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February 15, 2007

It Happens

When I received the call, I had heard earlier that day that my mom is slowly recovering from her flu and my babysitter is recovering well from her gall bladder operation. My babysitter's Sister-in-law, who is filling in while my babysitter recovers, was discussing that her son was just diagnosed with diabetes. Three of my friends have successfully fought breast cancer.  While it is so easy to get caught up with superficial problems, there are times when things happen that make you realize what is really important.

Bethsandy4_1 The call was about one of my dearest friends who was diagnosed with lung cancer 2 1/2 years ago, yet she had not smoked a day in her life. Her name was Sandy Phillips Britt (right) and she died a few days ago. She was brave until the end and took it upon herself to help educate others. To deal with my own grief, I decided to honor her in some way. And then I re-read her article that was just published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Feb 4th: Plea from a dying woman: Get a second opinion:

"If I can impart just one message it is this: When it comes to your life, do not take one person's word for it, no matter how nice and professional they might seem. Even if you need to go outside your HMO or whatever health program you are in, don't hesitate to see top specialists."

I would hope that her legacy can be the Sandy Phillips Britt effect, similar to when Katie Couric underwent a colonoscopy on live TV. Colonoscopy rates jumped 20% in the days and months that followed.  Colon Cancer is 90% curable if caught early.  Lung Cancer is completely operable in the early stages. Early detection is very important. Other brave people in the public eye also came out with their cancer stories to try to help spread the word. We had a breast cancer day on our blog, an important topic but people did not seem to view in. Some do not dwell much on potentially life-threatening illnesses until they are compelled to do so. It is tough to talk about Cancer, but it happens.

I regularly do self exams, but have been putting off having my yearly mammogram. Not for the fact that I feel that breasts should not be flattened like a pancake, but I have been too busy to make an appointment. Many of my mom friends are also so busy taking care of their kids that they miss their own medical appointments, dental exams and even workouts at the gym. I have close relatives that had breast cancer, which means that I may have risk factors that warrent genetic counseling. I researched this out on my own, and brought it up with my doctor who then referred me to the Stanford Cancer Genetics Clinic.  Today I made my appointment for a mammogram and for genetic counseling. The Sandy Phillips Britt effect has inspired me to get on the early detection bandwagon, and to get a second opinion if needed. And I will put join the email list for the Lung Cancer Alliance to assist with advocacy. To make sure voices like Sandy keep getting heard.

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