By Jeannie Blaylock
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Let's just be honest. I'm sure Sue has a brain and a golden heart. But I asked her husband, John, "When you first saw her 20 years ago what did you think?"
His answer came in a flash. "She had nice legs."
Now Sue and John End are celebrating her victory over breast cancer. Sue had both breasts removed and John can still brag about her looks, even in a snug sweater.
"It's amazing what surgery can do," Sue says. She is finishing her final stages of reconstruction.
But new breasts and good legs are just part of this story.
Why is Sue even alive?
The answer is she did Buddy Check 12. And she's been faithfully doing her self exams since I started Buddy Check almost 14 years ago.
I'm impressed she didn't get sucked into the excuse we women like to give. "Oh, it can't happen to me." Down deep we sort of believe that, don't we? So it's easy to check here and there and if you miss several months no big deal.
But it is a big deal. Sue says in October 2004 she didn't find anything unusual. Then in November her fingers hit an oblong lump.
She says, "Nobody else could feel it." Not her husband. Not even her doctor. I've heard this story so many times. It's proof we women hold a lot of power to save our own lives. We should know our own breasts.
Sue did, thank goodness. She says the lump was near her nipple, a common place for breast cancer.
Buddy Check 12 has saved more than 165 local women I've had the honor of meeting. I asked Sue the same question I've asked all of them.
What did it feel like?
Sue says her lump felt like an uncooked lima bean. Most women say the same thing. The lump was hard or at least very firm. They've compared their lumps to peanut M&M's, aspirin tablets, peach seeds, a small bead, a tight wad of foil and golf balls.
Small or large. Uneven or round. It doesn't matter. Medical experts tell me to urge women to look for any change. It might also be a dimpling or an orange peel effect because the cancer is tugging from underneath.
But how will you notice something different if you're not checking?
Sue's husband is certainly glad she did Buddy Check 12.
He pulls her close and tries not to choke up. "It's my life right here. That's all I can say. She completes me."
Sue and John are big bikers. Now he always wears a pink ribbon on his leather jacket. They live in Macclenny in Baker County. And they're both telling everyone to do Buddy Check 12. That means self exams, mammograms and doctors' exams.
It's so easy. Just get a buddy, someone very important to you. My mom in Missouri is my buddy. And now my daughter, Katie, has joined our team. Every 12th Katie calls my mom and says, "Hi, Grandma! It's Buddy Check Day! Did you remember to check? I really love you, Grandma."
We're thrilled now to be working with the Times Union to reach even more women. You'll see our postings every month on their website, too.
We're happy to announce, as well, our Buddy Check 12 kits have a new design.
We'll mail them to you for free. Just call Baptist Health at 904-202-CARE. They have information and stickers to go on your calendar every 12th so you can remind your buddy.
And no matter how busy you are... CHECK!
If you have a Buddy Check 12 Success story, email Jeannie Blaylock.
First Coast News