Really WHY did I walk 500 miles?

Updated: Mar 19

So that my story doesn’t become your story. And so MORE women with breast cancer become SURVIVORS.

By Leslie Ferris Yerger

‘Do the best you can until you know better, and then when you know better, do better.’ – Maya Angelou

Eighteen months ago, I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer after receiving that phone call that we all want to get saying, ‘All good, see you next year’ from the radiologist’s office reporting on my mammogram and ultrasound just one month prior. After learning that breast cancer was in almost every bone of body, I was beyond confused to say the least. How could this have happened? There was much to learn.

What I now know, is that mammography finds less than ½ of the breast cancers present in dense breast tissue, and that those of us with dense breasts are 4-6 more times likely to get breast cancer to begin with. Having dense breasts is a higher risk factor than having a mother or sister with the disease. Around half of all women in the world have dense breast tissue; it is completely normal.

Therefore, though mammography has saved many lives, it can fail those of us who actually need it the most. Many in the medical industry have known this for years. It is time, now that we know better, to do better.

It is those facts, along with realizing there is a better way to detect breast cancer in dense breast tissue that is FDA approved and commercially available but not widely used, that motived me, along with personal reasons, to walk, and walk, and walk. See a description of this technology here.

Molecular Breast Imaging, which finds around 400% more cancers than mammography in women with dense breast tissue, was invented at the Mayo Clinic where they are conducting a multi-site, 3000 women trial comparing MBI to 3D mammography. Preliminary results are astounding. Out of 1000 women with dense breasts tested, MBI has found 9, while 3D mammography has found 2. Wow. It is this study at the Mayo Clinic, called DensityMATTERS, that I fundraised for while I walked 500 miles from France through Spain, on the Camino de Santiago.

Many people ask me WHY I walked the Camino. My answer depends on how much I want to get into it, and how deep of a conversation I really want to have, or if there is time to explain. So sometimes I just say: for the adventure, to do something cool, for spiritual or religious reasons, or even to satisfy the slightly independent wild hare I have always had, or even to fundraise for a great cause. All of these answers are true actually.

But my REAL WHY is much more than that. It’s about that thing nobody wants to talk about. It’s about that thing we all dance around. It’s about that 41,000 number. It’s that 41,000 women per year die of breast cancer in the US. Just imagine what the worldwide figure must be.

My REAL WHY is about kids without moms, grand kids without grandmas, and widowers without wives. It’s about careers unfinished, potential not met, and dreams not realized. It’s about lives cut short, and all of the hurt that goes with that.

To think this happens 41,000 times over every year is heartbreaking. To think that there is a way to detect MANY more breast cancers earlier when they are curable, that is FDA approved and commercially available, but is not available to most women is unfathomable.

So this is the REAL reason WHY I walked 500 miles. So there can be more kids with moms, more grand kids with grandmas, and less widowers without wives. So careers can be finished, so potential can be met, and dreams given a chance.

The next step is to finish funding the Density MATTERS multi-site study including 3,000 women so that we take one step closer to Molecular Breast Imaging becoming available to all women. This is the technological advancement we all want, need, and deserve to have.

Now that we know better, this is a way to do better.

Read more about DensityMATTERS and the Camino de Santiago, link to my website here.

Please join me is spreading the word so that women everywhere, including survivors with dense breast tissue, can begin to have access to better additional breast cancer screening methods such as Molecular Breast Imaging.

So that my story doesn’t become their story

And so MORE women with breast cancer become SURVIVORS

Now that we know better, we MUST do better.

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