Column: 'Breast cancer' doesn't have to be an ugly phrase
confuse all the talk about "Get Pinked" with being tickled pink.
There's a world of difference.
For the next 12 weeks, readers of the Outer Banks Sentinel and other
local media will learn why being involved in The Outer Banks Hospital’s
Development Council's Get Pinked campaign isn't just about women who
deal with the knowledge that they have breast cancer. When the big "C"
word comes into the lives of women -- and sometimes men - the impact is
on the victim's entire family, their network of friends, and their
When I was told that I had breast cancer, my first thought was about my
children, all teenagers at the time. What would happen to them if I was
no longer there to care for them? How would they deal with the news,
and how would I reassure them without possibly misleading them about
what the future might hold?
All three of them seemed to take the news well and didn't ask questions
or want to talk about it. Instead, they were overly attentive and
wanted to wait on me constantly. Somehow, the word had changed our
relationships, and I didn't like it. You never miss arguing, loud
music, and all the other things that teens do until they disappear.
They were afraid and didn't know what to do to make things better --
make things normal again.
And there were my parents. I didn't want to cause them undo fear or
hurt, but I knew that the news would result in both for them. It did.
They tried to be upbeat and say everything was going to be okay while
avoiding any conversation about what the real possibilities were.
While these reactions were immediate and predictable, there were some
that came as surprises -- and not the nice sort.
I was told the news late in the day on a Friday and immediately called
the executive editor to let him know that they were going to operate
the following week. I was a bureau chief at that time and worked out of
an office in a different location from the main newspaper.
On the following Monday, I went to the main office to wrap up some
things and make sure that events and stories that needed to be taken
care of over the next couple of weeks were covered.
Before my arrival, the executive editor told the newsroom staff so that
they would be aware of the need to jump in and help cover my beat.
Usually on my rare visits into the newsroom, there would be comments
and jokes directed toward me. But not this day.
There was mostly silence and several noticeably turned their heads so
that they didn't have to acknowledge my presence. It startled me, and
my first thought was that they were afraid it was contagious. I went
into my boss's office and asked him what the deal was, and he quickly
assured me that they weren't afraid of catching anything. They just
didn't know what to say and didn't want to upset me.
I walked back out into the bull pen and began talking to them about it.
When they realized that I wasn't going to freak out talking about it,
they began to ask questions and offer suggestions. After a few minutes,
one of copy editors said that she was certain that in the future, I
would be able to announce that I was a cancer survivor.
I was pretty much horrified. Why would I want this disease to define
who I was?
It's been 21 years since the "C" word came into my world, and I've
learned a lot since then. Breast cancer doesn't have to be a life
sentence, and there's more to a body than breasts.
If I received the news today that I had breast cancer, my first fear
would be of isolation. In some ways, that was the worst part. No one
around me seemed to be able to just talk to me about it. It wasn't
selfishness on their part. They just forgot that they were still
talking to Sandy, not the Cancer Lady.
Almost everyone knows of someone who had or will have breast cancer.
that the disease doesn't change or define who they are.
them to talk about how they are feeling, what their fears are and what
they think tomorrow may bring.
Early detection can and often does make the difference in the outcome
so encourage those around you to get regular exams.And let's all work
together to find more cures and even possible prevention by joining
How can you Get Pinked? Raise $1,000 and partner with The Outer Banks
Hospital's Get Pinked Campaign to fight breast cancer in Dare County.
The goal is to give every woman and man in Dare County the very best
chance to survive the disease of breast cancer. For more information,
call the hospital's Development Office at: 252-449-9183.
The Outer Banks Hospital Development Council
The Outer Banks Hospital Development Council is a subsidiary of
University Health Systems Foundation in Greenville. The mission of the
council is to develop relationships and secure financial resources to
support the health and wellness services of The Outer Banks Hospital.
Council members have raised funds to underwrite the costs of projects
from the opening a Cancer Resource Center located in the Medical Office
Building adjacent to the hospital and purchasing technology and
equipment for the identification and treatment of cancer and other
is editor of The Outer Banks Sentinel. You can reach her at [email protected])