Fact: Women in the U.S. have a 1 in 8 (or about 12%) lifetime risk of getting breast cancer. This means that for every 8 women in the U.S. who live to be age 85, 1 will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime.
Early detection is the first step in prevention and treatment. And that is why the waiting room at NYU Langone Medical is full at 9 AM on a Tuesday. It is my annual diagnostic mammogram screening, and I pray that the radiology report comes back clean.
I know a handful of women in my life who have had breast cancer and survived. One had a double mastectomy before she turned 30; the second, a lumpectomy in her 40s; and the third, a scare in her 50s.
Cancer is the six-letter word no one wants to hear from their doctor, the word no one likes to say out loud. Because like those furry creatures from Gremlins, the word multiplies the minute it’s enunciated. No one speaks about cancer until they do. It’s still taboo until it happens to someone you love, someone they love, someone they know, someone they knew.
My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 1999. Chemo. Radiation. All those toxic chemicals killing the bad cells and the good cells, weakening her immune system, making it extremely difficult for a frail 71-year old woman to prepare for battle. We lost her the following January.
Seventeen years later, I lose count thinking of friends and family who have been diagnosed. For every one person who survives, there is one who does not.
I pray for them all.