Saving second base
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
October is breast cancer awareness month all over the country. Walk-a-thons are planned, education campaigns are being launched and pink ribbons will be pinned to lapels. We’ve come a long way in being able to talk about women’s health in our country. When I was a kid, even a teenager, the word “breast” would not have come up in polite conversation and it certainly would not have been splashed across a billboard.
In my great- grandmother’s day, it was unacceptable to refer to some items of clothing in mixed company. She felt it was improper to hang these “unmentionables” on the clothes line, so she washed them in the bathroom sink and hung them inside to dry. If my great-grandmother could not bring herself to talk about or dry her undies on the clothes line, how much more embarrassed would she have been to perform a self-exam, let alone discuss a lump or an irregularity in her breast?
Fast forward to 2012 and I find myself having to remind my 17-year-old that no one cares about seeing his boxer shorts. Heck, I remember a time when accidentally revealing the tiniest bit of an undergarment resulted in several choruses of “I see London, I see France…” Not anymore.
There have been growing pains in the process of opening dialogue about human anatomy. While many of us would prefer to go back to a time when undergarments were worn under garments, there have been benefits to becoming more comfortable with conversations about our bodies.
When I spoke to Bonnie Perkins this week (see the article about Bonnie and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer) she said that she now has a “different filter” since being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer two years ago. She’s no longer shy about discussing breasts and breast cancer. It’s part of a necessary conversation if we are to tackle this disease—a disease that is the second leading killer of women.
Some companies involved in the fight against breast cancer have taken a bold and humorous approach, with names like “Save Second Base,” “I Heart Boobies,” and “Save the Ta-Tas.” Seeing the t-shirts and bracelets that are part of these campaigns can be a little unsettling at first, but there’s no doubt they attract attention and get results. How do I know? I’ll tell you.
My daughter was a 22-year-old college student when she discovered a lump in her breast. She was terrified. She was also the kind of kid who hated to go to the doctor because she didn’t like being “looked at”— even for medical reasons. But she knew that she should not wait.
My daughter had been in the room with her grandmother just hours before she died of breast cancer. Her grandmother had found a lump, but there was a new grandbaby about to be born and the holidays were coming. She didn’t want to spoil anyone’s festivities. Grammy’s death was a terrible blow to my daughter, so when faced with finding a lump, she called me and then called her doctor.
The tests and the surgery that followed were tough on her for many reasons, but the pathology report came back clear. No cancer.
Around that same time, I had a friend with a daughter just three years older than mine—only 25 when she found a lump. It was cancer. Like my daughter, though, she saw her doctor right away, got treatment and is healthy today. Both young women benefitted from hearing about the disease and got the help they needed—and are alive to tell others.
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and that means sharing information so more and more women know how and where to get mammograms, how to do self-exams, and how to advocate for their medical care. This is one subject that can’t be “unmentionable.”