Jean Bean is always a survivor, but during the month of October, it's a label that really hits home.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and for survivors of the disease, like Bean, it symbolizes how far we've all come.
"Every day, I'm a cancer survivor," said Bean, a 58-year-old mom, wife and interior designer from Rochester. "I don't obsess about it, but it's always there."
Tale of a survivor: Bean was diagnosed in 2003. After a series of lumpectomies, she opted for a mastectomy, and then TRAM flap reconstructive surgery, which she said was revolutionary at the time. Instead of implants, her breasts were reconstructed with muscle from her abdomen. Bean still goes yearly for checkups with her oncologist and plastic surgeon, but she is cancer-free.
The more things change: "Breast cancer has really changed a lot since I had it — and thankfully so," she said, citing insurance coverage and cancer treatments as two things that have changed for the better. "I remember before I had cancer, my son was playing football at Adams, and the mom of one of his teammates died of breast cancer. She had to fight for treatments, fight for coverage. Then, all of a sudden, the laws started changing, and there was so much more access to help."
When the news hits home: "When I hear about someone being diagnosed with cancer, it breaks me up," Bean said. Since her own diagnosis, Bean has helped four close friends journey through breast cancer. "I'm the person they come to for advice. I go to appointments with them. I help them through." Bean reads every day about new treatments and new ways to detect the disease. "I feel a little lost — but in a good way."
October as the 'pinkest' month: "It means a lot to me that there is such an effort on awareness," she said. Bean appreciates the walks, especially, and she encourages all breast cancer survivors to participate in walk events. "It's encouraging and inspiring," she said.
For local resources, visit the Crittenton Hospital Medical Center Breast Care Center website.