Our founder was diagnosed in 2013 with breast cancer. Cancer, reactions and treatments, do not come in a “one size fits all” package. Today she received an email from the cancer center asking that “survivor” stories be shared to raise awareness.
EDIT 2017: “I just received my email from the cancer center to share my story and urge women to go get that mammogram. I have no time to write a new one… I’m running hard as the push to kill our wild horses nears the finish line. But my story has not changed… I run for life.” ~ Laura Leigh
And they cut into my skin
And they cut into my body
But they will never get a piece of my soul
Many people know someone that has survived or died from this disease. Early detection can save your life.
“I knew there was something wrong. The only real symptom I had was a sensation of dread that I couldn’t shake. About a month later I found a lump. I knew immediately what it was. I remember reassuring the young man that came into the room after the mammogram to tell me I needed a biopsy, that I already knew. He was so nervous.
I was driving down the highway checking on some wild horses and my phone rang and I pulled over. The nurse told me the results of the biopsy. I had cancer and I needed to find a doctor. I hung up then said ‘I have cancer’ out loud. I sobbed, body wracking sobs, for about ten minutes. I had no idea how I could deal with cancer living like a nomad. I put the truck in drive and went back to work.
I made it through somehow and it was not easy and I still need treatment. But if I did not get the diagnosis I would already be dead. Please schedule your mammograms. Please tell your mothers and daughters and wives to go and get theirs. It is not an inconvenience, it is a lifeline.”
About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2016, an estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 61,000 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
Some of the risk factors and the categories I fell into (I list them because many people do not understand the factors) :
Breast Density: Firm, dense tissue appears white on a mammogram making tumor detection harder. Younger women, and many with larger breasts, have a lot of dense tissue. It increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Some forms of cancer grow very slowly making mammograms vital for young and old.
Family History: A woman’s chance of developing breast cancer increases if her mother, sister, and/or daughter (or close male relative) have been diagnosed with the disease, especially if they were diagnosed before age 50. (I did not have any of these).
Alcohol: Studies indicate that the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of breast cancer. (I don’t drink)
Menstrual History: Women who had their first menstrual period before age 12, or who went through menopause after age 55, have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Women who had their first full-term pregnancy after age 30, or who have never had a full-term pregnancy, are also at increased risk of breast cancer. (I had a very early first period at ten years old. I had my kids before 30. I do have a family history of late menopause).
Hormone Therapy: Women who used combined estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapy for more than 5 years have an increased chance of developing breast cancer. (I used birth control pills in my twenties. I had a miscarriage later in life and they gave me hormones. I was told these likely played the largest factor for me).
Body Weight: The chance of getting breast cancer is higher in women who are overweight or obese than in women of a healthy weight. (I carried an extra fifteen pounds, just fifteen pounds over ideal weight for my height. I gained a lot of weight with treatment, 30 pounds. It is the number one factor my doctors nag me about so I’ve taken off twenty-five and still have a few to go).
Physical Activity: Women who are physically inactive throughout life may have an increased risk of breast cancer. (I am very active).
Race: In the United States, breast cancer is diagnosed more often in white women than in African American/black, Hispanic/Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, or American Indian/Alaska Native women. (I am very white, “glow in the dark white”)
From the Center for Disease Control
- The most common cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity.
- The most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women.
- The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, and Asian/Pacific Islander women.
- The third most common cause of death from cancer among American Indian/Alaska Native women.
“The depression that came with the diagnosis was the worst for me. I found myself having to figure out how to leave my life to fight for it. It was killing me fast. My doctors worked hard to create a treatment plan that allowed me to keep working. It involved short term, very intensive treatment. I was not a good patient, I hate hospitals. I have had a life with too many hospital visits. Cancer was not something I could muscle through or run from, I tried. At one point they did threaten to tie me to a hospital bed and my doctor followed through on her threat. After eight surgeries, and treatments that left me really sick, I am still here. I struggle every day with the effects of treatment on my body and the psychological ramifications that touch every aspect of my mind every single day.
Most people know someone that has struggled, survived or died from some form of this disease. I urge everyone to take a moment and remember them today. In that memory take a step forward, even if it is one step. Make a screening appointment for yourself, volunteer a few hours to aid someone undergoing treatment or make a small lifestyle change like starting to exercise. Most importantly remember to celebrate life, tell those that matter to you that you love them.” ~ Laura Leigh, founder WHE
In 2013 we were given permission by Melissa Etheridge to use the song “I Run For Life” in our year in review. WHE continued to “Run For Life” for the wild horses…
I run for hope, I run to feel
I run for the truth for all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life
And someday if they tell you about it
If the darkness knocks on your door
We will be running as we have before
Running for answers
Running for more
Categories: Wild Horse Education