You may remember our dynamic volunteer Amy Kaplan from our Hero of the Month spotlight on October 2013. As a woman who’s survived colon, cervical and breast cancer, Amy knows the importance of protecting all your assets. We got another chance to speak with Amy about her story, the importance of screening and the message she wants to share with all women.
We last spoke to you in 2013. Can you give us an update on what you've been doing in the cancer space since our last chat?
I have volunteered with both Imerman's Angels and the Colon Cancer Alliance. This August, I worked on the Colon Cancer Alliance program Now is the Time, where I helped educated people about the benefits of screening at Clarendon Road Church in Brooklyn, New York.
What do you think of the Screen This Too! campaign and how it's evolved in the past few years?
I was diagnosed in 1996 when people were not talking about colon cancer, let alone colon cancer in young people (I was young then and lucky enough to grow old). The campaign makes it easy to spread the word about screening—it’s light, yet serious. It also helps women address the issues of colon, ovarian and breast cancers, as well as their genetic link.
When it comes to screening and making health a priority, what's your message to women?
Get screened for all potential issues. If you feel like something is wrong, but a doctor disagrees, keep pushing for a screening. Keep talking to your doctors and get new doctors if necessary—ones who will listen to you. No one knows your body as well as you do, so don't let anyone push you into thinking certain issues are perimenopause or you’re just being emotional.
What do you hope people will take away from your story?
My story is one of hope and survival. I was diagnosed at 46 and the colon cancer spread to the cervix, which is very unusual, a year later and breast cancer ten years later.
I decided, along with medical professionals, the surgery and treatments that I would and wouldn't have. I took an unconventional route, but it was right for me (what is best for one is not necessarily the best for another). Find doctors who will work with you and don't just assume one doctor has all the answers.
Life is never the same (I wish I knew that almost 19 years ago), but life can be good and worthwhile. Mourn your old body; embrace the new body. You many never be without functional issues, but you can live. Volunteering and giving back also feed and nurture the soul. I give back to the cancer community and my dog is a certified pet therapy dog—we visit the local Jewish Home for the elderly. I've even learned how to travel around the world while coping with my functional issues. I also celebrated being eligible for Medicare this year. I’m a woman who embraces getting older!
What advice would you like to share?
Quiet your mind, listen to your heart and gut (literally and figuratively) and be fierce to get the care you need.
Learn more about our Screen This Too! campaign at screenthistoo.org. Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about colon cancer screening or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030.