(Originally posted October 2013)
This is the 7th time I have written my annual reminder to mam-your-grams and each year has its own inspiration. For the past few months, I have been honored to watch my dear friend and colleague face the challenge of a breast cancer diagnosis. Found through a routine mammogram and ultrasound, she immediately researched too much, assumed the worst and was hyper-focused on the impending loss of her hair. But at each stage of this experience, she has shown her strength and beauty and grace. She took hold of her diagnosis and owned every decision. The hair that she couldn't even imagine cutting was shorn on a whim and she hasn't looked back once - even removing her wig with abandon (and sharing it) in front of friends and co-workers. I have learned so much from her and am reminded - again - that with information and a good support system, women can fight this disease head on. She has been so inspiring to so many and I believe will continue to be an inspiration as she pays it forward. After my surgery and treatment, the daily reminder of my scar was sometimes too much to bear. I wanted that chapter of my life behind me and yet that scar kept my mind too focused on cancer. So I took charge and covered the scar with a tattoo of the Chinese symbol for Good Health. It has worked perfectly to divert my attention. Yesterday, I was sent the following link: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/p-ink-day-2013 which is now serving as my second inspiration for this year's letter. These tattoos are amazing - not only for their artistic value but for the power they provide to women by turning their scars into works of art. These Tats for Tatas are symbols of strength and a colorful future for survivors. And that is the point - you can survive breast cancer! So my annual message remains the same: If you are a woman - CONDUCT monthly self-exams, SCHEDULE an annual mammogram, KEEP your appointment, take 3 Advil before, and buy yourself a gift after. If you are a man - TELL the women in your life (wives, sisters, friends) to SCHEDULE a mammogram and KEEP their appointment. Remind them that their good health is a gift they can give to you. If you receive a diagnosis - empower yourself, surround yourself with friends and loved ones that can help you laugh, and own your personal path to good health.