These are the words that I spoke to the crowd at the Komen 3-Day Walk in Philadelphia this past August.
I was invited by the Susan G. Komen Foundation as a survivor, advocate, and Mohawk employee to say some words of encouragement as everyone embarked on their journey. I reminded everyone to keep moving forward, today and forever, as cancer is indeed a journey that involves constant vigilance.
It has been three years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and this year has been particularly challenging. While I am in remission today, the emotional toll and side effects still continue. I have been struggling with neurological problems and seizures, which after nine months finally seem to be under control. I continue with screening, tests, medication, and I have joined another cancer study related to genetics, this one being done at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania.
More people around me have been diagnosed with breast cancer: two of my friends are undergoing treatment right now, and my cousin was just diagnosed last week. I have another friend whose breast cancer has metastasized – spread to other parts of her body with no cure in sight. With all of this on top of the world news, it’s hard to be positive. And yet, that’s exactly what we need to do: be positive and move forward.
Now more than ever we need to nurture ourselves and take care of each other. We need empathy. We need healing. And we need a cure. One in eight women will get diagnosed with invasive breast cancer; it is an epidemic. Stay on top of your health and don’t become a statistic.
It all starts with prevention. The first step in breast cancer prevention is screening – mammograms starting at age 40, and younger if you have family history of breast cancer, or have genetic markers (or are a carrier of the BRCA gene mutation). You may also need an ultrasound if you have dense tissue. Knowledge is power, and the more you are screened and set a baseline for your imaging the better equipped your doctors will be in detecting any changes over time.
However, screening solely may not detect cancer, and so you also need to do self-exams to check for lumps and tumors. I have had three tumors over the last seven years, and one was caught by a self-exam, one was caught by mammogram, and the third one was seen only from a biopsy. Early detection is key to survival – the earlier you catch breast cancer, especially before it has a chance to spread, the easier it will be to treat and recover. I urge all women to get checked.
Other types of breast cancer prevention involve diet: watching your sugar intake, and for me, watching my soy intake. Not eating processed foods. Health and wellness are a big part of my recovery, keeping a positive attitude and keeping an eye on the future. Keeping active as much as possible (this is still a challenge for me), and of course keeping stress and anxiety in check, which is hard to do when my major source of anxiety is my health. But, I keep moving forward.
I am Royce, and I am more than pink.