October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I hope you take the time, not only to listen to this song, written and sung by the amazing Melissa Etheridge, but to read what I have written. Thank you.

Please be aware that while not pornographic, this post is graphic in nature.

I AM a survivor!

These words mean so much to so many. To be able to say them, to have fought the battle and won, gives life a new meaning. Those of us who have survived breast cancer live life, for the most part, as we never did before. Oh sure, some survivors lived life to the fullest before, but some of us, like myself, went through life doing the mundane things and not much more.

Carpe Dium, seize the day … how true. I live each day like it will be my last. A dear friend, one who taught me more than anyone has in my life introduced me to a song. Every time I hear it, it makes me smile. But not only that, it makes me think. The whole song is beautiful but one part in particular is poignant to me. I’d like to share.

And if I should die tomorrow
I’d go down with a smile on my face
I thank God I’ve ever known you
I fall down on my knees
For all the love we’ve made

If I were to die tomorrow, I would do so with less than a few regrets. I won’t go into those here, that’s for another post.

I am involved in a virtual world known as Second Life. Within that virtual world, I am involved in a small capacity with the American Cancer Society (ACS). I’ve taken part in breast cancer education programs, walked in the Relay of Life of Second Life, made dear friends and lost them … victims to this beastly disease, made speeches telling others about what I went through and organized a BIG PINK event in October 2007.

I don’t know why one person wins their battle and another loses it. But I do know that everything happens for a reason. I know that we are all on this planet for a reason too and that when we have completed our task here, it is our time to pass over. I’m not sure what my reason or purpose is, I doubt if any of us ever know for sure but I do know that I prayed, begged and pleaded to win my battle and I did.

I believe that by telling my story, by making people aware, I am serving a purpose. If I can save one life, make one person aware, then I will be happy but not fulfilled. We MUST find a cure. The following is an excerpt from a speech I gave, perhaps it will touch you in some way. Perhaps after reading this you will make a phone call, donate time or money towards helping the research for the cure.

“I had a choice, I could sit back and let this vicious disease that knows no bounds regarding age or gender take control of my life until it consumed me completely, or I could stand toe to toe with it, stare it in the eye and tell it where to go. I chose to do the latter. I wanted to see my son happy, to hold my first grandchild, to spend time with the woman I loved enough to leave my life as I knew it behind and move to a place I had never been to before.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I bargained for my life and won. I got to hold not only my first grandchild but my second, third and fourth. I got to see my son, finally happy to some extent and I got to spend the last four years of my wife’s life, with her. For that, I will be eternally thankful.

My wife never got to hear the “all clear” given to me. But I fight on, to repay the debt I incurred by bargaining. I fight on by trying to make women AND men aware of this tragic killer that if caught early enough, can be treated.

If through my survival, through my standing here and speaking to you all today, through my fund raising in the name of breast cancer awareness and research … I can save one life … by making someone aware of regular self examinations, of regular mammograms … then I have repaid my debt in full. But even then, I will continue to battle, wearing my scars like a medal won in a war, for life … mine and everyone elses.

My name is A*** D*** and I’m a survivor.

Thank you.”

I have decided to include information about self-exams. This information was provided by the ACS. Please take the time to examine yourself regularly. If you have a partner, get them involved.

Self Exam

Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.
Here’s what you should look for:
· breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
· breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling
If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

· dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
· a nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
· redness, soreness, rash, or swelling

Step 2: Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.

Step 3: While you’re at the mirror, gently squeeze each nipple between your finger and thumb and check for nipple discharge (this could be a milky or yellow fluid or blood).

Step 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few fingers of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together.

Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side—from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.

Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. Be sure to feel all the breast tissue: just beneath your skin with a soft touch and down deeper with a firmer touch. Begin examining each area with a very soft touch, and then increase pressure so that you can feel the deeper tissue, down to your ribcage.

Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in Step 4.

Please don’t think that it can’t happen to you or to someone you love. IT CAN !

I apologize now to those of you who may find these pictures horrible or frightening or sickening. It is what myself and others live with every second, every day and every year … for the rest of our lives. But …

We are Alive
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