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I remember the exact second I learned I had breast cancer. I’d just come out from under anesthesia and was laying on an operating table in the hospital. My husband and a friend were standing next to my doctor who was telling me I had breast cancer. Everyone looked solemn, sad and shellshocked. 

It wasn’t the result any of us were expecting.

Four months before, I’d felt a lump in my right breast and had a mammogram. The radiologist said it was a benign, fibrocystic mass—nothing to worry about—but I continued to monitor it. Obsess over it was more like it. I would feel it in the shower; when I was lying down; leaning over; working at my desk; watching TV. 

My little voice was telling me something wasn’t right. 

Two months later I took it upon myself to get a second mammogram. This, too, came back benign, but I told my doctor I wanted it out. NOW! Three days later, he removed it. As he relayed the surgery to me, he was in the OR, about to take out what was clearly a benign, fibrocystic mass… just as everyone had predicted… but when he lifted the benign mass out… There it was. Hiding underneath. Breast cancer.

The next few days were filled with tears and fear… mine and my husband’s. From there began what would be 10 breast cancer surgeries and eight rounds of chemotherapy. Our lives would never be the same.

That was 14 years ago. Since then five women I love have been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

As someone who was high-profile in the breast cancer community, I learned a lot about every facet of breast cancer and the “big business” around breast cancer. One in eight women will be diagnosed. Cancer is an evil, insidious disease. We can exercise, eat right and drink in moderation, but if you’re like me and you carry one of the genes for breast cancer… You may still get breast cancer.

There are a million unknown reasons why healthy cells mutate into cancerous cells, but the answer doesn’t exist in “the Cure” or better cancer treatments THAT WILL ALL HAVE TERRIBLE SIDE EFFECTS. 

The answer is preventing breast cancer in the first place.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and it ALWAYS makes me angry! BREAST CANCER IS NOT ABOUT “awareness,” pink ribbons, pink shopping, or ANYTHING KOMEN. October should be about SUPPORTING HARD SCIENCE that leads to PREVENTING BREAST CANCER. 

Here are three things you can do to help you and all the women… and men… you’re related to and those who come after them:

  • Make a tax deductible contribution to the most credible, cancer research-focused group in the world, StandUp2Cancer. Click on this link to learn more about them and read my interview with Founder, Sherry Lansing. SU2C has changed the worldwide paradigm for all cancer research.
  • You and your husband/significant other get tested to see if you carry the breast cancer gene. Knowledge is power! It can enable everyone in your family to make informed decisions to prevent breast cancer. 
  • Get an annual mammogram.

Your life and the life of those you love depend upon it.

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Hi Girlfriends,

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    • Thank you, Sandra!! Hard science will find breast cancer answers, not buying pink things or Komen… who spends less than 10% of the money they raise on science. LOL! And they’re the ones calling for a cure!! Baloney to phoneys! xoxo, Brenda

  1. Women’s health issues have been ignored for so long that I am not affronted by a month of pink to make people pay attention for a change. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
    As you say, it’s important to get tested to know if you carry the BRCA gene (or one of the others–there are quite a few) so you can more closely monitor for any lumps. But only 5% to 10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, which means that just because you don’t have the BRCA gene and just because you eat right, exercise and drink in moderation, you still can get breast cancer. (Even men get breast cancer–I have a friend who has it, and he wasn’t diagnosed until rather late because…he’s a man).
    The other thing is the insane U.S. health care system. Cancer, whether breast or other, is a roulette game that you can’t choose not to play in. Here in France, all malignant cancer treatment is 100% covered by the socialized medical system. After age 50, mammograms every two years are free. We get excellent care and nobody goes bankrupt because of medical bills.

    • Taste of France, I understand your point, but you should take affront that thousands of brands are only lining their own pockets. Statistics show less than 10%–and in some cases, none– of the money they take in from pink sales goes to breast cancer research. Also I don’t believe that many women actually go out and get a mammogram as a result of Pink October. It’s a sham to make us all feel like we’re doing something important. I’m not sure about the accuracy of the 5-10% figure is hereditary, because researchers will tell you there may be a hundred or more breast cancer genes they’ve yet to discover, much less develop a marker/test for. Yes, men get breast cancer. I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I know several, personally, including actor Richard Roundtree, well known for his role as super cop “Shaft,” Roots, and Gray’s Anatomy. Men aren’t taught to do self exams and don’t get mammograms. The only reason Richard discovered his is he’s a self-professed hypochondriac who’s always going to the doctor about something. Therefore he’s always checking lymph nodes, etc. He discovered the lump in his breast in the shower while filming a movie in Costa Rica. Stay vigilant!! Brenda

  2. Brenda,

    Wow! I didn’t know your mammograms were coming back negative!
    I have had lumps removed from both breasts since 1984, (I’m lumpy with dense breasts) but I opt for 3D mammograms now.
    I agree we should be supporting breast cancer research in October and every month.
    We need to listen to our inner voices because they may know something our doctors don’t.


    • Robin, Most women have dense breasts. Since you’ve had lumps removed since 1984, have you thought about getting genetic testing to see if you carry one of the identified breast cancer genes? It’s another power tool you might consider putting in your toolbox. You might also check on the advisability of having both a 3D mammogram and a regular mammogram. Each has an advantage the other doesn’t have. You’ve also got ultrasounds, which I imagine you’ve had with some of these lumps. xoxo, Brenda

  3. Thank you, Brenda, for standing up to cancer… by demonstrating how, being an advocate, and this informative article telling women exactly HOW we can stand up ourselves!

    • Thank you, Donna. For the most part, October’s Breast Cancer Awareness is a hoax. Even the brands that claim they’re giving to low income women with breast cancer, or research… When you look at an audit of how much they actually give, it’s generally less than 10% of what they make. It’s easy to make ourselves feel good… like we’re doing something to “support” this problem, when we buy a product. I just want everyone to know what’s really going on, and how they can REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE. xoxox, Brenda

  4. Brenda with everything in life that is going on with my husband I have to have a lumpectomy for a non-cancer issue. I have a number of microcalcifications that need to be removed. I want them gone though so I don’t have to worry about them becoming cancer.

    • Oh, Victoria! You have a lot going on right now. I’m sorry. From what I know, you’re making the best decision for your health by having them removed. QUESTION: Have you had a genetic test to see if you carry any of the breast cancer genes? It’s a simple blood test, and would give you some much needed information. Please consider it. xoxox, Brenda

    • Jennifer, Brava!! I hope you have the results, and if you carry any of the breast cancer genes, they also give you informed counseling about what it means and your decision tree options. If you carry one of the genes, I urge you not to “wait and see…. ” These tests give you the power to do something to drastically lower your risk and/or PREVENT you from getting breast cancer. Brenda

  5. After a diagnosis of uterine cancer a few years ago, I requested a test to see if I had a cancer related gene mutation. My brother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 10 years ago (STILL alive today after surgery, chemo and radiation!) and my sister was diagnosed with ovarian Stage IV 5 years ago (she, too, is still alive!). Our parents had died of stroke and heart disease; there were no other known cancer episodes that we knew of in our family. Low and behold, we have the PalB2 mutation which is related to the BRCA 2 mutation. I had never heard of it before. Now I get checked with mammograms alternating with MRIs and checks by my doctors so that my breasts get attention every four months. I could have a mastectomy, but I’ve had five surgeries already and would rather have the checks instead; even prophylactic surgeries can have complications, so I’ve decided to pass.

    • Wow Luckey! I’m happy to hear your brother and sister are still alive, but am not surprised to learn you carry one of the genes. There are a lot of breast and ovarian… and other types of cancer… genes scientists haven’t developed markers for. I understand you’re desire to “wait and see… ” I do, but I think it comes down to what is your “risk”… the percentage chance you will develop breast cancer? After having the genetic tests done, I discovered I’m BRCA 2 positive. My risk of developing breast cancer was 85%. I wish I’d known that BEFORE I was diagnosed with breast cancer. If you didn’t receive any genetic counseling along with this, you need to go back and demand it, especially with your family history. There are risks with any prophylactic surgery, but I imagine they’re MUCH LOWER than risking your survival with cancer. Please think about it! Brenda

    • Thank you, Sandra! I hope so. I believe we all have a little voice… an intuition… that talks to us. The key is how in tune with ourselves and our body are we? Do we slow down enough to listen… It’s there. xoxo, Brenda

  6. So sorry for your cancer ordeal, but glad you have come through it. Your powerful intuition probably saved your life and is an excellent example for all of us in any medical situation. We so often defer to experts instead of our own inner wisdom. I figure that donating to breast cancer research often means throwing money at Big Pharma which I am loath to do. Will check out your link to find a better avenue of support.
    And while, no, it is not a guarantee, eating a whole food plant based diet or at the very least cutting out dairy is highly preventative.

    • Thanks for your comment, Penelope. So many of us look at doctors like they’re Gods, but they make mistakes, just like we do. If we’re in tune with ourselves, we know our bodies better than anyone.
      About throwing money at Big Pharma… That’s something I know a lot about. I sold a public company to Big Pharma, so there are two sides to that coin. Also please know that most of the important cancer research is done at a medical school level. These scientists survive by the grant money they can secure to do their research, so they’re not inclined to share it with anyone. They play it close to the vest and would never thing about collaborating with someone who’s working on the same thing.
      The best thing Stand Up 2 Cancer has done is select the best researchers, all over the world, who are working on the same problems and pair them together with research money that doesn’t have any strings attached. SU2C sends out a “call for submission” for everyone working on a particular problem. It’s from those submission they choose the best candidates. Researchers who used to be competitive and jealous of one another are now best friends, collaborating and even going on family vacations together, and the important discoveries made by SU2C teams outnumber all of the other research methodology/grants/results. SU2C has truly rewritten the research paradigm. Please do give them serious consideration.
      And I agree with you about the plant based diet and cut back on dairy. That’s how I eat, but I still got breast cancer. Thanks so much for your awesome comment, Brenda

  7. Thank you Dear Brenda for sharing and caring. I realise that this blog is your ‘good works’ to the world and your vehicle to try and prevent unnecessary suffering for others. Your efforts are appreciated and applauded.
    Maybe I have missed previous posts where you have written more in depth about your cancer journey, as I am a relative new comer, but I would love to hear your advice for types of surgeries, options for chemo and radiation, and your personal experiences with these, how you coped, and exactly how it changed your life forever, as you alluded to in this brief article. We all just seem to go around completely unaware until tragedy strikes and then we have no idea of what the reality will be. Considering that cancer is so pervasive, almost like the plague to those who lived centuries ago, it may help those of us who have not had to deal with it to learn more from those who have. You write so well and get to the point.


    • TJ, Thank you! I appreciate your comment and kind words. For several years I had the Top Breast Cancer Blog and wrote about all of the topics you’re interested in. After my husband unexpectedly died on Christmas Day… soon to be eight years ago… I finally got to the point where I couldn’t write about cancer anymore. I wanted to address all issues that face us as women of a certain age, so that’s why I started 1010ParkPlace. Your questions about types of surgeries and treatment options could fill a book. How I coped is another matter. My coping techniques are part of the vast majority of my current 1010ParkPlace blog posts. I think you’ve read enough of my blogs to know my main theme is “surviving what life throws at us” and “how to do that.” “How to be strong, calm women in the face of a storm.” Should you ever be diagnosed with breast cancer… and let’s hope that never happens… let me know and I’ll give you the best online resources to help you. Even with the best resources, treatment and doctors, it all comes down to how well we cope. How well we do what’s in our best interest mentally, emotionally and physically, and hopefully I’m providing you with the best resources for that like Belleruth Naperstek’s Guided Imagery audios. I write about them frequently and recently interviewed this amazing woman. Don’t wait until you have a problem to listen to her audios… on a regular basis. She has audios I listen to every day while putting on my makeup and getting dressed that help center me and keep me strong is every way possible. I’m always happy to see you here, TJ. Thank you. xoxox, Brenda

  8. What a blessing to live to tell your story and to empower others with it. As your BRCA sister, I salute you. I’m not the same since I was diagnosed with the genetic mutation…thank God, I’m not the same woman. The challenges associated with the prognosis deepened me and led to spiritual growth which may not otherwise have occurred. I was booted out of my comfort zone and ushered into liminal space. Previving is highly underrated and has been a path to Love. xox

    • Michele, How beautifully stated, but I must ask… As someone who knows they carry the BRCA gene, do you also know what your risk/percentage of getting breast cancer is? If you don’t, please find out. You should have received genetic counseling when you were given this information. As a BRCA2 gene carrier, my risk of getting breast cancer was 85%, but I didn’t learn this until after I’d been diagnosed. You must have those statistics because just knowing you carry one of the breast cancer genes isn’t enough. Regardless of your risk, only you can decide if you’re comfortable with playing a “wait and see” game. Knowing what I know now… If I’d been forewarned and knew I had even a 10% risk of getting breast cancer, I would have had both of my breasts removed and reconstructed. Once you’ve gotten breast cancer… It’s too late. I know women diagnosed with Stage 0 that’s recurred and killed them. xoxox, Brenda

    • Brava, Diane!!! That’s one of the smartest decisions you’ve ever made. You might want to what I said to Michele@hellolovelystudio right before what I’m sending you here. Knowledge is power! Once you get it, don’t just sit on it. Make sure you really understand what the results mean. xoxox, Brenda

  9. Thanks Brenda for sharing your story. I am so sorry you had to go through all of your pain but happy to see you use it to help educate and encourage others!
    I also thank you for recommending the most credible cancer research group.

    • Hi Kim, That’s why I write my blog, to empower women and help them survive and cope with anything life throws at them. As you know, life isn’t easy, but it’s helpful to find a tribe of other women who have the same questions and issues. Thank you, sweet friend, for leaving me a comment. I appreciate you. xoxo, Brenda

  10. Thank you, Brenda, for sharing your experience in your well-written piece. I, too, as a survivor of endometrial cancer (4th leading cause of cancer among women, according to the CDC), support Stand Up to Cancer! It is indeed the most credible and cancer research-focused organization in the world. It’s also a great organization to make donations in honor of a friend or loved one. I wholeheartedly agree with you; every time I see pink ribbons and hear the word awareness, my blood boils because we need to prevent all types of cancer through research!!!

    • Hello Susan! I’m happy to know you’ve had endometrial cancer and have made it through to the other side. It is one of the female cancers we need to talk about more. Even I don’t know that much about it. I think the world of SU2C and founder, Sherry Lansing. They’ve changed the way scientists are not only looking for answers but the way they’re funded. And when you dig into SU2C’s financials, 100% of funds raised are given to bring the best researchers from all around the world together to work on a given problem. The answer lies with this paradigm research shift, not shifty organizations like Komen. Blessings to your continued good health, Brenda

  11. Thank you for pointing out the “Komen” is only about keeping management in private jets, I am enraged here at our golf club who keeps supporting the Komen fraudulence; they tell us “It’s for a good cause.” Ignorance.

    • Hi Lynn, Komen is smart in that the “local Komen chapters” get that community’s movers and shakers on the local board, which makes fund raising, walks for “the cure,” etc. easier. In defense of the movers and shakers and your golf club… The vast majority of people are not educated about Komen’s disgraceful history and/or if they’ve read or heard something, they don’t want to believe it. Practically speaking, it’s easier for them all to think they’re doing a good thing by supporting and giving to Komen. For eons, we’ve all heard the story behind why Nancy Brinker founded Komen… a promise to her sister, dying of breast cancer. It tugs at the heart strings. In the early days of my Top Breast Cancer Blog, Komen’s Director of Marketing & Communications for Komen national contacted me and asked me to help them with their “image.” Well-placed people… like me… in the breast cancer community told me, “Komen is only using you,” but I went ahead and gave them a great opportunity to talk monthly, to my blog readers and on my Facebook page…. I had a huge audience. I told Komen that in some way, “they were going to have to own their mistakes, and say we’re doing better.” They told me they would, but they did not. Just the opposite. They defended themselves/attacked their critics. It was at that point they lost my support. It’s hard when our heroes fall, but people need to know about the Pink Shopping Hoax and Komen! LOL! You didn’t expect this long answer, did you, Lynn? I appreciate that you read my post and took the time to comment. Thank you, Brenda

  12. Brenda you never cease to amaze me. I am in awe of your honesty, eloquence and courage.
    I subscribe to many blogs by women at midlife, and I find that yours is one of the only ones that I read religiously. It is informative, poignant and interesting. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and thoughts with us.
    XO Lesley

  13. Thank you, Lesley. I appreciate your comment. It makes me happy and grateful. The purpose of my blog is to be as transparent as I can about everything women of a certain age need to know, be aware of or that might help them in some way. With that as my compass, I can write about anything and as you know… I do. It’s nice to know you like and read my blogs. xoxox, Brenda

  14. That little voice in our heads can sometimes know more than the experts can’t it Brenda? If you hadn’t have listened to yours then your story may have had a vastly different ending. I’m so glad you’re still here to advocate and tell your story. I religiously have my mammograms now – after thinking it didn’t matter, and then re-thinking and realizing how silly it was to put off something that was a free service and could mean the difference between life and death.
    MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    • Thank you, Leanne. Especially smart when it’s free, and yes… Can save your life. Thanks for sharing as well. I never think my comment posted on your blog. It only offers me “google.” Is there a way you can add “website url” to that? A lot of blogs have added that option after “google.” Thanks! Brenda

  15. Brenda, I am so happy to have discovered your blog through #MidlifeShareTheLove. Thank you for exposing the Pink Shopping Hoax. Microcalcifications, mentioned by a commenter, is an issue for many of us, which is why I’m so glad to have learned earlier this year about Vitamin K2 MK-7 that, along with a few other nutrients, prevents calcium from being laid down in soft tissue (breasts, kidneys, arteries) and directs it to the bones and teeth. My sister died of breast cancer, so it’s always at the back of my mind.

    • Hi Jean, I haven’t heard about the Vitamin K1 MK-7 so will check into that. Also, if your sister died of breast cancer, have you had the blood test to see if you carry one of the breast cancer genes? So easy. So powerful to have this knowledge. It could save your life. Thanks, Brenda

  16. Hello Brenda

    I am coming via the Contessa as she told me you had not reached me, and apparently my email did not reach you. Oh, this is about my English garden tour

    but when I come here and read your story it touched my soul. So many friends of mine have been effected about this disease. one whom is young has “chemo brain” after beating the cancer, she is in a care home. loved your charity advice, how sound, and oh so true. Hope our paths cross someday
    ps; you can reach me at the email below

    • Hi Debra! Thanks for reaching out about your garden tours. I will email you back!! The young woman’s chemo brain is so bad she’s in a care home? Oh! That’s so tragic! I have a bad case of chemo brain, but can still function by myself. I can’t imagine… xoxo, Brenda

  17. You have just clarified my thoughts precisely. This whole obsession with buying or wearing a pink this or that for BCAM has become yet another commercial exploitation, the next thing you know it will be made a holiday, none of which is going to help those with breast cancer. Thank you for putting into perspective what we really should be doing.

    • Karen, It’s disappointing when our “heroes” disappoint us, but better we find out now, especially when the bottom line is life and death. Thank you for your comment. I so appreciate it, Brenda

    • Contessa, I had TWO MAMMOS. BOTH WERE NEGATIVE… Tell me that wasn’t the voice of God speaking to me. It was only because I DEMANDED they take it out that they found breast cancer. Good, God, is right! Gives you pause for thought, doesn’t it? xoxox, Brenda

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