By Theresa Pichelmeyer, Valley VNA President & CEO

I recently saw a funny and entirely accurate post on Facebook. It said, “I don’t have ducks. And they are not in a row. They are squirrels. And they’re at a rave.” (A rave is an all-night dance party.) As a woman who juggles work, children, horses, the needs of aging relatives – not to mention this crazy presidential election – I laughed out loud when I pictured crazed dancing squirrels, especially the kind that keep you up all night. Some days just go that way.
We can do our best to control our environment, schedule our calendar, plan our meals, and chart our career path, yet we will get abrupt reminders that not all is within our control. A diagnosis of breast cancer stops women in their tracks.

I am a nurse, a breast cancer survivor, and a mother. I know firsthand what it feels like to at once be concerned Theresa Pichelmeyerabout my own body, how I will find the time and courage to put up a fight, how to stay strong at the helm of my family, and how to hold space for my career as I muddle through good and not-so-good days. Here is a short list of what we CAN control as women to prevent breast cancer:

Get a mammogram. The American Cancer Society recommends women at average risk for breast cancer get annual mammograms starting at age 40. Women age 55 and older can shift to getting screened every two years or have the choice to continue with yearly mammograms. Women at higher than average risk (like me, who’s had breast cancer, and my daughter, whose mom has had it), should get a mammogram every year. New 3D mammograms have come to the Fox Valley and are much more precise and accurate in detecting breast cancer compared to previous technology.

Your risk of developing breast cancer actually goes up as you get older. About one out of eight invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, while about two of three invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 or older. So go yearly. It just makes sense.

Watch your weight. Being overweight after menopause increases your risk of breast cancer. That’s because your estrogen is now being produced by your fat cells, not your ovaries. Too much fat means an overproduction of estrogen, a contributor to the development of some types of breast cancer.

Get physical. Exercise, especially in postmenopausal women, has been shown to lower breast cancer risk by 10 to 20 percent.

Decrease your drinking. A growing list of studies links a woman’s alcohol intake with significantly increased risk or return of breast cancer. Alcohol has been shown to damage a person’s DNA, inhibit the body’s absorption of nutrients, and increase blood levels of estrogen.

This month in particular, lock those squirrels away and demand a little time to care for yourself. Get a mammogram on your calendar. Schedule a physical. Share a cup of coffee and talk with a good friend. Do things that feed your soul, honor your body, and strengthen your relationships. You can do it. It’s a great feeling when you get your ducks in a row.

To contact Theresa Pichelmeyer, Valley VNA President & CEO, please call (920) 727-5555.