Chapter Four: Breast Cancer ACTION Month
Janine is a lifelong endurance athlete and two-time breast cancer survivor.
For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she's sharing her story in hopes it will inspire women to take action for their health. Her message: "Awareness is good. Action is better."
In 2011, I was diagnosed with a breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Eight years later I was diagnosed with a different breast cancer called triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). This was very difficult to believe since I am a very healthy person and have spent my life focusing on nutrition and exercise.
Shortly after my second diagnosis, I had genetic testing and tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation. This mutation greatly increases the chances for breast and ovarian cancer in women. As the CDC explains, the most effective recommendation for the prevention of cancer in the case of a BRCA2 mutation is removing both breasts, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
Last December I underwent a double mastectomy. This past week, I had my ovaries removed. Now, after my chemotherapy from the summer and this last surgery, I feel like I am finally DONE! I can focus on something other than breast cancer treatments.
PTSD from this cancer experience is very real for me. Every once in a while emotions will sneak up. When I process experiences from this past decade, I am proud of how I handled everything that has happened, especially from a mentality standpoint. Having a small window to allow myself to grieve, then moving forward with a plan (and my village of supporters!) has helped me get through. Even though I can suddenly get choked up out of nowhere, I can use strategies and tools I have learned, or I can just spend some time crying. It’s all part of the process.
Through all of this, I have counted my blessings and kept my sights set on the future. Gratitude and growth is how I intend to live my life moving forward.
You matter! Many times as women we prioritize the needs of others before our own, but your health is just as important as everyone else’s. As a two-time breast cancer survivor, I want Breast Cancer Awareness Month to shift to more “actionable” messaging.
Support Yourself and Each Other
It always surprises me when I hear a woman say that they haven’t been to the doctor, or haven’t had a mammogram in years. I have come to understand that there are many personal reasons for this. And I get it, going to the doctor is not fun, and the possible outcome can be scary.
But please hear me when I say there is no time like the present to take actionable steps toward your health. If you’ve been putting off your mammogram, take this as your sign. Pick up your phone right now and call to schedule it. Sometimes that is the hardest part!
I think we women need to support each other better in this regard. This is where taking action (not just in October) is so important.
If you have a woman in your life who hasn’t prioritized her health screenings, gently find a way to broach the subject. Let her talk about why she hasn’t done it. And if you can, encourage her to get something on the calendar, and stay on top of it until it is done.
Women don’t belong on the back burner. Let’s help each other believe that and act on it.
Another benefit of going to regular screenings is you have the opportunity to ask your doctor questions. How often do you wonder whether or not a feeling or sensation you’ve experienced is medically relevant?
As with all areas of health, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. Whether you have questions about signs and symptoms of breast cancer, treatment options, etc., write down questions as they pass through your mind and take them to your doctor.
Get the answers you need, so you can make the most informed decisions for your health. It’s cliche, but knowledge is power.
Words to Live By
“If you’re not learning, you’re aging.” I started this post talking about keeping my eyes toward the future. I believe that curiosity and the desire to learn and grow regardless of where you are is a huge determinant of quality of life.
New ideas happen every minute of every day. There’s so much out there to experience and understand that it’s exciting to the point of being overwhelming. That’s a huge driving force at my very core, especially these past ten years.
There’s a woman who belongs to my master’s swimming group. She is well into her 90’s. She can talk about anything, is quick to laugh, and still dives off the starting block! She’s incredible.
I think about her a lot when I imagine my future. I’m not sure exactly how it will look, but I know I want to stay active, engaged, and connected.
"I know firsthand that you don’t pick the cards you’re dealt. But you do get to decide how you play them."
The information and content provided in this blog post are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment.