World Champion tennis player and female athletics pioneer Billy Jean King said, "Self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion." The idea of a champion can change day to day. Sometimes it's quite literal -- you win or you lose. But sometimes it's more abstract -- when we are a champion in our own life, when we accomplish things, when we rise to the occasion. The list goes on and on. But the part of this remark that I try to focus on is the word "self-aware." Plain and simple: Pay attention to yourself and what is happening in and around your being.
For Dancing With the Stars host and TV personality Samantha Harris, the ability to be self-aware meant more than most of us could ever imagine. Samantha is being honored at the Get in Touch Foundation's event in Los Angeles on Thursday for her strength in battling breast cancer. A little over a year ago Samantha turned 40 and decided to go get her first mammogram. Her results were clear and she was well onto her way into a healthy new year. However, 11 days after, when she was changing clothes, she noticed a lump in her breast. Samantha is avid about fitness and nutrition; she is very in-tune with her body and knew that this lump did not belong. She went to her OB-GYN and an internist who both assured her it was nothing. For Samantha, she just blamed it on getting older. She lived with this nagging lump for four months until she finally went to see an oncologist. The doctor didn't think it was cancerous but after doing a lumpectomy, Samantha was diagnosed with breast cancer and opted for a double mastectomy with reconstruction.
I have learned from the many brilliant women I have spoken with that this diagnosis -- any diagnosis -- is painful. However, Samantha credits so much of her own strength getting through this time to the network of survivors she met. "It was a newfound level of support when I started to speak with other survivors... Knowing that they got to the other side, I knew that I too could get there." Thankfully, one year later, Samantha is cancer free and back to her pinnacle of health. She persisted when she knew something was wrong and it paid off. "I've learned of a few woman who pushed their doctors after hearing my story and it turned out they had cancer," she told me. "The answer isn't something you always want to hear."
Samantha has taken to spreading her message and knowledge any way she can. She eschewed social media for a long time, but finally embraced it as a way to tell her story and communicate with people needing support. "I thought long and hard about opening up about my diagnosis," she told me. However she decided to because "if there is one other woman walking around with a lump who things it's nothing or has been told it's nothing, I want her to hear my story so she can think twice and take action." Through women like Samantha and the work that the Get in Touch Foundation does, we can all learn to become more comfortable with our bodies so that if the time does unfortunately come when something might be wrong, we will know.
In speaking with Samantha we wrapped things up talking about her daughters. She has two young girls and now they have an increased risk. "The Get in Touch foundation can educate girls in not only having an open dialogue, but also in teaching the proper way to do a self-exam." She is looking forward to her daughters entering middle school and being able to share some thoughts and knowledge with their own classmates. "As moms we are used to taking care of ourselves last. I am taking care of them before myself," she said. "Unfortunately we can't overlook some really important medical issues if we aren't functioning at 100 percent. We can't take care of our children." For Samantha, as for so many women, motherhood is a huge part of being a champion -- of success. To accomplish this, to be our own champions, to function like we want to, we have to be aware of our bodies. We have to stick up for ourselves when we know something is wrong. "My biggest lesson is to be vigilant about your own health. If in your gut you feel like there isn't something right, push until you get the right answer."
To learn more about Samantha Harris, visit her website.
To learn more about the Get in Touch Foundation and their Pretty in Pink even in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 12 visit their website.