(Originally posted October 2014)
When I was younger, you never said 'cancer' at full voice ... only in hushed tones so as not to draw any attention to the conversation. In Yiddish - it was a kenahorah - to keep the evil eye away. But times, they have changed.
Joan Lunden was on The Today Show to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month (I digress, but wasn't she the anchor on GMA? What happened there that she didn't take her story to them?) and she shared how touched she was by the outpouring of support from complete strangers upon hearing of her diagnosis. Those messages buoyed her and gave her strength to face the challenges of her triple negative breast cancer diagnosis. Her words really hit home. The upside of technology is that we can empower ourselves with knowledge, summon support from around the world, find comfort in the words and gestures of others - and connect despite physical distance. Our kids don't whisper the word cancer like my grandparents did - they say it aloud - with the defiance it deserves. We will not hide behind fear. I am continually touched by those that share their scares with me, along with their triumph at clear mammograms and biopsy results. I am humbled by those that have battled (or are facing) breast cancer head on and allow me to march behind them with support. For those who hear of another person's struggle, I challenge you to step up. It is hard to speak to someone about something so frightening, but they deserve to know they have a team beside them. Reach out. Bring a meal to someone you hardly know so they have one less thing to worry about, send a card of encouragement and support, drop an email or text that you are thinking of them, chocolate always helps. BE PRESENT. And the message doesn't have to be about the disease. In fact, a conversation about anything BUT is also a sign of support. A breast cancer diagnosis is frightening, but can be battled head on. Knowledge is power and laughter is great medicine. My recipe for the 8th year since my diagnosis is the same: If you are a woman - schedule a mammogram, keep your appointment, take Advil before and reward yourself after. If easier, take a friend - or schedule at the same time as a friend (thank you Wendy for the addition this year). If you are a man, encourage all of the women in your life to make and keep their appointments. They will find any reason to reschedule. If you get bad news, empower yourself with information, surround yourself with a support system and find joy and laughter as you face this challenge head on. And if you need me, I promise to be present for you.