The Marine Corps taught me a lot of valuable skills. It taught me to fix aircraft, to listen and obey orders, and to have great self-discipline. It did not teach me to advocate for myself as an individual.
I did not put myself above any of my Marines and the jobs we needed to accomplish at any time. I spent countless hours with hydraulic fluid seeping into my coveralls, oil sheening my boots, and P2 dripping from the straps of my cranial as we got aircraft ready to fly each day.
Simply doing my job, could have in fact been the reason my body and the bodies of many other Marines and service members around me I knew, started growing cancers. Mine specifically was breast cancer.
If I could change anything, it would be being more proactive in taking care of myself as an individual long before cancer made me. If I had been smart, I would have headed all those publications they make us stack in Quality Assurance. I would have taken that extra five minutes to put on the layers of PPE they tell you to.
Did you know you are supposed to wear ear plugs underneath your earmuffs on the flightline? I didn’t. It took me getting breast cancer at 33, as a mother, to realize all the things I should have done before I got it. Making time for self-exams, yearly physical checkups, and not ignoring sick-call so I could “fit in” would have been higher on my priority too.
I also learned that more men die from breast cancer than women, because they are simply not checking themselves and seem to catch it at much more advanced stages.
If I could tell you three things to make sure you add to your life, they would be simple. Do your self exams, properly protect yourself from harmful chemicals if protective gear is needed and get to know your body. You live with your body daily and you should get the chance to know it a bit better. If you get to know the normal curves and things that are normal to only you and you alone, you will surely notice when it is different. A little bit of self-exploration can go a long way folks. Ta-Ta for now.
Maggie is supporting the American Cancer Society and you can, too! Donate to save lives and fund the future of breast cancer research, patient support, and advocacy through Making Strides Against Breast Cancer! Click here to donate