Beating Breast Cancer
By Rep. Kristi Noem
Jami’s family had a history with cancer, but it wasn’t until late 2014 that her own battle with breast cancer began. She was a busy mom, working full-time at a non-profit in South Dakota and raising her 11 year-old daughter. Now, a battle with breast cancer was being added to her plate, but she pushed through, undergoing a double mastectomy and reconstruction, followed by a year of chemotherapy treatments. Despite the hardships, a friend of hers wrote: “I know there were times where the side effects of chemo were affecting her – the numbness and tingling in her fingers and legs, rashes covering her neck and torso – but she never lost that bright smile of hers.”
Like her mom, sister, and aunt before her, Jami fought – and won. Earlier this year, Jami was honored as the Susan G. Komen 2016 Survivor of the Year in South Dakota.
October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a great time to celebrate those, like Jami, who have fought this disease; to remember those no longer with us, like my grandmother-in-law Betty, who also was diagnosed; and to encourage those who are in the middle of the battle. It’s also a time to learn more about the disease, the opportunities to detect it early, and the actions we can take today to reduce our risk altogether.
Nationwide, one in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer within their lifetime. In South Dakota, the number of diagnosis has risen steadily since 2010, putting our state at the top of the list when it comes to breast cancer incidents per capita.
It’s unclear what has caused the rise. While not everything is in our control, there are steps we can take to reduce our risk or detect the cancer early. For Jami, she knew her family’s history and acted on it. It was during a routine annual breast exam when the mass was detected. Annual exams like this can help make early detection possible. This means treatment can start earlier, possibly even before the cancer has spread.
Additionally, according to the American Cancer Society, excessive drinking, being overweight or obese (particularly after menopause), and a lack of physical activity can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. If you ever notice a lump, hard knot, or thickening inside the breast or underarm area, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.
While we have made tremendous strides when it comes to detecting and treating breast cancer, 680 South Dakotans are expected to learn they have breast cancer this year alone. It’s one of the reasons I join my fellow female members of Congress each year in a softball game against the press to benefit the Young Survival Coalition. It’s a good opportunity to show support for our daughters, sisters, mothers and friends and build resources to help the many South Dakotans whose lives have been changed by breast cancer.
This month, please join me in building awareness about breast cancer. Use Jami’s story as motivation to put together an early detection plan (one great resource is www.earlydetectionplan.org). Urge your friends and family to do the same. Learn more about breast cancer and how it could be impacting your mom, your neighbor, or you. Find out how you can be a support system for those impacted. Get involved in one of the many breast cancer awareness activities throughout South Dakota this month. Together, we can beat this.