Each year over the last decade we take a moment to speak to our readers during Breast Cancer Awareness month. The facts are simple: 1 in 8 women today will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime and that the most common risk factors are simply being female and getting older. About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer or no other apparent risk factor. However, being male does not make you immune. In 2022, about 2,710 American men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and about 530 are expected to die from the disease.
If you are over 30, please talk to your doctor and schedule regular screening. Early detection is important; it is expected that 44,000 Americans will die from breast cancer in 2022.
Each year our founder gets a note from the cancer center to share her experience to urge others to seek screening. This year an additional message was added, to focus on living with cancer. Once diagnosed, you live each year wondering “if this is the year it comes back?”
The piece below was written years ago.
I run for hope, I run to feel
I run for the truth for all that is real.
I run for life.
Cancer, reactions and treatments, do not come in a “one size fits all” package. Many people know someone that has been stricken with some form of this disease. The treatments for the physical diseases are advancing rapidly. Each patient an individual: a body that contains a unique spirit.
“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.
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. Those thoughts were 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. I had a form of cancer probably caused by drugs I had been given over a decade ago for a medical emergency. 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.
Purpose was the best medicine during treatment; feeling that my life had some purpose. A support system may be the most important part of continuing to deal with the psychological impacts.
Making a decision to live, and live every moment with as much life in it as I could, is probably what stopped that early depression. As time has worn on the focus became different and filled with self-blame and poor body image and my left breast looked like it went 8 rounds with Edward Scissor-Hands (I had more than one surgery due to complications). Not everyone that goes through this has a support system or the money to maintain health insurance that can help with the aftercare. Not everyone that goes through this particular form of hell is surrounded by people that are kind and some of the cruelest comments are hard to stop your inner voice from echoing.
Your support system may be the most important part of “living with cancer.” I recently found a resource through my local cancer center that helped me find an online meeting portal created during the first year of the Covid pandemic. Being able to vent and laugh with other survivors; particularly those coming on up those long-term marks like I am (when you begin to fear a return), has really helped. When you hit your 5 year mark, you can talk to those that have hit 10. The 10 year mark? you can speak to someone that hit the 20.
You are not alone. Even if you may feel that way in your daily life, you can find a way to reach out to community. We are here… we are strong… we are you.
When I watch this video today, I can see the difference in editing software available for simple laptops. It is a good reminder to all of you that may be diagnosed today… that there are those of us still alive after undergoing treatment years ago. The treatments get better and better every year, just like editing software. And when you are a 10-year, 20-year survivor… hold the hand of someone beginning this journey.
In 2013 we were given permission by Melissa Etheridge (agent) to use the song “I Run For Life” in our year in review, the year our founder began her battle with cancer. WHE continued to “Run For Life” for the wild horses…
Many of you have lost someone to cancer or knew someone that fought this disease and came out the other side. 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 of WHE
Categories: Wild Horse Education