Let me paint a picture for you: There I was in my bikini feeling the warmth of the sun, soaking in some Vitamin D, and enjoying the fact that while I need an extra full bottom, I can still sport a skimpy little bikini top. I was hanging with a bunch of other moms (and dads) while our collective group of a dozen or so kids ran around a water park. Quite possibly, this could have been a scene out of the movie, Grown Ups, or a bad horror flick about what happens to really cool and fabulous people after they take on a mortgage and car payments, have a few kids, and whatever else goes along with that… The good times are relegated to half-price afternoons at the water park.
As I sat in my chair on the edge of the lazy river, I thought to myself, ‘Rachel, you are such a dumb ass.‘ Seriously, I did. Here I was with the fellow parents of my kids’ overnight camp friends in my bikini while not one, not two, but three of the women are discussing their experiences with breast cancer. See, now you agree – ‘Dumb ass, I am.’
My mom and my mother-in-law are both breast cancer survivors. My great-grandmother, who I am named for, died of breast cancer. My camp counselor survived breast cancer. I watched a fellow mom back when my kids were in preschool go through chemo, and now I am meeting new friends who are equally as brave and conquering the big C, too. I cannot help but to wonder when my number will be up (as I continue to sit in my bikini at the wave pool because I am so clueless at the moment).
As women, we beat each other up over everything. From the working vs. stay-at-home mommy wars, to whether we allowed our babies to cry-it-out, to our neighbor’s poor clothing choice at the block party, we are ruthless in our judgement of one another. Although, as a gender we can agree that breast cancer is not just a disease, but rather an epidemic of unreal proportions that does not care whether you work, stay-at-home, believe in long-term breastfeeding, or will wear that wrap from the 1980’s around town.
If you have boobs, breast cancer can be lurking around any dark corner waiting for you. We are instructed to self-test in the shower, feel for lumps, and look for changes. Then, we must smash our boobs down tight in that damn mammogram machine and often suffer being called back in to smash them again for more pictures. I know many women go with their sisters and friends for support. I went alone at age 35 because I did not know any better. My mom survived 2 lumpectomies and radiation in her early 50’s, so I had to start smashing my tits early.
Now, I have a few new friends. They are survivors. One brave woman with a bright smile and a heart of gold does not have boobs anymore. They are radically gone, now replaced with the pumps used before reconstruction. She joked with me that her ‘real boobs were killing her.’ I sat in my bikini, and it became evident to me that I must do something. It was simply not enough to think that when I finally launch my bra-related product, I consider donating a portion of sales to breast cancer research or mammography funds. I must do something now. With a projected quarter million new cases of invasive breast cancer and close to 64,000 new non-invasive diagnoses in 2012, now is the time to do something.
I felt compelled to honor the survivors. The women who stand out in my mind as powerhouses of strength and courage in a way that I can never fully understand. They work, cook dinner, and cheer at dance and soccer right beside you with or without their boobs. That is brave, bold, and down-right tough. The moms and grandmas who wear pink with pride and continue to be the matriarch of their family while what very well may be considered their most feminine of body parts attack them.
I have been prepping to run a 10k in Pittsburgh on September 30, 2012. It will be my first 10K ever, and I am running it for all of you. You know who are – the women who are braver than me.
I have set up a fund in honor of these woman, and I hope you will consider giving me small (or big) pledge in support of these women – we all know one or ten. The proceeds of this run which will end just as Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins will go to providing early detection in women. You can go to backngroovemom.com to contribute!