These days, a weekday morning in the Schaffer household is my husband Steve waking up to ESPN (the television is programmed to turn on that way) and waking up the kids with the promise that Nickelodeon's Peppa Pig and Max & Ruby will be waiting for them. I want to be part of the morning process, but sometimes I can't; sometimes things like nausea, a bloody nose, diarrhea, well, all that is my cancer, interrupt what it means to be part of a "normal" Schaffer morning.
On one of those crappy mornings (Tuesday, September 23), I was in bed, asking myself, why am I watching ESPN? I wonder what's on the morning shows? So, I changed the channel to NBC's The Today Show and found myself listening to a telephone interview with Joan Lunden. She just had her lumpectomy the day prior and was planning to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month on the Today Show the next week. They were inviting people to the plaza for this event. It was one of those moments where I was reminded that while my cancer does really suck, I want this year to be about taking chances, taking opportunities to make a difference.
So, I got up out of bed, opened my laptop, and checked out what the October 1 #PinkPower event was all about (an educational segment and a celebration of fighters, survivors, supporters, and those we've lost to breast cancer). I submitted an e-mail with my information and as exchanges with a representative from the show became more concrete, it became clear to me that I had to do this, I had to go to NYC. I knew the trip would be truly special if my mom and sister could come with me and I'm so very thankful that they joined me on the adventure. Sara Ann (my mom) and Mary Susan have the ability to keep me laughing through my fears and anxiety. In this case, my fears revolved around this: we were to arrive to the Today Show at 6:30am and would not be able to access any bathrooms until probably 9am. I was terrified that my nose would bleed, that my stomach would get upset, that my cancer would have the nerve to show up at the #PinkPower event!
As I followed each instruction of the Today Show crew and talked with so many terrific women, I just kept taking deep breaths to enjoy the experience. I wanted to make sure I didn't lose sight of the fact that a mere four months ago, Steve and I sat in an office in Boston and learned about my cancer diagnosis. On October 1, thank goodness, my cancer gave me the morning off! Every single person at the Today Show, including the hosts, were gracious and kind. Matt Lauer shook my hand with care and thanked me for coming. I said, "Thank you for doing this!" Hoda Kotb is exactly as she appears on and off camera - full of love, life, and laughter (made me wonder if she hits the box of wine at 4am). As a breast cancer survivor herself, she spent so much time with all of us (at 6:30am and throughout the show).
It was an honor to meet and stand with Joan Lunden; I loved her and David Hartman on Good Morning America! It was amazing to see her less than two weeks after surgery with such fierce advocacy. I'm heading into the toughest part of my chemotherapy treatments soon - I'm so glad I took the chance to be part of something so positive, so inspiring. I listened to that little voice and I just did it! You can view the Today Show segment: at http://www.today.com/video/today/56155141 Check out Joan's website at www.joanlunden.com. There are some simple things we can do to be our own best health advocates. Here are some suggestions:
1) Set an alarm in your phone to get an annual physical.
2) Make an appointment with a gynecologist if you haven't met with one before.
3) Know your insurance benefits.
4) Select a health organization or foundation to support through fundraising, volunteering efforts.
5) Encourage your mothers, sisters, and friends to do steps 1-4.