Tuesday, July 24, 2012
God turned my mess into a message
By Lee McCracken, Guest Blogger
Dressed like twins, even though we were 13 months apart, my older sister and I were a striking pair at ages 5 and 6. She had red hair and freckles, and Mom dressed her in blues and greens. I was blond, and I donned the reds and pinks. Perhaps it was foreshadowing, but probably not.
Fast-forward 45 years. Pink is a staple in my wardrobe. Having been diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) in 2009, I’m a member of the pink-ribbon club … whether I like it or not. I am lucky it was caught at Stage 1 (nothing had spread to the lymph nodes), and I now reflect on the nine months of surgery, reconstruction and recovery with a shrug as if it were no big deal. Truthfully, I’m a “glass half full” kinda gal and always tend to look on the bright side.
Before my diagnosis, I NEVER liked getting a mammogram — I was fibrocystic, and it always hurt and required an accompanying ultrasound. Today, I tell women breast cancer hurts even more!
In spring 2011, at the threshold of my 50th birthday, God laid a message on my heart … one that I thought just was going to be my team’s name for a breast cancer walk. Yet, the sassy, upbeat and inspiriting phrase has grown bigger than I could have imagined. At the urging of many marketing-savvy girlfriends, Yes, Maam! Mammograms Are A Must grew into a philanthropic social enterprise and a pink T-shirt I began merchandising on a local, and now a regional and national level.
It’s a simple, straight-forward message that doesn’t sexualize the female body. The feedback has been remarkable — women ages 25-85 and older say, “It’s really catchy!” And even though it’s for women about women, men are embracing the message in support of the ladies they love.
“Get Your Squeeze On!™” is my mantra, because early detection of breast cancer assures more options for treatment and higher survival rates. I envision women all over the country wearing their Yes, Maam! Mammograms Are A Must tee to the coffee house, grocery store and gym. It makes a sassy statement in southern style, and ladies take notice. I’ve seen them look at my tee and then shake their head, almost to say, “Oh yeah, I need to schedule that!” It’s even better when they give me a thumbs-up, indicating their annual appointment is behind them and the report was “all clear.”
Sadly, though, the fear factor is real … and women are BUSY. Research shows more than 50 percent of women ages 50+ either cancel their appointment or never get around to making it. Perhaps they don’t know this fact: When mammograms are scheduled every other year, some 30 percent of breast cancers can be missed.
To be totally honest, when a woman says, “Oh, I keep forgetting …” I want to smack her silly — especially if she has health insurance. Given the current economic climate, many women have to put the needs of their children first before tending to their own health. From the very beginning, T-shirt sales have helped to fund mammograms for women who don’t have health insurance. The cost of the tee is $20, and 25 percent ($5) is donated. Individuals, businesses/groups and stores that purchase or sell the tee are encouraged to designate a women’s healthcare charity in their community to receive the funds (hopefully earmarked for mammograms).
Having been a writer/editor - http://www.joyfulleewritten.com/ - for more than 28 years, I am energized by this second act of my life — an entrepreneur who’s engaging communities of women in the early detection of breast cancer. (Who knew a 50-year-old could master making memes and tweeting?) But beyond learning new skills, I’m living passionately with a new purpose. Building the Yes, Maam! Mammograms Are A Must brand, connecting with awesome women and making new friends is a blessing I never could have imagined three years ago when I heard those fateful words: breast cancer. Yes, Ma'am, I'm a surTHRIVER!
Lee McCracken lives with her husband, Stuart, in Denver, N.C., a suburb of Charlotte. She has a 20-year-old daughter, Megan, and an 11-year-old Bichon Frise, Benny. She enjoys traveling, photography, reading and gardening. Lee’s girlfriends keep her filled with inspiration and laughter!
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