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Judy Baar Topinka steps it up for breast cancer awareness

Judy Baar Topink(right) seeks supporters for annual Making Strides Breast Cancer walk.

Judy Baar Topinka (right) seeks supporters for the annual Making Strides Breast Cancer walk.

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Updated: November 10, 2012 6:08AM

In the month of October there is a color among the changing autumn oranges, reds and yellows — it’s more vibrant than fall fashion metallic and more proudly displayed than the hues of a hometown football team.

It is the reason I have decided to share my story in this column.

A couple of years ago, some women on staff and I decided to go for mammograms as a proactive group outing to get us away from the office. I thought, why not? It will be a fun day with the girls. I’ll go in and get it done. No big deal.

You can’t imagine my disbelief when the doctor called to inform me they had found the infamous ‘something’ and wanted to see me again.

Talk about blindsided! Now, wait just a minute, this wasn’t supposed to happen. I put the phone down, ignored the deep breaths in my heavy chest, gathered my courage and told myself to wait. Wait and see; I’ll have nothing to worry about.

After the call, I went back to the doctor’s office not once but multiple times. With each visit I was further giving in to a consuming fear that this was it — this is the day that I’ll know. Desperate for an answer, I wondered, am I that one in eight women?

When it came time for my biopsy, I felt as though I was stuck in this constant state of uncertainty. My wish for the best was countered by my expectations for the worst. I put on a mask of solemnity when all the while my optimism gave way to hypotheticals of hopelessness. It was the strongest kind of internal struggle. My fear and hope were colliding head on.

The results came back — I did not have breast cancer.

I’d like to say the anxiety disappeared in the flash of a moment; it didn’t. It was one of those things you can’t forget, that slowly fades but never completely goes away. That is why I decided to join the fight. I wouldn’t let all of the time I spent contemplating in emotional turmoil be for nothing.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Illinois women, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all invasive cancers. It’s pervasive, and it is scary stuff.

Thinking on it, the panic I felt instantly returns. “What if?” remains a looming question. But, what I came to learn from my friends at the American Cancer Society is that the fight to find a cure is not beyond us. We are on the cusp, and a cure is doable in our lifetime.

The American Cancer Society hosts fund-raising walks in more than 270 communities nationwide, including the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Chicago at Montrose Harbor on Oct. 20. My office will participate in that walk for the second consecutive year, and we’re expecting an even better turnout!

So lend a hand, or in this case a couple of legs, and show support for a worthy cause. For more information about the 13th Annual Making Stride Breast Cancer walk or to register, visit or call 312-279-7376.

It is an opportunity for anyone — women and men, toddlers and seniors, Republicans, Democrats, Independents and vegetarians! In just one morning, you can make a difference that will affect thousands of people for a lifetime.

Recognize the color that unites us this month and embrace what’s pink.

Judy Baar Topinka donated her fee for writing this column to the American Cancer Society.

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