DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. — It’s not every day you see Soldiers rucking across the base wearing a t-shirt with a pink ribbon on it, but this month it’s for an important cause.
In October, the pink ribbons flow freely as a campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness kicks off across the United States.
Soldiers throughout the Detroit Arsenal, Michigan showed their support and helped raise awareness of the disease at a Breast Cancer Awareness event on Oct. 18.
Master Sgt. Fransheska Wiggins and Master Sgt. Christopher Jackson, from the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, came up with the idea for the event and coordinated it for the Detroit Arsenal.
“We came up with this event to help show solidarity with all those who have had breast cancer,” said Wiggins.
Jackson added that it’s important to engage with the community and get out there and show them what the Army is all about.
“This is about community engagement and getting [the awareness] out there,” said Jackson. “This is an initiative that is very important for the command, and I feel that it’s important for Soldiers to be invested in the ‘Tip of the Spear’ with initiatives like this.”
In his opening remarks, Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, commanding general TACOM, reminded those gathered about the impact breast cancer has in the community.
“If you know someone that has breast cancer, you know too well that it takes a huge toll on those it afflicts,” Werner said. “It also takes a huge toll on their families and loved ones as well.”
Werner went on to introduce the guest speaker, Jacqueline “Jack” Howard, who knows all too well the impact and toll breast cancer can have.
Jack’s healing journey began just over 10 years ago when a self-breast exam revealed that she had a lump in one of her breasts. At first, she thought nothing of it, having had lumps before that were benign and had gone away on their own.
She waited a few months…the lump didn’t go away, it actually got bigger. It was then that Jack decided to see her doctor. That’s when she received the bad news. It was stage two breast cancer.
For Jack it was a double whammy, when she also found out that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. At this time, Jack had one of two options, give up or fight…she decided to fight.
“During this period, it strengthened my spirituality,” Jack said. “ I set high goals for my well-being, which included running a half-marathon, and I decided to put my efforts in helping raise money for the American Cancer Society…my team raised approximately $35,000.”
Due to her age, her doctor’s decided to be aggressive with her treatment, starting out with a double mastectomy, chemo, radiation, reconstructive surgery and hormone treatments.
Luckily, Jack is a breast cancer survivor and able to share her healing journey with the participants in the arsenal’s Breast Cancer Awareness Event.
“I feel blessed to be out here with you to run today,” she said.
Her journey made her realize five things.
1. “Hair is over-rated. Strength comes from within.”
2. “Savor your healthy days. Appreciate the moments you can to make new friends and savor the moments you can to talk with the people close to you.”
3. “Know the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is conditional, joy is constant.”
4. “Fear is not real, learn to control your thoughts.”
5. “Don’t waste time, it’s your life.” “Do what you love and do it often.”
Jack is only one of thousands who are impacted by breast cancer…a disease that doesn’t have racial, age, or even gender boundaries. Master Sgt. Jackson went on to say that supporting Breast Cancer Awareness isn’t a civilian thing, or a Soldier thing, it’s a life thing, and that it’s important for the communities to come together.
It’s definitely a life thing for Jackson. The mother of his two oldest daughters is a breast cancer survivor.
“Attitude matters, every day is a choice, and we need to do our part.” said Jackson. “We need to have a unified effort as a community to help fight this.”
Wiggins has also been personally impacted by breast cancer as one of her battle buddies passed away earlier this year from the disease. She also knows other Soldiers who are survivors.
“It definitely touches home,” Wiggins said.
Bringing the community together for events like this is only one part of the awareness campaign. Another part of awareness is being informed on the impacts of the disease and what you can do to detect it and seek help in the early stages.
According to the Center for Disease Control, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer contracted by women with approximately 255,000 women getting it every year. Conducting self-examinations and getting regularly scheduled mammograms has proven to be the best courses of action in helping to detect breast cancer earlier so it can be treated.
Breast cancer is more prevalent in women, but it can happen in men. One out of every 100 diagnosed cases are men.
It’s important to look for signs of breast cancer to include and change in the shape of the breast tissue, pain in and around the breast area, and discharges of fluid around the nipple area (to exclude breast milk in women who are pregnant or recently given birth), or any lumps in the breast tissue area or in the underarm area.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, or have other questions concerning breast cancer, talk with your doctor. You can also go to the CDC’s or American Cancer Society’s website for more information.
Get checked early and often, until then help bring awareness to breast cancer by supporting your local community breast cancer awareness events.