Breast Cancer Awareness Month Hits Home for Me in 2013

Many men and women have fought the battle against breast cancer and now I’m joining them. 

I’m saddened to announce that this August I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I caught my cancer early while performing a self-breast exam and my doctors are optimistic about my chance for recovery. However, I have a long and hard road ahead with aggressive chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. Needless to say, this diagnosis has hit me like a ton of bricks. At 55, I’m healthy, vital, and have lived my entire life committed to an extremely healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, I’ve also known that I was at increased risk for developing some form of cancer in my lifetime because of my family history; two of my four grandparents come from families where everyone gets cancer if they live past 30 – and one of these families is large! In these two families, breast cancer is sprinkled among a diverse collection of other cancers. With my cancer diagnosis, I’ve now learned that I carry the gene mutation for breast and ovarian cancer (though there is no known ovarian cancer in my family). My healthy lifestyle may have helped to delay my cancer diagnosis, but it could not prevent it. Because breast cancer is so common (1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime), I’ve always paid particular attention to lowering my personal risk factors for breast cancer and I recommend that everyone do this too (yes, even men get breast cancer).

As a doctor, I know that there are lifestyle choices we can make to lower our breast cancer risk or to make full recovery more likely should we develop the disease.

In my life, I’ve been dedicated to making healthy lifestyle choices for this reason; I’ve always kept up on my self-breast exams and my preventative doctor visits and mammograms; I’ve exercised my entire life, never smoked, kept my weight at recommended limits, and started my family before the age of 30. (This lowers the risk of breast cancer for women. I started my family when I was in medical school, which was a blessing for many reasons.) I avoided hormone prescriptions (even during menopause, which was very hard) and have eaten a mostly plant-based organic diet. I was still not able to avoid my genetic fate. Hopefully these choices will help me now as I fight my new disease.

Unfortunately I’m not able to practice medicine while I’m under treatment for breast cancer. I am, however, determined to help people like me who are being treated for or who are living with cancer. I’ll be creating blog posts for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy now that I’m a living laboratory for the journey. My main focus will be on what happens to our skin when we receive chemotherapy and how we can best take care of ourselves during our treatments. I’ll also share what I’m learning about tolerating some of the other challenges we cancer patients face as we go through all this.  

We all know that cancer can hit anyone at any time and joining the fight against the disease is important. Scientists and doctors are working towards a better understanding of the causes of cancer, including breast cancer. They are also working for more effective (and more tolerable) treatments. Research is important to cure the disease. Early detection is very important too. Cancer-detecting exams and health education should be available to everyone regardless of income. If I had delayed my diagnosis, my chances of recovery would be much different. That’s why I’m asking you to join me and to consider helping the fight against cancer.

How can you join us in the fight against cancer?

This is one of those battles that takes friends, family, community, and all of us to fight. I’m lucky because I have the education, resources, and availability of excellent doctors to treat my particular diagnosis of cancer as best we know how in 2013. Not everyone does. My staff and I want to help change that. We’ve researched worthy cancer organizations whose funds go almost entirely to support the good efforts of their fight against cancer. My office is donating to them and we ask for your support too. We are organizing a yearlong fundraising campaign starting this October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We have chosen three extremely worthy organizations that support a combination of research, education, support and early detection of cancer, specifically breast cancer. To make donating even more enticing, we are holding a fundraising raffle with the first organization, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) – donate to FORCE and you may win our favorite professional skin care products that we are donating to the cause! Please click the link below to see our FORCE fundraising site. We are donating our favorite professional skin care products – when you donate to FORCE on our site you are entered in our raffle to win these products.

What are my top three cancer fighting organizations that we are supporting during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and beyond?

National organization near and dear to me and my personal disease:

FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), an organization dedicated to funding research, detection, and treatment of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Local organizations near and dear to me:

“Cancer is the leading cause of death in Sonoma and Marin Counties” according to the North Bay Cancer Alliance

The North Bay Cancer Alliance (NBCA): an organization that provides financial assistance and information for those in our community who need critical cancer care and services but who cannot afford them.

Ceres Community Project: a local organization where teens prepare nutrient-rich meals for people with serious illnesses such as cancer. Meals are free and created in the Ceres professional kitchen then delivered to patients by volunteers. As part of the Ceres mission, Ceres educates our community (including health professionals) about the connection between fresh healthy food and healing and wellness – I love that mission.

Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude to © Harry Choi/TongRo Images/Corbis and © Wavebreak Media Ltd./Corbis

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27 Responses to “Breast Cancer Awareness Month Hits Home for Me in 2013”

  1. Maja October 1, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    I’m a 32 year old woman from Slovenia (Europe) and I stumbled upon this website while looking for tips on how to incorporate a tretinoin cream into my daily skincare routine (dermatologists in my country don’t prescribe tretinoin as an anti-aging medication, so I have to buy mine on Amazon from Thailand). I found your post on this subject very helpful and started searching the website for other useful skincare information and for information about the author. I was very sad when I read this post, because this hits home for me (as it does for most people, given how common cancer is), since I have breast cancer in my family. I have always been very lazy with my self-breast exams, because I somehow convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to recognize a dangerous lump by myself and that if I did, the cancer would be too advanced anyway. This post has made me think and I will definitely be more diligent with my self-exams from now on. My thoughts and prayers (even though I’m not religious) are with you, Dr. Bailey.

  2. Janette October 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    Dr. Bailey, I’m so sorry to learn about your diagnosis. I have enjoyed your blog for about two years and have greatly benefited from your advice. I just made a donation to your FORCE fundraising page to support cancer research. I wish you the best possible course of treatment and outcome, a speedy return to your practice, and I look forward to your upcoming blog posts.

  3. Carol Woessner October 1, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    I’m so glad you’ve gone public with this. And I’m so proud of you, too. You’ve always been a brave and strong woman, and the way you’re facing this challenge is both commendable and inspiring. As a cancer survivor myself, I welcome you to these ranks. My family, also, has been riddled with cancer deaths. I’m praying for your full recovery as I type this, and am looking forward to hearing of your recovery and return to your medical practice. You’ve taken care of my skin for over 20 years and I now wear sunscreen every day and nag others to do the same, thanks to you :-)

  4. Caroline Laib October 2, 2013 at 7:27 am #

    You are a warrior, of the finest sort, Dr Bailey! Support and admiration coming your way, and gratitude for you being an important part of my healthy life!

  5. Patti Araya October 2, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    I’m sorry to hear your news. I live in Ohio and have not met you, but have ordered your products and they have helped my sensitive skin. Thank you. I know what a great person you are just from reading your blog. I wish you the best during your treatment. I am a melanoma survivor as is my Mother, who is 92 years old this month. In fact, I am going to the Dermatologist today, for a checkup. It also is a practice of 3 young working women. I will say a prayer for your recovery. and think about you often. My Best to you.

  6. Susan Frances October 2, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    I am so very sorry to hear this. Your blogs have helped me a lot. I think you have the best information on how to successfully use the Ogabi Nu Derm system. I have benefited from all your blogs but that was the one that was the most helpful. Please get well soon.

  7. Jennifer Duzan October 2, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    My best to you Dr. Bailey! Fight the good fight!

  8. Sarah October 2, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Dr Bailey I wish you all the very best for a speedy recovery and would like to thank so much for all the invaluable skincare advice on your blog – your SPF and tretinoin advice has been invaluable. You will be in my thoughts and I look forward to your future blogs.

  9. Janice Price October 2, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Dr. Bailey
    What an amazing woman you are, I am in awe.
    You have helped me and so many others with our skin conditions and at this point in your life you will still be helping people by sharing your journey as you meet the challenges of breast cancer treatment.
    I am sending positive “vibes” your way and I intend to read all your blogs as I care to know how you’ll be doing.

  10. Deanna October 2, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    How selfless to share such a private and very scary monumental event in your life. I live in Austin but really wish I could meet you. You sound like a woman whose parents told her she could be anything she wants to be when she grows up and you did. Thank you for the motivation to try to be a better woman everyday and may God bless you, your doctors, and all your friends and family!

  11. Marianne October 2, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Dr Bailey, I wish you the very best of luck with all your treatments. I am now 58 and my breast cancer diagnosis was 21 years ago. Three days after my youngest son was born I felt a lump in my breast and that was the start of surgery (mastectomy), chemotherapy and radiotherapy. My son is now at university and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of his and the rest of my family’s life. I hope everything goes well for you. Best wishes from the Netherlands.

  12. patricia October 2, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Dr Bailey, wishing you the best of luck on your journey

  13. Maureen October 2, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    So very sorry to hear your bad news Cynthia but will follow your progress and winning the battle. I live in the UK so not able to buy many products but enjoy your newsletters and friendly personality

    Hope you will be able to spend some relaxing days with your dogs, man and women’s best friends

    Best wishes

  14. esther October 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    You are so brave, Dr. Bailey for taking the time out and being brutally honest about what you are about to undergo. Cancer runs in my family too and I know that you need to be strong, courageous, and dedicated to battling this disease. I know that you will persevere. My thoughts and prayers are with you for a strong, speedy and healthy recovery. I look forward to reading your blogs. They are incredible doses of information. Thank you for writing the blogs and connecting with so many people! If only there were more people like you in this universe,what a wonderful world this would be! Be well and stay strong!

  15. Barbara October 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Well what a shock! I have been praying for you and Frank often and will continue to do so. When you feel somewhat up would love to go to dinner with the two of you, but only when you are feeling better. Mark and I are going to give to the organization FORCE. Hang in there, for I just know you are going to beat this horrible disease.

  16. Anne October 2, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Dr Bailey, I am a 65 year old from Queensland, Australia and I find your blog awe-inspiring and invaluable, particularly in regard to zinc oxide-based sunscreens which I wear religiously even if it’s raining.

    I was very saddened to learn of your breast cancer diagnosis, but relieved that you found the lump early. Four years ago I too was diagnosed with breast cancer. I took HRT for 14 years, knew the risks but thought it wouldn’t happen to me.

    I wish you an excellent recovery and will be thinking of you.

  17. Dr. Libby Ortiz October 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Dear Dr. Bailey, I want you to know that you have been on my mind. I just began subscribing to your blog this summer. My daughter was released today from NYU hospital after 7 weeks of treatment for a rare disease combination. While she was there, I massaged her with the Jergen’s cream you recommended. I was thinking how much I enjoyed your blog. Now I hear this news this evening! You will be in my prayers.

  18. Barbara Rael October 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Lots of good thoughts and prayers coming your way from the Rael family. You will be back better than ever. Missing my favorite doc… :)

    Will see you soon.

  19. Linda October 2, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    Blessings to you Dr. Bailey. You’ve helped so many and continue to do so. I’m sending you positivity and blessings and I’d like to thank you for all you do for others in the skincare arena and now breast cancer with your new organization. I’d like to thank you through FORCE. Well wishes, positive thoughts and prayer will be sent your way and I know that you will have a recovery that will allow you to continue to enjoy your healthy fruitful life!

  20. Una October 3, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Dear Dr Baily. You are so very courageous and brave. God bless you.

  21. nubianinthedesert October 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Dr. Bailey:

    I’ve gotten a great deal of insight over the past few months on taking better care of my skin and now I have learned some additional tips on keeping my body health through this most recent blog.

    My prayers with you for a full recovery. Thank you for sharing.

    T. Simmons

  22. Lillie October 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    I am so sorry to hear this. Best wishes and positive thoughts coming your way.

  23. Kristina October 4, 2013 at 2:31 am #

    I am sorry you have to fight this horrible disease! My mom and aunt were diagnosed with breast cancer within a year of each other. Thank God they both survived and are healthy and happy to this day. You are a strong and courageous woman, and I will be praying for you and your family as you battle this. God bless you Dr. Bailey

  24. Cynthia Bailey October 4, 2013 at 7:06 am #

    Hello My Dear Readers,
    I can’t thank you enough for your comments of support and your stories. In the midst of this journey your care, concern and positive thoughts are healing medicine for my soul, and I can feel it helping me in ways that defy words. Please read my next post – it’s truly amazing that while my body is being pummeled with chemotherapy I could feel overwhelming gratitude and cry tears of joy. It’s only explained by my community of support and the impact it’s having on my healing. Bless you all and thank you so very much.

  25. Amy Grams October 4, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Dr. Bailey, I was so sad to read your post (I wondered what was up when made my last appointment and they said you were on leave. I was too afraid to ask why). I wish you strength, determination and most of all healing! My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  26. Stephen Knows Cancer October 16, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    I’m nothing short of amazed to see that you were willing to share this with your readers on your blog. This is very sad news, but I am glad that you were previously aware of the risks that ran in your family and that you were able to catch it early. I applaud you for taking the time to put this post together and share these tips and links for getting involved in the fight against breast cancer, this is truly remarkable. Now, I am not really a spiritual person, but I will pray for your swift recovery.

  27. Cheryl L October 29, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    Knowing your family for so many years, the veil of emotion was very thin when I heard of your diagnosis. As I sat in your husband’s office with Jim, we had our meeting, and before we left he said he wanted us to hear some news he had from him rather than someone else. Choked in emotion, he told us your diagnosis and what was ahead. It has been a few months now, so I am sure you are in the depths of treatment. As a RN and having had a child with cancer, I understand how each day encapsulates an entire life. We are only sure of the next moment, but in reality, even that has no guarantee. As I told Frank, my cancer metaphor… we recover and return to look our old selves, go through the motions of being who we were, but like a clay pot having been in the kiln, we are completely changed and have a luminescence having transcended a total metamorphosis.
    The gifts will also come at a price wished we never had to pay.
    You are brave, you are strong. More importantly you have love all around. I hold you in your journey back to health.