Paying it forward

Andi Birnbaum | Published on March 24, 2022

Updated on September 22, 2023

I may have been in an anesthesia-induced fog from my hours-long double mastectomy surgery, but in that moment, there was one message I wanted to get across to my friends: If you’ve put off rescheduling any medical screenings or appointments, get them scheduled today.

As a two-time cancer survivor, I know first-hand how screening and early detection can detect cancer early enough to be successfully treated. Ten years ago, after experiencing recurrent hip pain, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma. I was 31 years old at the time and started chemo two weeks before my son Patrick turned four years old. 

Fortunately, I responded well to treatment. Six months after my initial diagnosis, I was declared cancer-free. Relieved that my cancer was behind me, I got back to the business of living life to the fullest. Life was good! In fact, it was better than good: In 2016, my second son, Jackson, arrived a month ahead of his due date—on June 5, National Cancer Survivors Day.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, like many others, I missed many medical appointments. I delayed their rescheduling—including my mammogram.

My wakeup call was when an old high school classmate of mine posted on social media that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I knew it was time to reschedule my mammogram and perform a self-exam. I discovered a lump during that self-exam and a week later, a mammogram and biopsy confirmed I had breast cancer.

I was lucky. My breast cancer was caught before it had spread to my lymph nodes and my treatment was successful. My friend who shared her story saved my life by reminding me of the importance of screening appointments and self-exams. Today, I pay it forward by encouraging people to get their routine screenings and appointments rescheduled—as soon as possible. I hope that by sharing my story, you can pay it forward, too.

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