Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over. If you haven’t already, please go get yourself checked out in November.

The idea of writing this post has been spinning around in my head for about a week now. Yesterday was October 31st – Halloween – but also the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I have been hesitant to write this because I am not entirely sure the person occupying my thoughts over the past few months would like me writing about him. But following conversations with others – which I will explain later – I felt compelled.

Back in August, the day after my 32nd birthday, I found out someone very close to me – a man – was diagnosed with cancer. It turned out to be breast cancer. The cancer diagnosis certainly surprised me, but finding out later on that it was breast cancer did not. I had read or seen on TV somewhere that men could contract breast cancer. It’s rare, but it happens and I knew that. However, many don’t and many men never think to look for the symptoms. Or when they do discover symptoms, they choose to ignore them.

Up until recently, I never truly understood the devastating impact cancer can have on the human body, a spouse, a family or a group of friends. I thought I did. I knew that receiving a positive diagnosis would be tough. That going through the fight would be hard. But I was ignorant. I would be a hypocrite if I said I comprehended the monstrosity of the disease. Seeing it up close changes your consciousness. Seeing one of the strongest individuals you’ve ever known fight like this changes your attitude.

I’ve donated, I’ve thrown support behind cancer organizations, and I have sent notes of encouragement and condolences to friends of mine who had someone close to them fighting. But cancer hasn’t directly touched my life until now.

And I get it now

Just a few weeks ago I was having a conversation with an older colleague of mine. A mutual acquaintance of ours went in for that annual screening men never look forward to.

He said to me, “Boy, I am long overdue for that. It’s been years since I had that done.”

I am a little sensitive to this stuff these days, so my immediate retort was, “You need to go get that done. Take care of yourself because people care about you.”

My hope in writing this is that maybe I can convince a person or two reading this to WAKE. UP.

If it’s been a while – hell, if it’s only been a year – go get yourself checked out. If not for yourself, then for the people that love and depend on you.

A week ago I was walking with my sick friend into one of his many appointments and we were talking about everything that’s been going on the past few months. I embarrassed myself by revealing my own absent-mindedness when I commented, “You know, this whole experience really makes you think about our healthcare system.”

My friend, who was using every bit of his limited energy to just walk 30 feet down the sidewalk, laughed and said, “It really makes you think about life, Chris.”

It certainly does. Please go get yourself checked out.

To the men, women, boys and girls out there fighting cancer and to the doctors, nurses, receptionists, pharmacists, family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers supporting them – please fight on and know that there’s an entire community out there rooting for you.

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