#VBGIVESBACKBreast Cancer Awareness Month
I first learned about Breast Cancer Alliance from living in the Greenwich/New York City area several years ago; however, my knowledge was fairly limited. A month after my husband and I moved to Houston, Texas, in 2012, I was diagnosed with early Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma after I discovered a lump in my breast. With no family history of breast cancer and being diagnosed at a young age of 30, I was completely stunned when I learned this news. I was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, but I was further connected with Breast Cancer Alliance through a dear friend in Greenwich and BCA board member, Jordan Rhodes. I was asked to walk in the Breast Cancer Alliance annual luncheon in 2017 as a survivor "model," which solidified my connection to BCA. What I find so special about Breast Cancer Alliance is how they have a national impact, offering grants to fund cutting-edge research focused on early detection, prevention, treatment, and cure. To come full circle, clinical physicians and researchers at the hospital where I was treated, MD Anderson Cancer Center, have received grants from BCA to ultimately help find a cure for breast cancer.
I learned that breast cancer doesn't discriminate, as I was an otherwise healthy, very active, 30 year old with no family history of breast cancer when I was diagnosed. I also learned not to only rely on your annual appointments for breast checks. While I was diligent about having my annual exams, I was also so incredibly fortunate to have found the lump myself (I happened to accidentally brush my hand across my breast in the shower and I felt something suspicious) and to have been seen by a doctor immediately. I can't stress enough the importance of self-exams and truly knowing your body—early detection saved my life. I also learned how many different types of breast cancer there are, and that no breast cancer, treatment, and experience is the same.
I treated my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment like one big project (it was helpful that I was a former project manager in my past corporate life!). It is easy to get overwhelmed looking at the entirety of your treatment plan, so I found it beneficial to break it down into smaller milestones and really take one day at a time. I was also big on celebrating these milestones (hitting double digits of chemo, making it halfway through chemo, finishing chemo, etc.). When it comes to cancer, no milestone is too small to celebrate! I also learned to listen to my body during treatment—I rested when I needed to, I exercised when I felt good, and I tried my best to not feel guilty if I needed "me time" during treatment. I also learned just how strong and resilient I was, and this attitude is something that I carry with me every day. When faced with a current challenge or obstacle, I give myself a pep talk and say, "You survived cancer! You can do this!"
I was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after I moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, from NYC with two young children. I was introduced to BCA by a dear friend who thought that becoming involved with the organization and being surrounded by so much great energy would be instrumental throughout my healing process. I am very proactive in sharing my cancer journey with others, hoping that my positive outlook and experiences can help others struggling with a breast cancer diagnosis. BCA encourages women to share their stories.
In sharing my journey, I hope to help women get through the physical and emotional hurdles, which often leave them feeling hopeless, alone and afraid. I started out as a volunteer at BCA and was featured during their Annual Luncheon in 2016. I’ve had the honor of co-chairing BCA’s Education and Outreach Committee for two years now and it’s been so incredibly rewarding to see first-hand how BCA’s funding is put to work. I also work closely alongside our Executive Director, Yonni Wattenmaker, on fundraising initiatives, which include BCA’s Annual Luncheon and GoForPink! The profound mission of BCA resonates deeply in my heart, and I am so proud to be part of such an amazing organization!
1. I have no family history of breast cancer; therefore I am low risk. About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer.
2. Only women can get breast cancer. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 833.
3. I’m too young to be diagnosed with breast cancer. I was diagnosed at the age of 37, younger than the recommended cancer screening guidelines for mammogram screening in women, which is currently 40-44 years old. Early detection and screening can lower the risk of death by 47%
Embrace your circle of support and welcome help from family and friends. Loved ones want to help in any way they can. Whether it be meal drop-offs, carpools, running errands or babysitting, say YES! Use this time to get rest, build strength and immunity and RECOVER!
Try to welcome your breast cancer journey as a positive chapter in your life. This journey will give you the opportunity to recenter and refocus on the more precious things in life. We don’t often get the opportunity to see life through a different lens. Slowing life’s pace and reconnecting with your healing body will not only bring a positive perspective to your diagnosis but will also bring you peace and gratitude.
I was introduced to BCA when I was first diagnosed while pregnant with my daughter Caroline (now seven!). My family and I were so grateful to find an organization that so purposefully invested resources to fund early-stage research that would otherwise not be able to advance.
I was in my early 30s when I was diagnosed and my lump was actually under my arm, not right on my breast, so it is important to do the full exam and listen to your body!
Statistics are truly just that. Each person is different, each situation is different so make the right choices for you, your family, your body. My favorite life mantra is "Life is Choices"—you don’t always get to choose what happens but you do get to choose how to respond. This comforted and grounded me through the entire adventure, step by step.
My connection is Yonni—she and I have known each other for most of our lives, growing up at sleepaway camp together, but got reacquainted and subsequently became close friends when our kids attended the same sleepaway camp that we did.
It was difficult. My mom has always been invincible to me. Seeing her go through surgeries, treatments and all that happened in between not only scared me, but she also showed me her incredible strength. There were times I thought she’d give up the fight, but I saw her look at her kids and her grandkids and I knew that was all she needed to boost her mood and keep on pushing through.
Breathe and listen. Listen to the doctors, listen to other people’s experiences, but most of all, listen to the person who has been diagnosed.
Veronica Beard | 1254 Wisconsin Avenue NW
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