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The Two Part Post: Fundraising and the Last Step

Many of you already know, but for those of you only connected to me through my blog, I have been supported throughout this process by an amazing set of women at the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Texas. They run a support group for young women fighters/survivors called the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls and they have been AMAZING. My patient navigator, Runi … the effervescent and positive Robin, and of course my amazing supporters and friends in PRC.

I am fundraising for them this October. In an effort for people to think before the pink – BCRC founded #locallypink which is an opportunity for people to give in Austin to the organization that directly impacts people’s lives – my life was made better, stronger and certainly with more purpose because of these ladies and this organization.

They helped me create a fundly page: https://bcrc.fundly.com/team-ward-pink

All your donations go directly to people who need them. As you can see, I have already hit my 2nd stretch goal with the generosity of friends and family, but to quote Scrooged:

If you give, then it can happen…then the miracle can happen to you. It’s not just the poor and hungry, it’s everybody who’s got to have this miracle!! And if you like it and you want it you’ll get greedy for it…you’ll want it every day of your life, and it can happen to you. I believe in it now! I believe it’s gonna happen to me now, and I’m ready for it. It’s great!

So let’s keep on giving.

Now, the second and certainly lighter side of this post – next week I have my final reconstruction surgery. Nipples. Yup, I said it. I have no nipples and will next week. And is it weird that I’m so excited?

I feel like I have been hiding my body completely for over a year – not like I wander around naked or anything, but imagine being afraid that if your swimsuit falls down, you not only will embarrass yourself and the people around you with your wardrobe malfunction, you might permanently and irrevocably scar your children. I wear a bra all the time for fear there might be a non-nip slip. I just coined a new phrase.

I embrace my new figure and I try to encourage the same with the kids – Henry has an overbite, Emmy is tall, Carter is still missing his top teeth. I tell them everyone is different and special and some people have moles and some have freckles and some have innie belly buttons. BUT I just don’t want them to know that I don’t have nipples. Is that somehow wrong?

And last week I wondered, if I was on TV, would I be censored? I mean, I don’t have nipples and that seems to be the line that is drawn. Would there have been such an outcry if Janet Jackson looked like Barbie, nice and smooth?

By the way this is covered by insurance but we still have to pay out of pocket. I can’t wait to itemize next year. AND the next step – tattoos. More on that later!

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The Controversy around Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This month we head into pink-ageddon. Everything will be pink – yogurt cups, beers, football gloves, socks, purses and balloons. Interestingly, in the actual breast cancer community there is sharp division about whether the corporate takeover of awareness is a good thing. Many of my survivor friends turn three shades of hot pink when asked their opinion – they hate it. It’s a manipulation of the true message, a way to cash in on loved ones lost, and the money goes crazy places – if it goes anywhere at all.

In years past I saved my yogurt lids and made a choice to buy the pink packaging if it was offered, but I didn’t know the consequences of my choices or the real message of October. This is about awareness – and frankly, I too believe the real message has been lost. October should be about bringing awareness to women about this disease. Awareness to my generation who remains virtually ignorant to the fact that it can impact us. And, it should bring awareness of the remarkable strides that medicine and doctors have made. (Some survivors will dispute that – I tell you, this is a fraught topic).

I think we all agree that there is an issue with corporations profiting off a disease. A movie was just screened here in Austin called Pink Ribbons Inc – a documentary on the disparity between profits and donations and the true message lost. To that end if you are going to make choices this year on donations and purchases, make sure that there is an actual organization designated.

This year, and forward, my money and time will go to two organizations that made a dramatic difference in my attitude, support, and care: one is the Breast Cancer Resource Center here in Austin, TX which is the home of the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls. My young survivor network of over 500 women. They have been my Q&A group, my friends that I talk to about things I don’t even put on the blog, and the organization that provides Austin with individual, amazing support.

Here is their donation page: https://secure.commonground.convio.com/bcrc/october2012/

The other organization which you will hear more about is the Duke Cancer Institute. I am clearly biased (alma mater and all) but they are trying to create disruptive therapies – funding truly cutting edge young research on this disease. You will see much more as I become their first Alumni Ambassador – attending Board meetings and speaking there next year, as well as becoming part of their support community – as founder of the Blue Devils Vs Cancer alumni organization.

Here is their donation page: http://dukecancerfund.org/get-involved/

More than that, I think my new mission is also to educate and empower my generation about this disease. It is curable – especially if caught early. It is detectable using mammograms and thermography and ultrasound. Here’s what else you should know:

About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. However, breast cancer can strike at any age, and is the most common cause of death in women aged 35 to 54. The number of young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer is on the rise, with scientists unsure of the cause.

Most importantly – you need to get to know your breasts. Usually, the first noticeable symptom is a lump that feels different from the rest of your breast tissue. More than 80% of breast cancer cases are discovered by touch, by you or your doctor. You need to get to know your breasts in circular motions, horizontal and vertical. And don’t be afraid to palpate deep—many breast cancers are close to the chest wall.

You also need to feel under your arms—lumps found in lymph nodes in the armpitscan indicate breast cancer. Other symptoms include density changes, one breast becoming larger or lower, a nipple changing position or shape, or swelling around the collarbone. If you have any of this—regardless of your age—get to a doctor and discuss it.

I never was a pink girl really, but now I’m proud to wear pink ribbons, bracelets, T-shirts, and hats. Don’t just think pink this October, do pink. And recognize and respect the true meaning of the month.

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