With temperature checks and stockpiling hand sanitizer, it may seem like everyone has turned their focus to a virus named COVID-19 and forgotten about another word that starts with C: cancer.
But later this month thousands of people will take to the streets, parks and pathways donning pink apparel to honor those who have and continue to endure battles with breast cancer.
Downers Grove resident Jen McGuffin will be among those walking in the annual Race for a Cure fundraiser Oct. 23 with a team from her law firm. McGuffin is a breast cancer survivor, and this year she is sharing her story to remind women and men about the importance of making time for annual mammograms, self exams and staying on top of health concerns.
“Every woman, every man, everyone needs to be mindful and pay attention to their personal health in a preventative way. Early detection saves lives, including mine,” McGuffin said.
McGuffin had no reason to suspect breast cancer when she had a biopsy on a lump she detected. She had no family history of breast cancer. However, the risk factors for breast cancer exceed family history. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and with every newly diagnosed cancer, about 30% of cases are breast cancer diagnosis, said Beth Carona, executive director of Susan G. Komen Chicago.
“Everybody knows somebody who has been diagnosed,” Carona said. “Breast cancer affects all ages, races and people from all different backgrounds. It is not a cancer that discerns. That is why it is so important to get yearly exams with a physician, get your annual mammograms and stay on top of it.”
McGuffin said she had found a few lumps before, but this time, at age 53, she was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer.
“I had assumed it was another benign lump, but this time the biopsy wasn’t fine,” she said. “When you get that phone call, suddenly you feel extremely vulnerable.”
The single mother of two said her friends and wonderful neighbors in Downers Grove came to her side, bringing food, flowers and offering support. But not everyone has a neighbor with a fresh casserole, and sometimes one has questions that only a fellow patient can answer.
The Komen Foundation website has a wealth of information including a new feature – the Patient Navigator – where patients connect with a person who can answer questions, share information and even assist with locating clinical trials and financial assistance as needed.
“We will see a patient through the whole journey,” Carona said.
“We are here as a resource. We have an amazing community of survivors that are willing to share their time and support.”
McGuffin said choosing a path of treatment and care is such a personal experience, and she appreciated the information and support she received through the Komen Foundation to help her navigate her journey.
The tools, information, research and advocacy by the Susan G. Komen Foundation is supported through events such as the Race for the Cure. Carona said because of health concerns of many of the participants, the race will not be in person. However, event planners have enhanced the virtual race with new audio features to encourage teams across Chicago to connect with one another.
From the window at her Chicago office, McGuffin can see the river and the route her team will take for its walk Oct. 23. She is dedicating her walk to not only her journey, but others who have endured a battle with breast cancer.
“I wake up every day, and I was always grateful, but I think my level of appreciation has multiplied exponentially,” McGuffin said.