By Jeannie Blaylock
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Fifteen years ago we didn't talk much about breast cancer on TV.
We didn't wear pink ribbons. And we didn't remind each other to do self exams.
In fact, many women still considered cancer a death sentence.
Buddy Check 12 changed all that.
Now cities all over the country-and the world-have copied what we started here on the First Coast. We've inspired countless women to realize they have the power to save their own lives.
Best of all, Buddy Check 12 has saved the lives of 264 local women. (The number is likely much higher because not every woman wants her story public.)
With our partner, Baptist Medical Center, we've given women more than 757,000 Buddy Check kits with reminder stickers for every 12th of the month.
Buddy Check 12 truly belongs to everyone on the First Coast. It's always been a woman-to-woman effort. I think about the Jacksonville nurse who took Buddy Check 12 to Nome, Alaska and taught women there to do self exams and get buddies. One of our success stories, Patti Scarborough, marched into a TV station in Hawaii and told them to get on the Buddy Check bandwagon. Another lady jammed 40 Buddy Check kits in her suitcase and handed them out all over Italy at tourist stops.
I remember the huge debate we had in the newsroom when I first started Buddy Check. Some of the producers, with their natural instinct for fast-paced news, didn't want to do Buddy Check over and over. I kept telling them women need to be bugged every month or they would skip checking.
I guess being stubborn paid off. Thousands of women started calling in for kits and the producers could see Buddy Check worked.
Every single month for 15 years now, I've pestered everyone on the news on Buddy Check 12 day. (I just missed it once during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.)
It's thrilling now to see our survivors. I believe we've given women the guts to buck their doctor when they know something is wrong. I've learned over the years women have a very accurate inner voice.
Willie Mae Brinson found a lump doing Buddy Check 12.
She says, "I'm the one whose doctor said it can't be cancer because you had a mammogram 9 months ago." She marched out of that office and went to another doctor the next day. Willie Mae had the knowledge from Buddy Check and the determination from herself to catch breast cancer early.
So congratulations to every single one of you who chose to fight cancer face-to-face. You didn't wimp out. You didn't get sucked into the tricky game of it-can't-happen-to-me. And, most of all, you didn't get pumped up about Buddy Check and then fizzle out.
Many of you have been checking and reminding your buddies for years. If I do a little math I come up with the number 780. That means I've called my buddy, my mom in Missouri, almost 800 times during the last 15 years to say, "Mom, it's Buddy Check Day. I love you!"
We're getting such nice comments from TV stations around the country. I'll share one with you from our Gannett sister station in Denver, KUSA. The Denver station has been doing Buddy Check for years now. Kim Christiansen, anchor and Buddy Check reporter there, says, "We want to extend our congratulations to all of you in Jacksonville and Buddy Check 12. Because of you we have Buddy Check 9." She says "thousands" of viewers have called their station to say Buddy Check has helped them, in many cases, save their own lives.
Once again, it's a tribute to everyone on the First Coast.
If you'd like a free Buddy Check 12 kits, just call our faithful partner of 15 years, Baptist Medical Center.
The number is 202-CARE. We will mail you the kits for free.
I want to give a special thanks to Joanelle Mulrain, who was an "idea whiz" many years ago. She worked at Baptist and helped formulate the very beginnings of Buddy Check 12 through her compassion and talent. Since then many folks there, including the ever-enthusiastic Cindy Hamilton and the knowledgeable Marian Bender, have helped us keep Buddy Check alive and thriving.
Happy 15th Anniversary, Buddy Check 12!
First Coast News