By Jeannie Blaylock
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- John Steinmetz is proud of his wife, Tammy. Her aunt died of breast cancer, her sister battled it, and Tammy's conquered it -- twice.
Tammy likes to be called "Queen Pest." Her husband chuckles and says, "That's a good line for her!"
So go right ahead and call Tammy, "The Queen Pest."
Every Buddy Check 12 day Tammy reminds 25 friends and family members to check. Tammy says, "I know Buddy Check 12 played an important role in my life." She is grateful to be alive today playing with her first grandbaby, Kenzie.
Tammy has found out through testing she carries the BRCA1 breast cancer gene. That makes her at much higher risk for developing breast cancer. That's why she opted for two mastectomies and had her ovaries removed.
Yes, she's been through a lot. But don't look at her story and think, "Well, breast cancer isn't in my family so I'm not going to get all worried about this." According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 192,000 women learn they have breast cancer each year. Only 5-10% of them have a hereditary form of it.
What's that mean to you? If you're a woman you should know the answer to a question I've heard oncologists ask audiences. "What is the number one risk factor for breast cancer?"
Most women give the wrong answer. So don't feel funny.
The answer isn't smoking. It's not obesity.
The number one risk factor is just being a woman. We're all at risk. (Men get breast cancer, too. Only 1% of breast cancer cases, though, are men.)
So what can we learn from Tammy? Well, doctors told Tammy she had lumpy breasts. (The word you hear at the doctors' offices is "fibrocystic.") But she kept doing self exams. She didn't just ignore it all thinking she'd never find a lump in the lumps anyway.
In 1995 Tammy noticed changes. She felt a lump up in the corner of her breast, sort of under her arm. She says it didn't shift much when she pressed on it and it felt hard, both warning signs of breast cancer. She wound up having her breast removed.
Then last year she was still being faithful to Buddy Check 12 and went in for her mammogram. She had breast cancer again. And, again, another mastectomy.
"I think the worst thing," she explains, was losing her hair during chemo. She remembers waking up in bed and lying in clumps of hair.
She says her faith pulls her through. She says her favorite Bible verse is key. "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. I stand on that promise," she explains.
Tammy is now encouraging all women to do Buddy Check 12. It's a triple attack against breast cancer: self exams, mammograms and doctor's regular check-ups.
We've made it easy for you. We'll mail you a Buddy Check 12 kit for free. We'll even mail kits to your aunt in Toledo or your daughter in Delaware. In other words, we'll send them anywhere in the world and it won't cost you a penny.
The kits have reminder stickers for your calendar so every 12th you can remind your buddies. You don't have to call 25 people like Tammy does but choose someone special to you.
Just call our partner, Baptist Health, at 904-202-CARE to get your free Buddy Check 12 kit.
Buddy Check 12 has saved more than 170 local women from dying of breast cancer.
Women, promise yourself you will check.
Tammy's husband even has a tip. John says, "Every woman I know has a calendar they write stuff on. Guys, just go to the calendar and circle the 12th."
First Coast News