When is the last time you checked your breast?

The month of October is recognized as breast cancer awareness month. I’m sure many of you are like me. You, personally, know someone who is a survivor of breast cancer or who has succumbed to breast cancer. For me, the evils of breast cancer has touched my mom and aunts. Some are survivors, and sadly, I’ve lost loved ones to this disease. This month, I dedicate my blog to all those who are currently undergoing treatment, those who are survivors and those who have left us here on earth.

Breast cancer is not a disease that only affects women. Men can be diagnosed as well. According to http://www.cancer.net, there will be 325,010 women and 2,620 men diagnosed in 2020. There is an estimation of 42,690 deaths (women and men). After lung cancer, breast cancer is the largest cause of death of women. This is why early detection is important.

Each month, women are advised to do monthly breast examinations to detect any abnormalities. The suggested time is a few days after her monthly menstruation begins. If you aren’t sure how you should perform your breast examinations, go to http://www.spottingcancer.org. The website provides step by step instructions on how to do the breast examinations. The reason the examinations are important is because you can detect when you feel a lump that was not there the month before. Get to know your body. The more you know your body, the better it is.

Here are a few statistics on breast cancer. In the history of breast cancer, there have been 3.5 million women diagnosed as of January 2020. African American women, under the age of 45, are more likely to receive a diagnosis than Caucasian women. Statistics have shown African American women are also more likely to die from the disease. The chances of being diagnosed doubles if there is a mother, sister, or daughter that was previously diagnosed. For the 85% that are diagnosed with no family history, it occurs due to genetic mutation (http://www.breastcancer.org).

There are a few things you can do to help decrease your chances of getting breast cancer. Doctors advise each individual to be aware of her/his body mass index. Being overweight increases chances of contracting the disease. One should try to maintain a healthy diet. It is recommended exercise for at least 45-60 minutes several times a week. Other suggestions are the reduction of alcohol and smoking consumption.

Unfortunately, there is no 100% way to totally control the prevention of being diagnosed with breast cancer. You might do everything single thing the doctor says and still be diagnosed. You can receive your annual mammograms as doctors suggest and still be diagnosed. Sadly, there will be some deaths. These losses hurt. Death leaves a void in the lives of family that are left on earth. All they have are memories of their loves ones.

Thankfully, a woman or man that receive those dreaded words “you have breast cancer” does not mean your life will end in death. As statistics have shown, the chances of survival are much higher than it is to die from the disease. Technology and research are better than it was years ago. There is hope. If you are reading this today, you might have cancer or know someone that is going through chemo at this moment. Be encouraged. Surround yourself with family and friends that will support you. Don’t give up. Keeping fighting and tell cancer to that “it” can’t have your life. Let cancer know you will win. Keep the faith and never give up.

“Saying goodbye to what once had a hold on me”

If I were to take a poll and ask what does Labor Day mean to you, I am sure most would say it’s a United States federal holiday and probably excitement if lucky enough to have the day off from work. Some might say it is a day of appreciation for having employment or a day of recognition for all laborers in the workforce. If one were to ask me what does Labor Day mean to you Carman, my will response will not be any of the above. My response goes like this.

Labor Day, September 3, 2012, my life changed forever. One that I will never forget. It is a day for years that carried hurt, anger, depression, embarrassment, and misery in my mind, heart, body, and soul. Initially, it is a day that I wished I could erase from the calendar and never see it again.

You are probably wondering how can Labor Day, a day that is to celebrate having a job, evoke those emotions in me. What is it about Labor Day that would cause this to you? What in the world happened? Here’s the answer. On September 3, 2012, I endured what I call the “walk of shame.”

Let me rewind the clock. I was going through a divorce and seeking joint custody from the courts. If children are over the age of twelve, the children can decide which parent they want to live. The oldest children made the choice to live with their father. I was more of the disciplinarian, and he was the cooler and more laid back parent. If I was child, I probably would have done the same. Because of their selection, he would maintain ownership of the home, and I was informed by my attorney that I would soon have to leave. I just didn’t know when it would be. Believe me when I say, I wasn’t mentally prepared for the day when it arrived. I don’t think there was a way to prepare my mind for it.

August 31, 2012, I received a call from my attorney. He said it is time for you to vacate the house. Immediately, I began to cry and question God. I said this can’t be real. I felt I had been hit by a train, this was a bad dream, and I would awake at any moment. Unfortunately, it was real. He said you have to leave today. I said no. Monday is the holiday. I’m off work. It will give me time to pack my things, and I’ll leave. He agreed.

Monday came, and it was time for me to leave. I dread leaving all day long. I put it off as long as I could. I did not want to go. Who would? This was my home. It was a home that my three children lived. It was a home that my name was still legally on it. Even though I said I needed extra time to pack, I could never put my mind to actually do it. That Monday, I decided all I wanted was my clothes, my books, and my photo albums. He could have everything else.

That dreadful day, some family members were staying the night. Therefore, the house was full. In my mind , the moment I was leaving felt like a portion out of a script from a movie scene. All eyes were on me. As everyone watched, I walked down the stairs with my things in my hands and my head hung low. I loaded up my vehicle and drove to my parents home. Graciously and thankfully, my parents allowed me to move back in with them. When I left their house in June 1999, I never expected I would have to return years later. I felt defeated and broken inside.

Fast forward two years later, one of my best friends was having a tattoo party at her home. It was the weekend of Labor Day. She invited me to come and get a tattoo. I always wanted one, but I was scared to get one. I was raised strict Pentecostal, and one just didn’t get tattoos. I debated in my mind for hours. I came to the conclusion that I would get one and just go for it. I selected an image that has a sun and moon facing each other surrounded by stars. It symbolizes that even though there’ll be dark days (moon) light will soon follow (sun). For me, that was a perfect symbolic image for this thing called life.

For me, that was my first step in taking my life back. Taking my life back wasn’t easy nor was it something that would happen over night. I would have flashbacks of the “walk of shame” each year when Labor Day came. I became depressed all over again. One day, I told myself that I couldn’t keep going through this cycle. This isn’t good, and I needed to snap out of it . It took years for me to not sink to a low place when Labor Day came around. Eventually, I did overcome by my faith in God, praying, seeing a mental therapist, and support from family and close friends.

I am glad that I can humbly say Labor Day no longer has a hold on me. I can celebrate as others. I can be happy that I work at a bank and be one of those people excited about having a federal holiday off. I can ask my friends who’s grilling because I want some BBQ. I can relax, enjoy life and smile.

Here’s to saying goodbye to the “walk of shame” on Labor Day (the thing, the day that once had me bound). The day that once held me hostage in my heart, mind, body, and soul. The day that once took my breath away. The day that changed my life forever. The day that will no longer have a hold on me. Here’s to saying hello to Loving all of Carman: mind, heart, body and soul.