Other people have written about this (notably Natali, the UberDorkGirlie, and my #HeLP, Ruth), but we all have stories, and the more stories that get out there, the more aware people will be. So here goes.
My strongest feelings about the importance of #BoobieWed, breast cancer awareness, and regular self-exams and screenings may come from the fact that breast cancer has not played an enormous role in my life so far.
When I was eleven, I was brought to the hospital to sit at the bedside of the extraordinary Luther Allison as he slowly, but so slowly, slipped away as the tumor on his brain stem did its work. I held his hand and could not make sense of those long fingers without movement, no longer the genius of a guitar. He could hear me, I was told, but I would get no smile, no teasing about looking just like my mother. That was (at least to begin with) lung cancer, born of years of blues at smoke-level in bars and on concert stages.
My father’s stepmother broke her hip when I was seventeen. She didn’t fall, didn’t run into something; she took a step one day, and her hip fractured. The hospital found that her own years of smoking had begotten tumors that were consuming her body. Time was short.
My sophomore year in college, my friend’s mother’s melanoma returned, ending two years of remission with a diagnosis that left her weeks. Brain lesions. Invisible. Fast. We traveled to New Jersey from Vermont and sat around the family’s kitchen table the night before the funeral while my friend’s father walked around the house like a ghost and we scooped ice cream into bowls like it might somehow numb more than a tongue.
Breast cancer did not kill any of these singular people, nor did it kill another friend’s father, who very happily won that battle. Breast cancer isn’t in any way less serious than lung cancer or melanoma, but you can check yourself for it. I cannot palpate my bones to any real effect, nor can I peer inside my own skull or lungs, but I can grab a feel and know my body as very best I can.
Know your body, love yourself, and don’t let the world miss you any earlier than it has to.