something.  It's not enough to be aware, if all you do is giggle and type in what color your underwear is.  IF you call that "awareness" then sister, you've been ignoring the facts.  Everyone should be aware of breast cancer symptoms because frankly, cancer doesn't play by the rules.

Me on chemo day with a burning steroid rash September 2010

  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • An estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
  • A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
  • From 1999 to 2005, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. decreased by about 2% per year. The decrease was seen only in women aged 50 and older. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
  • About 39,520 women in the U.S. were expected to die from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1990 — especially in women under 50. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
  • For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
  • Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. Just under 30% of cancers in women are breast cancers.
  • White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women. However, in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women. Overall, African-American women are more llkely to die of breast cancer. Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.
  • In 2011, there were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the US.
  • A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
  • About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. Women with these mutations have up to an 80% risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime, and they are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age (before menopause). An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations.
  • In men, about 1 in 10 breast cancers are believed to be due to BRCA2 mutations, and even fewer cases to BRCA1 mutations.
  • About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations. NO FAMILY HISTORY!
  • As of Jan. 1, 2009, there were about 2,747,459 women alive in the United States with a history of breast cancer. This includes women being treated and women who are disease-free.
Beautiful young woman with reconstructed breasts

These games are demeaning to us who have battled through the disease.  To have you diminish our experience to the color of your bra or the location of your purse, does nothing to raise awareness.  WE raise your awareness.  The Pink Warriors who walked through the fire to emerge as the Phoenix, WE are awareness.  A woman told me "If this so called demeaning game encourages just one to get her mammogram, then it's worth it."  Sadly, the game doesn't encourage you to get a mammogram.  It asks for the color of your underwear...and they say it raises awareness.  But only if you know the rules.

This is how you raise awareness.

  • Speak to your doctor about the signs of breast cancer.  Do your own research.
  • Do self exams and get information on how to do them.
  • The next time you are at a gathering of women you care about...pass out the self exam information.  Poll who is eligible to get a mammogram and remind them to do it.  Check up on people who care about...HAVE you gotten YOUR mammogram?  Schedule your exams together.  One can wait in the waiting room while the other one is done.  Should one of you hear scary have a buddy out there to come in and hold your hand through ultrasounds and biopsies.
  • Keep talking about it!  Have YOU gotten YOUR mammogram?

I was also told by a friend that she hadn't gotten her exams done because they were "uncomforable".  Sadly, breast cancer is not comfortable either.  I had exams done every calendar year and my cancer was caught by mammogram.  Unfortunately, my cancer was a sneaky attack kind, deep in the breast tissue.  Doctors tell me it was probably there for 2 years before it was large enough to be seen on mammogram.  It was already in nearby lymph nodes.  It would never have been felt.  The uncomfortable mammogram may have saved my life.  By the time I could have felt this tumor, it would have spread beyond nearby lymph nodes into distant nodes and organs...Metastatic breast cancer.  Stage IV.  Incurable.

THESE Women are raising breast cancer awareness.
Photo courtesy of The Scar Project

It's not enough to BE aware of breast cancer if you aren't prepared to DO anything about it.  Educate yourself, encourage everyone around and then DO something...donate, support and serve.  

* Breast cancer statistics courtesy of


  1. I love this post! I absolutely HATE those stupid games. I just got one in my messages the other day. I still don't have the nerve to argue about it, but I will sometimes post under someone's "announcement" that if they want real awareness, they should remember to do a self exam, because that's how I became aware of mine. Apparently I am seen as something of a buzzkill.

    1. I totally understand. I had a friend post on fb in the Spring calling out the game and a whole bunch of her family jumped down her throat for "spoiling" their game. I came to her defense trying to explain the "games" do not raise awareness for anything but suggestive silliness. No one types out the color of their underwear and then said "Oh I need to get a mammogram! So I made a decision to spread REAL awareness. But yes, I too am considered a buzz-kill, "when they were trying to have a little fun with it". I would dare to tell people that "chemo wasn't fun" and stop using cancer as a platform for silliness. It's offensive to us who WERE diligent in self exams and mammograms but STILL got cancer!

      I hope you are doing well. I just had a "lump" scare that turned out to be nothing. I'll be writing about it next week.

  2. Would you mind if I share this post on Facebook?

    1. I would love for you to share this on your facebook. The more people we can make can make aware that Breast cancer awareness has NOTHING to do with facebook games...the better.