Every year, March 8th marks the celebration of the achievements of women all across the globe, better known as International Women’s Day. It’s a day to acknowledge the economic, political and social accomplishments of women everywhere. But this year when March 8th came around, I was acknowledging one woman for her accomplishments in her personal life, a woman who has inspired me greatly through her vulnerability and strength, Jeannine Canino Bieda.
Cancer is a term we hear quite often nowadays. You can get it genetically. You can get it from smoking and/or poor health decisions. Heck, you can get it from too much sun! But what a lot of people don’t realize is that you can get it for absolutely no reason at all; and it certainly doesn’t discriminate against age. Many of us think it’s never going to happen to us. We eat clean. We workout everyday. We even meditate to maintain a healthy mind, body and soul, right? But I’m here to tell you the truth: you’re not invincible, and that’s okay! Just as Jeannine told me when we first met, “you don’t choose cancer, it chooses you.”
Jeannine shared with me her journey. At age 32, she found a lump in her breast. Following an exam, mammogram and ultrasound screening she thought she was in the clear, that is until her primary care doctor advised her to see a breast surgeon. It was then that she met her guardian angel, at least that’s what Jeannine calls her. Dr. K. explained that although she was only seeing fibroid tumors, it would be easy for cancer to hide, especially in a mammogram. Why? Because what most women don’t know is that if you have dense breasts, your mammogram will show a lot of white, the same color cancer would appear as. And Jeannine’s screening was covered in white. Dr. K. advised Jeannine to begin annual screening, something most women don’t begin until much later in life. Little did she know this advice would save her life.
Jeannine was a hard working career woman. She had no family history of cancer. She ate healthy and worked out often. And as a new bride, she was living in bliss. She had already survived many struggles in her life and displayed real strength. Jeannine, in my opinion, was superwoman. The thought of cancer had never even crossed her mind. But that all changed in an instant when she received a phone call from her sister, who was also a physician and in contact with Dr. K. Following a mammogram, suspicious ultrasound and an MRI, Jeannine was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 36.
Jeannine lived through a real tragedy. Having to have surgery, undergo radiation and handle all of the emotional and physical struggles that go along with such a disease is not only difficult, but life changing. What is so amazing to me is through it all, she never asked “Why me?” One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer; so instead Jeannine was asking, “Why not me?”
Jeannine was very fortunate to have had a doctor advise her to have annual screening done before the “normal” age because she was able to catch her cancer early. “It’s all about early detection,” she says. So when she was approached by Advocate Healthcare in Chicago to join their breast cancer campaign, how could she say no? They must have been as inspired by her strength as I am, because she quickly became the face of their campaign. It was all very unexpected but exciting! If she could reach just one girl, she thought, it would all be worth it. And that she did!
When I asked Jeannine what her defining moment was as an advocate, she explained to me a story of a woman who reached out to her via social media. This woman was diagnosed with breast cancer and truly struggling with the whole experience. But because of Jeannine, she was able to get help, find a therapist and find a medication to help her handle the emotional side effects of the disease. Jeannine is a true inspiration to me because unlike a lot of people, she allowed herself to be vulnerable by embracing the opportunity to help others. That is real strength.
Today, Jeannine has the breast cancer ribbon displayed proudly on her side, the same side as her breast cancer. Written are the words, “With faith, there is hope.” Everyone has their ups and downs but to Jeannine, positivity is an important aspect of healing. She believes there are no right or wrong feelings through such a journey but with faith, there is hope.
I would like to thank Jeannine for allowing me to share her story. I only hope you are all as inspired by her story as I am and that you allow yourselves to be vulnerable as Jeannine did. You never know, your story may help someone else find their strength too.
P.S. As always I would like to hear from you. Share with us what motivates you and how do you overcome struggles and challenges in your life.