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Lessons learned in the field

It is an interesting – if not daunting – thing for a 27-year-old man to be assigned to tell the story of a woman who has battled and overcome breast cancer.

It is a plight that, by its very nature, precludes empathic understanding. That is why I was the slightest bit anxious when we determined to base the fall issue of ‘pink’ magazine on breast cancer and the battles of local women.

I am a confident and capable writer, yet I felt ill-equipped to handle such a task adequately.

But what I found upon embarking on the task was riveting. In one breath, the women I met showed both uniqueness and commonality. Each story revealed the individual, unmistakable personality of its main character, but there is an undeniable common thread that unites each.

In the face of such potentially dire circumstances, each woman assessed the situation, scarcely took time to fret and moved forward with vigor and purpose.

It is a tremendous thing to see such resolve in the face of an unforgiving disease.

But, aside from learning a great deal about adversity and how to face it with grace, I learned a lot regarding breast cancer that I did not know.

Now, slightly more educated about the disease than I was before, I have questions.

For instance, why is 40 considered the age to begin baseline mammograms for women with no family history of breast cancer? I grasp that our limited understanding of the disease years ago would logically have dictated that women under the age of 40 were not at risk. However, what we know now is that the disease is indiscriminate. It gives no credence to age or even family history.

A number of women in Marengo County who had no previous family history of breast cancer were diagnosed with the disease prior to the age of 40. With such being the case, why then is 40 still considered the base age?

It seems that women should begin regular checks and, potentially, mammograms much sooner than 40 as early detection is key.

Still, no level of preparedness can prevent the disease. And every woman who is diagnosed with it is faced with the same question as to how she will respond. If the stories that are told in ‘pink’ are any indication, it is more possible than ever to fight and overcome the disease with both grace and strength.