Tears were shed because I had just learned of an old friend passing due to cancer. She was only 34 years old with three young children. One day she’s in the hospital having survey and chemotherapy. A few short months later she had passed away. So young and to die from colon cancer this just doesn’t seem real. Doing this volunteer work each year many of us are faced with our own cancer challenges. Several ACS CAN volunteers were being remembered for their hard work and dedication. The room filled with sadness because they were no longer with us. There are many moments of heart aches that comes along with dealing with cancer. I continue to push myself in memory of all those we have lost.
My nerves get to me right before meeting with the Senators and Representatives from my district, but the training that we receive I feel much more confident to face them. The Lights of Hope ceremony is just breath taking. Spiritually you sense the spirits of those who lost their battle with cancer present. We all remain hopeful that one day soon this disease will no longer exist. The ACS CAN Opener is the fun part, because we know that we can’t get though this 3-day event without reflecting on the good times that we’ve had. Gillian Anderson once said, “Be of service. Whether you make yourself available to a friend or co-worker, or you make time every month to do volunteer work, there is nothing that harvests more of a feeling of empowerment than being of service to someone in need.”
In memory of Sherri, Charley, and Shannon, because of them and their fight I will do every step and action to be a great volunteer.
Physical activity during breast cancer treatment is recommended. According to a study at University of North Carolina only one in three women living with breast cancer are meeting the guidelines per week. I can remember during treatments there were days where I felt like there was no way I could muster up enough energy to do anything. But on my good days I made sure I would go on walks. Soon after I felt more energized. I could remember I would take my son out on walks in his stroller and he loved it! It’s been five years since I was in treatment and I have a current exercise workout that I stick to. I jog or run three times a week for 30 minutes. I stick to cardio because it’s what works for me. Occasionally I’ll add a Zumba class. However after reading the University of North Carolina study, I need to add two more days to my workout to meet the guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. Treatments can really be rough on your body. If your days are better than others, then take advantage of that and try to take an easy walk. Your body and health will thank you later.
As I recall that October in 2008, something was different about my breast. I did what most women do, I ignored it, thinking it would just go away. But the pain worsened, I only noticed it during morning PT (Physical Training). I recently PCS’d from a stressful command, where I was too busy and always on the go to notice any body changes then. However, at my new command it was a more relaxed environment and less work so I was able to breathe throughout my short period there.
That year I turned 29, my friends joked that I was soon approaching the B-I-G 30 next year! I was ready for that milestone and promised that I would embrace it and go on. After adjusting to my new command and getting comfortable with a couple of Drill Weekends under my belt, I started to worry more about that pain that wasn’t going away. A few months have passed now its January 2009 and my push-ups during my workout was starting to bother me. So now I am persuaded to make my appointment at Madigan Medial Army Center, Ft. Lewis, Washington. This Army Base is huge and has everything. I saw my Primary Care provider explained what was going on and I left with prescriptions for relieving pain and swelling. Weeks go by and now I’m even more worried as I continue to feel my breast. My Husband said, “Babe if it’s bothering you that bad, then go back to the doctor.” I go back and this time I have to make sure this Doctor sees the desperation in my voice and on my face to get a Mammogram to rule out if there is anything for sure. I spent a week going to different appointments and finally my biopsy revealed something that till this day I deal with. I will never forget Nurse Jennie, she meant everything to me that day. She was the one who told me I had breast cancer. All I remember is her saying those words and her explaining to me on a piece of paper what type of cancer it was and how fast it was growing. The room went silent as she continue to speak. We both cried and she consoled me as much as she could.
I didn’t wear my uniform that day because they said wear loose fitting clothing after the biopsy was done. For the next several months my uniform came off and I was fighting a different fight. Fighting for my life in civilian clothes. Cancer doesn’t care what uniform you are wearing, what matters is what will be on the inside of you as you fight the cancer battle.
I want to get to know other women who were diagnosed with breast cancer while on active duty. Please email me at email@example.com, I would love to share your story on Veterans vs. Breast Cancer Blog.
While on active duty, most women with no family history or prior history of breast cancer will only receive a breast exam from their primary care provider. In between annual physical appointments its vital to listen to your body and perform self-breast exams monthly before and after your period to notice changes, if any.
Most women are busy with the day-to-day operations of completing the mission, standing duty, and being a wife and mom that we tend to forget about the well being of ourselves. Be your own best advocate when it comes to your healthcare.
After the military don’t be afraid of not knowing where to get care right away. Female veterans can receive breast cancer screenings at your local VA. Most VA Hospitals have a Women’s Health Clinic that provides services. Ask for the Manager of Women Veterans Program.