Three years ago I walked out of the front doors of Mass General Hospital with a new baby- my third, George. He was ready to come home and I knew my time in the maternity ward had come to a close. My time at MGH, however, would be far from over; in fact, the hospital and I have a long history and a forever future in front of us.

I have been getting annual mammograms since I was 33 years old—ten years before my mother’s diagnosis at the age of 43. In addition, every six months I do a MRI to catch any earlier signs of breast cancer. And throughout the six and half years that I was pregnant, I did ultrasounds once every other month on my breasts so make sure that the influx of hormones wasn’t producing any masses. Like many however, when the pandemic hit and uncertainty around in-person appointments crept in, I skipped my mammogram appointment and rescheduled my MRI. Pushing it off “until things opened back up” turned into an entire year and as a result, my slight anxiety was heightened walking into my 2021 appointment. Thankfully, seven days from my 40th birthday, I got a clean bill of health. I know that for so many, this isn’t the reality. It is why we continue to do the work we do at Runway to support those for whom frequent testing have different outcomes than mine.

Cande Achtmeyer (far right) surrounded by friends and family at age 43, the year she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

While the entire process can drudge up a myriad of emotions for women-especially those with strong family history of breast cancer- the main point remains the same- you MUST get checked. Knowledge is power and through Runway’s extensive work with survivors, we know that the earlier breast cancer is caught, the better the end result. I have a family history, so I take these appointments seriously, but even I fell into the category of pandemic truants who skipped an appointment. I plead with you today to book your appointment. Then, text your friends, call your family and remind them to do the same. Family history or not, early detection is key.

The Achtmeyer Family, 1991

For those who need it really broken down:

-If you are over the age of 40, call your PCP and ask for a referral to a breast center/breast doctor. You are eligible for a screening mammogram.

-If you have a family history, call your PCP and ask for a referral to a breast center/breast doctor, you may be eligible before 40-years-old for an early detection screening.

I know my story could change at any moment, but for today, I am grateful for science, early detection practices in place for my generation (thanks to those who came before me), grateful for my health and focused on letting go of that which I cannot control.

Besides supporting Runway this month for those who need our wraparound services most, the greatest 40th birthday gift this community can give me is to get checked. Self-exam, mammograms, MRI’s: book them, attend them and then remind your family and friends to do the same. And always remember, no matter the outcome, Runway is here to support you.

The Achtmeyer Family, 2001

For more resources and tips: https://runwayforrecovery.org/resources

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