Today is my birthday. Today I turned 40 years old.
I hear that number and I feel conflicted. On one hand, I don’t feel like I’m 40. I feel more like 25, like I’m still finding myself and getting comfortable in my skin. 40 used to seem so old. And I’m not old at all! I still have so much to learn and discover. I can’t be 40. On the other hand, I’ve made it to 40. Just over two years ago, I wasn’t sure that was going to happen. I heard the word, “cancer” and didn’t know if I’d reach any milestone. But here I am, and it seems to me that 40 is something to be celebrated.
I wish I have given some thought as to what I want to define the next decade of my life. Beyond being surrounded by my loved ones, creating theatre and traveling, I don’t know what I want.
I do know that I want this year to be filled with the new; new restaurants, new routes through the park, new travels and more. I want to expand myself. I want to grow.
You all know that I am not a “cancer is a gift” kind of gal and yet, I feel as though I have been given a gift to continue into this new decade. When so many of our brothers and sisters have been lost to cancer’s oppressive power over our bodies, I can’t help but reflect on the fact that, in many ways, I am one of the lucky ones.
I have but one birthday wish from all of you. Many of you who are reading this went to school with me, which means that this is the year that you also turn 40. The American Cancer Society has decided that women who are not high risk for developing breast cancer begin mammograms at age 45 and those with family history and other risk factors begin at age 40. I have mentioned on this blog before my dissatisfaction with these new guidelines. As a young breast cancer survivor who found the lump through a self exam, I think we need more tools and resources, not less.
So, what I want from all of you, women and men (yes, men get breast cancer, too), is for you to feel your boobies. Know your body. Know what is normal for you so that you can identify when something is wrong. Advocate for yourself. If you feel that you need a mammogram, find a doctor who agrees with you and get one. Do it every year. Every. Year. Feel your breasts every month. Every. Month.
If 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, then I am not the last one that I know who will go through this ordeal. We need to be vigilant, to do the best for our bodies that we can so that we can remain as healthy as we can. We need to educate ourselves and each other and support one another.
So please, this year, get schedule and go to your mammogram (it’s not that bad) and learn how to do a self breast exam.