These awe-inspiring stories remind us all how easy it can be to stop the deadly disease before it’s too late. How? Just by looking out for one another.
‘We made each other get checked out’
Lynn Jones, 55, Camarillo, Calif.
Bethany Boekestein, 30, Roseville, Calif.
Bethany: In 2010 I came home from the hospital with my baby girl, and my mother was in town to help out that first week. As a new mom, I was a little overwhelmed when my milk came in, and I remember having lumps on my breasts from engorgement. When I complained about it, my mom told me offhandedly that she had a lump in her breast as well. I immediately said, “What? Come over here. Let me feel it.” Once I did, I was shocked by how huge it was—the size of a golf ball, and really hard. I was horrified she hadn’t gotten it checked out.
Lynn: I had gone to the doctor several times with lumps that turned out to be benign cysts, so I was convinced this one—which I’d had for about a year—was just another false alarm. Yet as Bethany was breast-feeding, I noticed a mole on her right breast and said, “You need to get that looked at.” For the rest of the week, we continued badgering each other to get checkups. Hoping to set a good example, I called my doctor as soon as I returned home. Days later, I got a mammogram, followed by a biopsy. A week after that, I got the call saying they’d found a large mass in my right breast. I immediately began treatment: four rounds of chemotherapy, a single mastectomy, three more rounds of chemo and five weeks of radiation. And even though Bethany had a newborn, she was there for my first chemo injection and provided great comic relief once my hair fell out. We went to a wig store and tried on wigs together. We even put them on the baby, laughing until we cried. Bethany spent so much time focused on me, I had to twist her arm, reminding her that she needed a checkup, too.
Bethany: Even after my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I still hadn’t gotten my mole checked out—I was too busy worrying about her and caring for my daughter. But after sitting with my mom in the hospital and watching her go through chemo, I knew there was no sense in me putting it off any longer. It was silly for me to be upset at her for waiting so long to get her lump checked out, and here I was doing the same thing! So around six months after her breast cancer diagnosis I made my own appointment—and was diagnosed with a stage 0 melanoma on my right breast. Though small, it was a deadly type that could have quickly gotten worse.
Lynn: During our treatments we became each other’s cheerleaders. Four years later, we are both cancer-free. I can’t help but think that it’s an uncanny coincidence that we both needed that friendly family nudge at the same time to take care of our health. And when I say nudge, I mean me saying, “Get your rear end in the doctor’s office, girl!”
Bethany: Our scars from surgery are in the same place and serve as a reminder not to put things off. I think we both learned our lesson about how important an early diagnosis truly is.
Lynn: To me, our scars are a reminder that none of us is insulated against cancer. But we can insulate our hearts by truly caring for one another.