In Her Words: Moving Forward in a Post-Surgical World

 Everywhere you look, it seems there are blogs, posters, and articles that talk about how to stay positive while battling breast cancer. This is not a bad thing. It’s important for women to be encouraged and think good thoughts as they are dealing with such a serious illness.

However, when our only focus becomes positive reaffirmations and fuzzy pink boas, we forget to talk about another side of having cancer—a side that needs to be discussed.

We forget to talk about the ugly, dark, painful, uncomfortable, and scary side of having cancer.

We know, this isn’t a conversation that anyone enjoys having.

But it’s important.

Why? Because understanding the “uglier” sides of battling cancer is a part of what helps women move forward after their courageous battle.

Betsi Green, a breast cancer survivor and a patient at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, wants to help women who are in the same situation as she was by sharing her story.

She hopes her story will help breast cancer survivors find peace and comfort as they make the transition into a post-surgical world—despite the challenges and discomforts that come with recovery.

Here’s Betsi’s story in her own words…

“Cancer is ugly.  Cancer is raw.  Cancer is painful.  Cancer is more than simply losing your hair.” – Betsi Green

On the first of November, Dr. Paul Baron did a right skin sparing modified radical mastectomy with lymphatic mapping and sentinel node biopsy. In short that means Dr. Baron removed my right breast and a handful of lymph nodes.

In the operating room, Dr. James Craigie inserted an expander where my breast had been. The expander, as its name suggests, is used to expand the skin and keep the tissue viable for the reconstruction surgery.

During surgery, the expander is filled with air.  Shortly after surgery, in a follow up appointment, the expander is filled with a saline solution.  This is done in the surgeon’s office.  The syringe is inserted in the center of the expander.

Let’s talk about the expander.  It wasn’t painful. It was uncomfortable. It was very uncomfortable.

It was difficult to bend over.  I felt like I had a brick on my chest.  It was difficult to have water from the shower hit my tender skin. It was difficult to have material touching my skin.

Did I say it was uncomfortable?

The skin felt very thin and pulled, which I expected, just didn’t expect it to be as tight as it felt.  Sleeping with the expander kept me to my left side or on my back.

It wasn’t until the first week of December, I noticed something was wrong.  The bottom half of my expander had turned red.

Anytime you have a foreign object in your body, you want to keep a close eye on how it looks and/or feels.  This bright red color told me something, and it was not good.

I did not feel any different.  I had no pain.  The uncomfortableness of the expander remained. These days, I really didn’t care what my chest looked like.  However, in this case, looks mattered and I “kept an eye” on it.  I was hoping it would simply go away on its own.

It turned out my expander was infected.

I share this with you for one particular reason:  SPEAK UP!  If you are uncomfortable, go see your team. If you think something is wrong…it probably is!  There are things they can do to help the comfort level.

Don’t be shy.  You are (or should be) in control of your cancer journey as much as possible. The doctors and their staff are not mind readers.  Let them know if you need an “adjustment”.

Ask them how they can help you be more comfortable.

The cancer dance is an ongoing experience.  My dance has been ongoing since June 2016.  It will continue thru the 2017 calendar year.  One appointment, one diagnosis, one doctor, one surgery, one chemotherapy treatment, and one CT scan does not complete the experience.

There are a lot of ugly things that can happen as you recover from your battle with breast cancer. But if you know about them, and speak up, you will be able to get the help you need.

You can make a huge difference in how your own personal cancer treatments affect you.

Be confident and as comfortable as possible as you move forward thru your own individual journey. And by all means…keep moving forward.

-Betsi Green

Check out Betsi’s blog and read more about her journey here.

Do you have any words of wisdom on recovering from breast cancer? Share them below!

 

10 Important Breast Cancer Facts

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Because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to highlight the significance of this serious illness. Below you’ll find a list of 10 facts about breast cancer.

This post pairs well with our 10 Breast Cancer Fundraising Ideas post. If you want to raise money for awareness, the ideas we shared in that post will help get you started.

Now let’s go over these very important facts:

1. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. The bright side of this is women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. How? With a mammogram — the best screening test to detect signs of breast cancer.

2. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

3. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women. It is estimated that over 40,000 women will die from breast cancer every year.

4. Men get breast cancer, too. Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 410 will die each year.

5. Breast cancer rates vary by ethnicity. Rates are highest in non-Hispanic white women, followed by African American women. They’re lowest among Asian/Pacific Islander women.

6. Genetics have a role in breast cancer. Breast cancer risk is approximately doubled among women who have one first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with the disease. On the other hand,more than 85 percent of women with breast cancer have no family history.

7. Breast cancer risk increases as you get older. Even though breast cancer can develop at any age, you’re at greater risk the older you get. For women 20 years of age, the rate is 1 in 1,760. At 30, it significantly jumps to 1 in 229. At 50, it’s 1 in 29.

8. It’s the most feared disease by women. Yet, breast cancer is not as harmful as heart disease, which kills 4 to 6 times the amount of woman than breast cancer.

9. The majority of breast lumps women discover are not cancer. But you should still visit your doctor anyway, even though 80% are benign.

10. There is so much HOPE! There are currently more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone — and this number continues to climb each year.

It’s important to understand the facts about breast cancer, and learn how you can support loved ones and friends who are suffering from this illness, or have been affected by it. To learn more about breast cancer, you can download a PDF about the last 2013-2014 breast cancer facts from cancer.org.

To learn more about our mission, our practice, and our team, start here and meet our doctors.

10 Important Breast Cancer Facts

3271997270_913bef3408_z

Because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to highlight the significance of this serious illness. Below you’ll find a list of 10 facts about breast cancer.

This post pairs well with our 10 Breast Cancer Fundraising Ideas post. If you want to raise money for awareness, the ideas we shared in that post will help get you started.

Now let’s go over these very important facts:

1. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. The bright side of this is women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. How? With a mammogram — the best screening test to detect signs of breast cancer.

2. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

3. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women. It is estimated that over 40,000 women will die from breast cancer every year.

4. Men get breast cancer, too. Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 410 will die each year.

5. Breast cancer rates vary by ethnicity. Rates are highest in non-Hispanic white women, followed by African American women. They’re lowest among Asian/Pacific Islander women.

6. Genetics have a role in breast cancer. Breast cancer risk is approximately doubled among women who have one first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with the disease. On the other hand,more than 85 percent of women with breast cancer have no family history.

7. Breast cancer risk increases as you get older. Even though breast cancer can develop at any age, you’re at greater risk the older you get. For women 20 years of age, the rate is 1 in 1,760. At 30, it significantly jumps to 1 in 229. At 50, it’s 1 in 29.

8. It’s the most feared disease by women. Yet, breast cancer is not as harmful as heart disease, which kills 4 to 6 times the amount of woman than breast cancer.

9. The majority of breast lumps women discover are not cancer. But you should still visit your doctor anyway, even though 80% are benign.

10. There is so much HOPE! There are currently more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone — and this number continues to climb each year.

It’s important to understand the facts about breast cancer, and learn how you can support loved ones and friends who are suffering from this illness, or have been affected by it. To learn more about breast cancer, you can download a PDF about the last 2013-2014 breast cancer facts from cancer.org.

To learn more about our mission, our practice, and our team, start here and meet our doctors.

Ask The Doctor – Will My Weight Impact My Breast Reconstruction Surgery Goal?

<alt="pink rose"/>This week, Dr. Richard M. Kline of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question.

QUESTION: Hello, I’m a breast cancer survivor. My doctors will not do a reconstruction because they say I have to lose weight. The medicine I’m taking causes me to have body aches and pains, and I’ve gained weight because of it. I’m also afraid that my cancer will return. I’m financially strained and really feel left behind when it comes to improving my body; I want to feel whole again and wanted. I just turned 50 and have been cancer free since June 2011. I’m excited to have another chance to live, but I want to feel like a whole woman again with complete confidence. What are my options? Thank you for your time.

ANSWER: Hi there, I’m sorry you’re having these problems, but we will help if we can. We have learned from hard experiences that it can be dangerous to do reconstruction with your own tissue (we do not do implant reconstruction, as a rule) in patients who are significantly overweight. That being said, the guidelines for using tissue are not strictly rigid, and it depends to some extent on how the extra fat is distributed in your body. If you would like to investigate further, we could have our nurse Chris or PA Kim call and chat with you. Thanks again for your inquiry. Have a great day!

Dr. Richard Kline

Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical care you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask us!

Lowcountry Cancer Survivors Celebrate at Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat CharlestonDid you know that the Chinese sport of dragon boat paddling is alive and well right here in Charleston?

Founded in 2003, Dragon Boat Charleston (DBC) aids mental and physical wellness for cancer survivors through dragon boating. According to DBC’s website, the group’s goals are . . .

  • To encourage healthy healing and healthy lifestyles through goal oriented exercise, good nutrition, education, and fellowship.
  • To support the beneficial effects of physical activity in survival through research.
  • To provide a positive model for our community demonstrating courage, determination, and team cooperation.
  • To advance the sport of dragon boating.

For many of its participants, dragon boat paddling is a celebration of life. They love becoming one with the river, using the paddles to break the surface, and experiencing the cool evening air or the sun’s empowering warmth. Paddling any time of day is energizing and helps them celebrate life as cancer survivors. DBC also helps them promote their own health through other programs, such as yoga and nutrition education.

Research shows that physical activity and an active lifestyle may improve breast cancer survival rates as well as help survivors heal emotionally from their ordeal. Dragon boat paddling is unusual, pleasantly strenuous, and a lot of fun!

DBC participates in several races each year, and its members enjoy the camaraderie of other breast cancer survivors and friends year-round. If you walk along the Ashley River, you’re likely to see DBC members doing what they enjoy—paddling hard to prepare for their next race, which is the 6th Annual Charleston Dragon Boat Festival on May 4.

Dragon Boat Charleston

The Festival will be held on the shores of the Ashley River at Brittlebank Park, off Lockwood Drive. You’ll enjoy dragon boating races along with a cancer survivor celebration that includes plenty of food, costumes, and tents. The first heat begins at 8 a.m. While registration is now closed, there is a wait list you can add yourself to by emailing melabriola@gmail.com.

DBC is attempting to raise $100,000 this year, and they are almost halfway there. The funds pay for cancer survivors’ participation in races around the country, year-round paddling several times a week, and the Carolina Celebration Cup.

The sponsors of Dragon Boat Charleston include The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, MUSC, Pure Insurance, Roper St. Francis Cancer Center, Piggly Wiggly, and Trident Health.

To find out more, please visit http://www.dragonboatcharleston.org or www.charlestondragonboatfestival.com.

 

Have you ever paddled on a dragon boat, and what did you think of it?

How One Woman Took Action Against Breast Cancer

Sue Young (right) pictured with Patricia Simon.

Today, the team at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction is honored to share with you an In Her Words post written by a dear friend, breast cancer survivor and active advocate, and the latest recipient of the Charlene Daughtry Award from Komen Lowcountry, Sue Young. She is an inspiration to all women who are facing breast cancer and proves there is strength in numbers and together we can get through anything.

 Read below for our interview with Sue.

1. You are a great advocate and an active volunteer for Susan G. Komen for the Cure  Lowcountry. Tell us what you’ve been doing to support women who are experiencing breast cancer or know of someone who is?

I’m a huge advocate of finding out everything you can about your options once you are told you have cancer.  Most people, me included, don’t really think about it until it happens to you or someone you care about.  I started volunteering with Komen after being diagnosed and reading Nancy Brinker’s book, “Winning the Race – Taking Charge of Breast Cancer”.  I was inspired to be a part of their story, their work.  Because of my diagnosis and participation, I have met and become friends with a number of people spanning all the facets of cancer.  I met doctors, nurses, volunteers, film directors, dragon boaters, comedians, politicians, fund-raisers, hospital and other medical administrators, survivors and co-survivors, and sadly, people that eventually would lose their battle.  Having met so many new and diverse people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, when someone comes to me with questions about cancer, I can tell them what I’ve learned or connect them with people who know much more than that.  I may not be able to answer every question, but I know someone who knows.  The more you know about what you’ll deal with, the better equipped you are to make it down that “pink ribbon” road.  It’s a journey to say the least, and it is so much easier when you don’t have to take the trip alone.    I’ve always had a volunteer spirit, it’s nice to be there when someone needs you.  My mother taught us by example; she always responded when a “need” was presented.  From giving the postman a mayonnaise jar of iced water every day to raising funds to air-condition our elementary school, Mama took action.  She’s 81 and still going strong!

2. You are truly an inspiration to women who have been affected by breast cancer! Tell us how you managed to stay positive and embody the selflessness volunteer spirit while undergoing breast cancer treatment. What inspired you to keep moving forward? 

I was able to stay positive through my cancer treatments in three ways:

1.) I had an amazing support group.  My husband, Tom, was loving, caring, and understanding.  He was committed to me and my well-being through it all.  My family and friends went the extra mile, supporting my decisions, helping with the special things, and keeping the routine things in order.

2.) I had a super medical team.  Everyone, from the doctors to their staff was on their “A-game.”  They were educated, they were professional, they were caring, they were patient, they had a plan and they guided me through every step, every phase.  I felt like I was their only patient, but I knew they were being everything they were to me to others every day.

3.) Each time I started to sink into a depression, God sent someone into my life that seemed to have a bigger battle than I did.  I was reminded on more than a few occasions that I was not alone and that I had the tools to take the next step.  There was always someone that didn’t have the support group, didn’t have the medical team, didn’t get the positive answers that I got.

3. You are the 2012 recipient of the Charlene Daughtry Award from Komen Lowcountry. Tell me a little about this award and what it means to you personally.

I saw the first recipient receive the award at my first Komen Survivor Celebration in October, 2005.  I’d never met Charlene and she had already lost her battle with cancer.  I don’t know that I remember who got it the first couple of years.  It didn’t really became personal to me until  it was awarded to Lucy Spears.  I’d worked with her on a couple of Komen projects.  She was a tremendous volunteer with unending energy and drive – still is.  Bonnie Hancock received it the next year; I served on a committee with her for several years.  Again, selflessness embodied.  Gene Glave received the award last year . . . her last Survivor Celebration.  The Komen Board chose each of these women because they carry on Charlene Daughtry’s dream, her enthusiasm, her courage.  Me?  Part of this group?  I fear I don’t measure up, but I am honored, and I am humbled to be included.  Charlene, the recipients I know, and myself – our common threads?  Breast cancer, a desire to share our stories, our experience, and our courage with others.  Just like the candle-lighting ceremony at each Survivor Celebration, it’s about igniting your own light and passing it on to others.

4. What is the one thing you want all women to know about breast cancer?

Look for it!  Catch it early!  Deal with it!  Do not ignore it!  Know you are not alone.  There’s help every step of the way.

5. You have achieved so much and given back since being diagnosed with cancer. What is next for you in life? 

We’re still a few years from retirement, but that’s the next big thing.  Tom and I want to travel.  We’ve been to some wonderful places already: Jamaica, Hawaii, Barbados. We want to take some longer trips to see more of America up-close.  Of course, we’ll be planning those around small trips to Rock Hill to see my sister’s growing family.  Her third grandchild is due in March.  I want to make sure Kaylee (2-1/2), Wyatt (3 months) and G-baby #3 know they have great-grandparents and a great-aunt and great-uncle in Charleston.  I’m sure I’ll still find time for Komen.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Kaylee didn’t have to worry about breast cancer?

 

Join The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction for the Hats Off to Survivors Event!

Hats OffOn April 15, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Lowcountry Affiliate is hosting Hats Off to Survivors: 2012 Survivor Celebration and Afternoon Tea, and we at the Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction are proud to say we’ll be sponsoring the event!

Both a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and a celebration of breast cancer survivors and co-survivors, the event will be held at the Charleston Mariott. All are welcome, and you can buy tickets online for survivors ($10.00 each), guests ($15.00 each), or for a reserved table of 10 ($200.00).

As part of its celebration, Hats Off to Survivors includes a hat contest, which survivors can enter in one of four categories: most whimsical, most glamorous, most FUNctional, and most representative of Komen.

While everyone is encouraged to wear hats to this event, hats are not required for attendance.

About Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Founded in 1982, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a grassroots movement that raises money for breast cancer research while raising awareness about the disease, its prevention, and its treatment. Part of the organization’s mission is to improve the quality of medical care available to those diagnosed with breast cancer and to inspire researchers to continue searching for a cure.

We at the Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction are happy to put our support behind Susan G. Komen events as part of our mission of improving the lives of the women we meet and work with every day.

Hats Off to Survivors Event Details

Who: Susan G. Komen for the Cure & the Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction

What: Hats Off to Survivors: 2012 Survivors Celebration and Afternoon Tea

When: Sunday, April 15, 2012, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Where: Charleston Mariott, 170 Lockwood Blvd. Charleston, SC 29403

Reserve your seat here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

How One Survivor Refuses to Let Cancer or Life Slow Her Down

Our team at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction is honored to share with you an In Her Words post written by a dear friend and breast cancer survivor, Sharon Hawkins.

You are the founder of Grace in the Wilderness: A ministry for Today’s Business Woman, tell us a little bit about your organization and what lead you to create this inspirational place for women?

Grace In The Wilderness is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is an out-reach ministry whose mission is to encourage women of all ages:

  • To look upward to God as they discover Him in a new and deeper way,
  • To look inward as they discover who they are in Christ, and
  • To look outward as they discover God’s plan for their lives.

We sponsor 5 conferences a year–Valentine’s Tea for Widows (Feb.), Women’s Conference (2 days, last weekend of Feb.), Conference for Moms of Special Needs Children (June), Teen Conf (Oct.) and a Christmas Brunch for Moms Who Have Lost Children (Dec.).

We also issue a bi-monthly Women’s Newsletter (GITW) and a quarterly newsletter for Teen Girls called “Gracie’s Way”.  We welcome our readers to also share their stories. These are free email newsletters, subscriptions at our website: www.wildernessgrace.org.

In March of 2008, my mother passed away after battles with breast cancer and colon cancer. During her 3-year illness, my plate was so full–I helped care for her through cancer and for my dad with Parkinson’s, ran a very busy business with 10 employees, all the while being a wife and a mother to a teenage son and a special needs younger son.  After Mom’s death, I was so weary and I prayed and asked God to please take something off my plate.  His answer shocked me–He called me to start a ministry for today’s busy women and He didn’t take anything away.  Later, when I was seeking answers about why He wanted me to juggle all these things, God revealed to me simply that if I was going to minister to busy women, I had to be one.  Wow, why didn’t I think of that?

What did you hope to accomplish through founding Grace in the Wilderness, what is your vision for the future?

I hope to help other busy women find the help, love, support, forgiveness and grace that I have found from my relationship with Jesus Christ.  Life is hard with God.  In my opinion, it’s impossible without Him!

Grace In The Wilderness has grown.  I added a Partner, my friend Marie Pritchett, right after starting the ministry and now there are many volunteers who make up “Team Grace”. God has given us a special focus and compassion to also reach those in the very difficult situations of life, those “impossible” situations we refer to as “wildernesses”.  Our vision for the future is to expand to reach out to other special groups, such as single moms, teen moms, abused women, and other groups who are hurting and need encouragement and support.  We hope to add a conference for cancer patients and their families as our next step.

I see you host quite a variety of events, can any women’s organization hold an event with you?

We don’t exactly hold events for other women’s organizations.  But we are always open to working in conjunction with and supporting groups who help women as long as it allows us to stay true to our mission.

What impact has Grace in the Wilderness had on your own life?

I really thought Grace In The Wilderness was about our helping others through their wildernesses. Again, what was I thinking?!?  It seems that, once again, if I’m going to minister to this group of women, those in hard places, God wants me to know what that’s like.

In June 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  In July 2011, I had double mastectomies.  In August 2011, I had silicone implant surgery.  After several months of my body rejecting those implants, in November 2011, I had DIEP Flap breast reconstruction with Drs. Kline and Craigie in Mt. Pleasant, SC.  (The Drs. and Chris are the best and East Cooper is a wonderful hospital.)

Also in November of 2011 just before my third surgery, I was diagnosed with melanoma and I had to have an out-patient procedure for that.

In the midst of this six months of chaos, my employee, who was my best friend (notice I said “was”), was sent to federal prison for embezzling more than $600,000 from me and my business. What?!?  Yes, unbelievable, I know.

But what’s more unbelievable is that I sit here now 100% cancer free.  I was diagnosed with two cancers within five months and the doctors were able to remove them both completely-no chemo, no radiation.  Through my own wilderness experiences, I’ve found that God’s provisions are endless and through serving others, I’ve learned that you simply can’t outgive God.  That’s God’s amazing grace in the wilderness and that’s what our ministry is all about.

About Sharon

Sharon Hawkins wants others to know that she is totally in love with Jesus. In 2008, she answered God’s calling to begin a
Ministry called Grace in The Wilderness.. Sharon’s the wife of her best friend, Scott, and the mother of two very special boys, Taylor (16), and Bradley (10), that she and Scott adopted from Ukraine as a toddler. As a businesswoman, she owns Benefit Resources where she works with 12 amazing women who together seek to put God first in the business. She loves fun, mission trips, reading, camping and spending time with her family and friends.

 

Improving Your Self-Esteem after Mastectomy

breast reconstructionA mastectomy affects you not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Many women feel like a vital part of them has been taken away, and their self-esteem suffers as a result. If these feelings aren’t resolved, they can lead to depression and other issues. It’s important that if they surface, you recognize them and know you can find help.

Focus on the positive.

While the surgery itself may not be a positive thing, focusing on being optimistic helps your self-esteem. You may decide on breast reconstruction and feel excited about having new breasts, or you may be heartened by the fact that you’re now a breast cancer survivor and can move forward with your life. Often, mastectomy patients find that the smallest things, such as a drive in the mountains or a sunrise, bring them joy.

Allow yourself to grieve.

You’ve had a loss, and it’s likely to provoke the same feelings of grief as losing a loved one. You may feel denial or anger, which is perfectly normal. Allow yourself to experience those feelings instead of minimizing them or holding them inside. If you feel the need for a grief counselor, ask your doctor or religious professional for a referral. A hospice bereavement counselor may also be a good choice.

Talk it out before, during, and after.

Whether you feel relief that the cancer is gone, grief over losing a part of your body, or hesitation in allowing your partner to see you right after your mastectomy, talk it out with someone you trust. Many women confide in their partners first, while others may turn to a family member, fellow breast cancer survivor, or therapist.

Find someone you feel comfortable with, and don’t be afraid to express yourself. The more you bring out in the open, the better you’ll feel.

Consider breast reconstruction as soon as possible.

Many patients look at natural breast reconstruction as their chance to finally have the breasts they’ve always wanted. They become very involved in learning what the surgery entails and what their options are. In fact, reconstruction often improves our patients’ self-esteem because their new breasts signal a new beginning, which is exciting and empowering.

In fact, our happiest patients are those who choose to have reconstruction at the same time as mastectomy, which reduces self-esteem issues.

Treat yourself.

This is the time to celebrate the amazing, unique woman you are. Be kind to yourself, and treat yourself to what you desire as often as you can. Travel, go shopping, and pursue those dreams.

If you’re a survivor, what advice can you give?

“Get Your Squeeze On!” How One Woman Is Spreading Awareness about Mammograms

When we heard that our former patient, Lee McCracken was launching her own line of tees to help raise money and spread the word for breast cancer awareness, we were thrilled!

We interviewed Lee on her new endeavor with her fabulous “Yes, Ma’am! mammograms are a must” tees and also discovered a little bit about her journey through breast cancer and life after cancer.

Read this inspirational interview below (NOTE: all images in this post were provided by and are owned by Lee McCracken):

1. You started the “Yes, Ma’am! mammograms are a must” tees. Tell us a little about this unique tee and what inspired you to create it? Where do funds go for those who purchase the tee?

I admit it—I NEVER liked getting a mammogram. But then I discovered I disliked breast cancer even more! I’m a two-year survivor and a former patient of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction. This year, my girlfriends and I decided to be a little more organized for the Komen Race for the Cure in our home city of Charlotte, NC. We needed a name and a T-shirt.

So, I began brainstorming.

I tried to think of a fun phrase that was upbeat and also inspirational. “Yes, Ma’am! mammograms are a must” popped into my head one day in May. Of course, the apostrophe in ma’am is the pink ribbon! My girlfriends encouraged me to merchandise the tee on a local, regional—and, dare I say, national—level.

The face of the under-insured and uninsured woman has changed. Given this economic climate, many women, naturally, are putting their children first before seeing to their own healthcare needs. I want to help fund mammograms for women who don’t have health insurance. Locally, 15% (or $3 of every $20 tee sold) is going to the Carolinas Breast Cancer Fund to help women who are qualified by the Mecklenburg County Health Department.

Individuals, groups, and retail outlets who sell the tee in other cities may designate a charity in their community to receive the funds. Anyone interested should connect with me via e-mail: sales@yesmaamtee.com.

yes maam tees

2. What do you hope to accomplish through selling the “Yes, Ma’am!” tee? In other words, what is your vision for the future of the tee and its effect on women?

Wouldn’t it be fun if women all over started wearing their “Yes, Ma’am! mammograms are a must” tees to the coffee house, grocery store, and gym? It makes a sassy statement in Southern style, and people take notice. I’ve seen women look at my tee and then kind of shake their head, almost to say, “Oh yeah, I need to schedule that.”

The Facebook page is generating interest from all over the country. The tee has fans from California to Oklahoma and Florida to Vermont.

A cancer nurse once told me that when breast cancer is caught in Stages 0-1, treatment can be so much easier and survival rates soar. Let’s strive for 100% early detection!

3. What inspired you to start your own freelance writing / editing business, Joyfullee Written, at the age of 49 and what do you provide others with through this business?

I’ve been writing and editing for more than 25 years, sometimes as a freelancer and other times on staff with a local lifestyle or parenting magazine. The formal launch this summer of Joyfullee Written was my birthday gift to myself. I will turn 50 in October and, not only have I survived breast cancer, but I have also survived several other heartbreaking losses. I’m also working on a book—an inspirational memoir about self-discovery and spiritual preservation through motherhood and menopause. Joyfullee Written comes from the fact that all my inspiration and strength spills from the fountain of God’s grace.

Joyfullee Written provides professional writing / editing services to magazines and businesses. I enjoy meeting people and helping them reach their audience through a well-crafted, targeted message. And, with a passion for lifelong learning, this is helping me to keep discovering new things every day.

4. What is the one thing you want all women to know about breast cancer?

The earlier it’s detected the more treatment options women have! I HATE when I hear someone say “I’m a year overdue for my mammogram.” My Stage 1 breast cancer was caught by a mammogram, and I was fortunate not to have to endure chemo or radiation. I know everyone is busy and mammos sometimes are uncomfortable, but it’s crazy to take such a risk.

All my family members and friends know: Get Your Squeeze On!

lee mccrackenAbout Lee McCracken:

Lee McCracken lives with her husband, Stuart, of 28 years in Denver, N.C., a suburb of Charlotte. She has a 19-year-old daughter, Megan, and a 10-year-old Bichon Frise, Benny. She enjoys gardening, photography, reading and traveling. Lee’s girlfriends keep her sane!

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