Breast cancer survivor Betsy Ogden climbed Mt. Shasta with the Breast Cancer Fund's Climb Against the Odds 2011 team, and in doing so found a journey of her own choosing post-cancer. Read her reflections on cancer, mountains and prevention in today's blog, part of our October Prevention Is Power campaign. Thank you, Betsy!
Knowledge. Power. Strength. Change. This is what prevention means to me.
On a September Sunday in 2009, I completed my first-ever solo summit of Mt. Moosilauke, one of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000-foot mountains. It was a beautiful, crisp fall day and I felt strong and proud, and excited about my new-found love of hiking.
Three days later, following a routine mammogram, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was a strong, healthy, active physical therapist and Pilates practitioner and had no family history of the disease.
And so began what I now call my “forced march,” a journey not of my choosing, into the world of breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and remission.
Over the next few months I often felt powerless, sometimes frightened. My choices in life revolved around treatment options, recurrence rates and outcome statistics. My business struggled as the fatigue of treatment took its toll. Finally treatment ended and I became a survivor, and started to figure out my new life, co-existing with the reality of cancer ever-present.
Through all of this I came to understand that my cancer’s origin was likely somewhere in the environment. And on a very personal level, I knew that I needed and wanted to do something to reclaim my life’s journey, the journey cancer had hijacked.
I needed a mountain to climb, literally, and in October 2010 I joined the Breast Cancer Fund’s Climb Against the Odds 2011 team. As I look back, I see how much personal strength I drew from the months of fundraising and training for the climb. I pushed myself to physical limits and raised thousands of dollars from supporters. Each step along the way, I was encouraged by the amazing staff of the Breast Cancer Fund.
And finally, I climbed Mt. Shasta in June 2011 along with 33 other survivors and supporters. I did not reclaim my life’s journey on Shasta. Rather, I started on a whole new path, where powerlessness and fear in the face of the disease have no place.
The Breast Cancer Fund has shown me that we can and must face the disease head-on. We work so that others never have to feel the powerlessness of diagnosis, the fear of treatment and the uncertainty of the future.
I believe that prevention is the only acceptable future for breast cancer. Using solid scientific inquiry to identify environmental causes of the disease, we have knowledge. And with that knowledge and the leadership of the Breast Cancer Fund, we have the power and strength to change the course of this disease. We will and must educate and advocate so that young women, women of color, all of us at risk of environmental exposure will not have to fear what we do not know or understand.
I have climbed mountains since the Breast Cancer Fund's Climb Against the Odds 2011, and I hope to climb many more. I take every opportunity I can to speak of the good work of the organization and I try to make my own small world safer and less toxic for my loved ones and me.
Each of us must do what we can, where we can. And, in the end, that will be enough. And I know that someday, in the not too distant future, our children and grandchildren will live in a world where breast cancer is, very simply, prevented.