thinking pink…

As many of you are likely aware, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s always pretty amazing to see all of the areas of support and such strong action and it actually makes me hopeful that with so many people banding together, we may actually have a shot at making a serious change. While one month of concentrated efforts is amazing, as an individual it’s even more important to keep it in mind year round. Educate yourself. Take action. Be safe.

On a personal level, I should probably know more than I do. There is a history of cancer in the women in my family. Ovarian and Colon to be exact. Though not breast cancer, the diagnoses are just as scary and the history is sobering. You like to think that you’re prepared, that you won’t be one who has to worry, but the truth of the matter is that you never really know.

I don’t typically talk about boobs on my blog, but here I am. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I was always told about the importance of doing self-breast exams. I know that the exams aren’t fool proof, that if there is ever any question, you should have it professionally checked out, but still… it’s something. In the Fall of 2008, I actually found a lump. Enter panic, tears, and everything else generally associated with a full on freak-out. I called my mom for a few reassuring words and made a plan. I woke bright and early on Monday after a fitful night of sleep and was lucky to get an appointment for that afternoon. The doctor’s initial assessment was comforting, but didn’t fully set my mind at ease. He said it didn’t feel abnormal, as far as large lumps in a breast are concerned. Still, he referred me to a breast specialist at Beth Israel for a consult. I went through all the steps… the biopsy, the period of waiting, and finally the confirmation that it was, indeed, benign. A fibroadenoma to be exact. Huge sigh of relief on my end, but emotionally draining nonetheless. Despite the diagnosis, it was recommended that I move forward with an extraction. The doctors didn’t have any reason to worry about anything changing, but it was a big lump, about 3cm actually. The surgery was scheduled for January of 2009.

My friend Annie was my day-of-surgery companion. The tough exterior that I so often try to flaunt is actually a bit of a front and I’m not sure I would have been able to do it on my own. Annie was a trooper, rising early, staying calm and making me laugh as usual. The doctors assured me that they’d get it out with no problem and would go in around the nipple so as not to leave too much of a scar. I went under listening to my doctors jokes and the soothing sounds of Ella Fitzgerald. I don’t remember much about waking up, but Annie claims that I was a little loopy from the anesthesia. Apparently I told her that my doctor signed my boob and that I tried to flash her in the middle of the very open and crowded recovery room. For the record, he did sign it.

I’m absolutely one of the lucky ones, but the importance of awareness is always on my mind. Be aware. Check yourself. Make sure to schedule annual exams with your doctor. And if you too find yourself among the lucky, make sure to stay strong and supportive for other friends in need.

In Support of Breast Cancer Awareness:
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
The Tutu Project
The Pink Initiative
the NFL goes Pink for October

Helpful Exam Info information:
[remember, self-exams are not typically accepted as an adeuqate means of early detection. It merely a way to keep an eye on yourself and perhaps give you that key tipoff that you need to make a trip to your doctor]
Exam Tips via
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  1. Amy Rossetti says:

    Wow Erin, that was quite a scare! Glad it all turned out ok. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I also remember you waking up, looking at me, and then laughing your ass off and that made me laugh and then a minute later you burst into tears. And I was like oh shit no no no don’t cry, and then you started laughing again and then tried to flash me and I was like no no no Erin not here, you can show me at home. Which, in hindsight, sounds totally bizarre. Then I talked to your mom who also cried and then laughed. Your hospital photo is still the photo that pops up when you call me. It is a reminder of how awesome your boobs are. Also, I made you a lentil salad while you slept.

    • You made it so much more bearable and that was some damn good lentil salad. What in the world happened to that picture anyway? Thank you for being there for me that day — you freaking ROCK and you know I love you:)

      • Bill Whelan says:

        What a story, kiddo. Your description is very vivid. Be glad you have a wonderful friend like Annie, too…so your photo didn’t go viral! and here’s a family rule (that I just made up) You can’t “go” before me…and I don’t plan to “go” for a long time!

  3. So glad it turned out okay and you had such a great friend to be by your side.

    Another great resource I’ve just learned about this year is CancerCare. It’s a national nonprofit dedicated to helping cancer patients and caregivers. They help in ways that doctor’s offices often can’t these days – providing counseling, information and even financial assistance. It’s amazing what they’re doing to help people when they need it most.

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