For nine years, one of our station’s relationships in the community gave me the gift of being part of one of the biggest fundraisers for breast cancer care and research in Idaho. 

Because of extremely negative social media comments, I rarely write my articles in first person anymore. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but it seems like people have forgotten what “Boise Kind” is all about. At some point, people stopped treating Boise radio hosts, TV personalities and journalists like we’re human. I’m someone who just wants to do a good job, introduce you to something new or teach you something you didn’t know before. I’ve lost track of how many times that my husband has had to hug me and try to put me back together after a negative comment from our social media page has pinged my watch and stopped our evening dead in its tracks outside of work hours. 

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I’ve been scared to share this story for that reason, but it's too important not to share. I moved to Boise in June 2010. The next May, my new job got me involved with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. At the time, I was 23 years old. There was no history of breast cancer in my family. I knew how important the event was, but without a personal connection to breast cancer I felt like I was going through the motions reading the statistics. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Early detection is key. Idaho is dead last for the number of women getting their regular screening mammograms. 

Nurse Assisting Patient Undergoing Mammogram In General Practise

Flash forward to 2022 and my world came to a screeching halt. In the same week, two friends that didn’t know each other posted on social media that they had found a lump in their breast. Their experiences were very different, but the underlying message was the same. Do self checks. If something feels off, if something feels different, speak up. 

So, I did something I never thought about doing before. I did a self exam. Based on the history I shared with you and the fact that I was under 40, I didn’t expect to find anything. But I did. My blood ran cold when I found a pretty significant lump in my right breast. My heart sunk and I immediately felt like throwing up. I’ve had traumatizing experiences with past practitioners, so I avoid doctors whenever possible. Through Townsquare Media’s involvement with the now defunct Komen Idaho Race for the Cure, I knew this was something that I shouldn’t ignore. It took me a week to work up the courage to tell my husband. I asked him to confirm what I thought I felt. The lump was undeniable. When he felt it, I cried. I cried a lot, but without him I probably wouldn’t have worked up the courage to call Women’s Health Associates. 

Photo by Angiola Harry on Unsplash
Photo by Angiola Harry on Unsplash

When I told them what I found, they told me that they wanted to see me that day. Six hours later, I was in front of a compassionate provider. They don’t do diagnostic mammograms in their office, so they referred me to one of the major hospitals in the Treasure Valley. My PA was very honest in telling me that the breast care services were very backed up and it could be 5-6 weeks before the hospital could fit me in for a diagnostic mammogram. Both friends who had posted their stories shared similar experiences, so I wasn’t surprised when she told me that. 

Well…it was a little longer than that. It took that hospital almost two weeks to reach out to me to schedule that diagnostic mammogram and 56 days from my appointment at Women’s Health Associates to get me on the schedule. For almost two months, that lump was all I could think about. It affected my marriage. It affected my job. It destroyed my mental health. 

Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media
Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media

The hospital was finally able to see me last Monday and I can’t thank God enough for the good news I received. It was a benign cyst. Actually, it was multiple benign cysts (a surprise to me,) but ultimately the doctor determined that it was nothing to worry about. He told me that regular screening mammograms starting at 40 are just fine.  As relieved as I am, I’m mentally exhausted. For two months I tried to be positive and so did the small group of people who knew what was going on, but my mind kept running the worst case scenario. I was hesitant to say “yes” to anything in the months following me finding that lump. I hate letting people down. Typically, I’ll say yes to things even at the expense of my mental well-being…but this? It made me say no to a lot of things or avoid giving concrete answers to people who normally thought of me as dependable and organized. It destroyed me. 

On the flip side, I said yes to being part of the Snake River Stampede’s “Stampede for the Cure” and “Pink in the Dirt,” two months before finding that lump. Looking back, saying “yes” means so much more now. All of these emotions I felt? I felt these knowing that I had a good job and health insurance. That’s a blessing and it’s a blessing that not every woman in Idaho has. That breaks my heart. 

Photo by Angiola Harry on Unsplash
Photo by Angiola Harry on Unsplash

When it comes to the number of women over 40 who get their regular screening mammograms, Idaho ranks dead last in the United States. Breast Cancer, when caught in its early stages, has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. Unfortunately, in our state there is a significant number of women who are uninsured or underinsured. They that fear getting these screenings will put a financial burden on their families or they live in a rural area where access to mammograms is difficult to come by.

That’s where Stampede for the Cure steps in to help. The Snake River Stampede has always believed in rodeo’s mission to further breast cancer awareness, but in 2006 they decided that it was time to form a non-profit to keep their fundraising dollars in Idaho. They called that non-profit Stampede for the Cure. Since its inception, they’ve raised over $750,000 to help women get their mammograms at St. Luke’s or St. Al’s, free of charge. They’ll add to that total this year through their Pink on the Dirt Luncheon and Auction and Stampede for the Cure evening on Wednesday, July 20. 

Group of women wearing pink clothes and pink ribbons on chests

I no longer look at events like this as just another charity fundraiser. Now that I’ve been on the other side of an awareness campaign like Stampede for the Cure, its impact means so much more. I want to take this time to express a heartfelt thank you to the organizers of Stampede for the Cure and their board. What you’re doing matters. It matters so much. It’s going to make an impact on people you never expected it to. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Stampede for the Cure happens Wednesday, July 20. Tickets are still available for the evening rodeo. For more details and to join us for a very special night, click HERE! 

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