To the point week of 10-20-11

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OCTOBER IS MANY THINGS to many people. In my family, we celebrate many birthdays in the month; and along with fall break for the school kids and Halloween becoming one of the most popular holidays in the country; October is pretty filled up.

But October is also important for a not-so-happy reason. It is a month that focuses on a killer – and it also focuses on eliminating that killer.

October is breast cancer awareness month.

I know, I know – you don’t want to talk about breast cancer. I’m not a woman, so – no – I can’t understand how uneasy you feel when you have to go for a mammogram.

I’ve never had a mammogram – but I do know this:

Having one could save you life.

I do things like wear a pink tie to church on Sunday during this month; but that’s such a small thing, I decided that I needed to use this column to urge – even beg – women who read it to go and have the tests that you need to stay healthy.

Here are some facts from the National Cancer Society that you need to know:

– Breast cancer incidence in women in the United States is 1-in-every -8. That’s about 12-percent.

– In 2010, there were an estimated 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer cases diagnosed in this country; with another 54,010 “non-invasive” cases also reported.

– Guys: there were about 1,970 cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in MEN in 2010. Although that’s about one percent of all new cases, you need to know that this just isn’t a “woman problem”.

- Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women living in the U.S. Among women, about one in every four cancer cases is breast cancer.

– If you have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer; your odds of getting breast cancer are doubled. Statistics show that 20- to 30-percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease.

– In 2010, it was estimated that about 39,840 women in this country died from breast cancer.

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Now, while you’re digesting all of that information and wondering why Pat isn’t being funny in his column this week; I need to tell you that there is some good news:

– Between 1998 and 2007, breast cancer rates in this country DECREASED by two-percent. Much of that success is attributed to early detection through self examination and mammograms.

– During 2010, 2.5 million women in the United States survived breast cancer.

– Breast cancer deaths have decreased every year since 1990.

Okay, so here’s the deal: if feeling a little “funny” about having a mammogram saves your life, then go and feel a little “funny”.

Don’t let self conscientiousness take your life. Don’t let fear put off a diagnosis until it’s too late. This is too important to simply put off and say “it will never happen to me”.

Not to be flippant, but chemotherapy areas of hospitals are filled with people who never thought it would happen to them, either.

As we get older, we are subjected to all sorts of medical tests and procedures that we don’t particularly want to talk about.

Terms like “mammogram” and “DRE” and “colonoscopy” all become part of our verbiage as we get older; but the one thing that scares me the most is that we all look at those procedures and we think “I’m not doing THAT” – so we don’t.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to sit in some doctor’s office someday and hear “…I’m sorry to tell you this, but….”

But more than that, I don’t want that conversation to include, “….If you had just come in a few months ago when you first started feeling bad, maybe we could have done something….”

Ever think about that?

There are all sorts of organizations who are making mammograms available, so why not take advantage of it? Even if you have to pay for it, I’m sure it’s much cheaper than radiation and surgery.

What each and everyone needs to know is that there are people around you who love you very much and they want to keep you around as long as possible. It may be your spouse or your kids or grandkids; or it may be the neighbors or folks you work with or go to church with.

It may be the newspaper guy.

I don’t know who it is, but I do know that there is someone out there.

So, take a deep breath and suck it up and call your doctor or wherever and schedule an appointment. Go and have a mammogram and sleep a little more soundly tonight knowing that things are fine and that you’re going to get to see your grandchildren or your anniversary or your next birthday.

I don’t mean to be so serious today, but it is a serious subject. Switzerland County is community of people who love and care for each other.

This is the month to show you love us, too.

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As you will read in other areas of this newspaper, today (Thursday) marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic death of Scott Welch.

Now a decade later, I still cannot begin to tell you the impact that Scott had on my life as a great friend and as a member of this community. There are people who come in and out of your life as you move through it, and some leave more permanent impressions than others.

Scott left a mark on me that will never fade.

But the most important thing that Scott Welch left for all of us is his family. From his parents, Jim and Johanna; to siblings; to wife Cindy and his kids (read the letter from son Daniel on page 8 of today’s edition) – what was instilled in him was in turn given to others. From high school scholarships that are given each year in his name to the willingness to serve their community and their world, Scott’s family carries on a selfless attitude of service that we all also saw in Scott.

Someone once said, “The days drag by and the years fly by”; that’s very evident to me today. A decade has passed, but the pain remains. His family and his friends lean on their strong faith to move forward, and a community – even 10 years later – is better because Scott Welch was a part of it, and his family continues to be members in it.