It was a club that internationally best-selling author Judy Blume never asked to join, but found herself a part of — she became one of the 1 in 8 women in the United States diagnosed with breast cancer. Here's her story.
On Wednesday, Blume — whose adult and children books have hit the New York Times bestseller lists, sold more than 80 million copies worldwide and has been translated into twenty-six languages, according to ABC news — announced to her readers and fans on Twitter that she had a story to share with them.
No one would guess that the author who helped a generation of young teens find their way through puberty and adolescence in coming of age books such as “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret“ would now help them as adults find their way through the labyrinths of her breast cancer diagnosis and decision to have mastectomy.
“Wait – me?,” Blume, 74, writes in an entry posted on her blog, titled !@#$% Happens. "There’s no breast cancer in my family (recent extensive genetic testing shows no genetic connection). I haven’t eaten red meat in more than 30 years. I’ve never smoked, I exercise every day, forget alcohol — it’s bad for my reflux — I’ve been the same weight my whole adult life. How is this possible? Well, guess what — it’s possible.”
What's more, her diagnosis of breast cancer was possible even though she's checked by doctors four times a year. "I have to thank Dr. S, the radiologist who's been doing my mammograms for 20 years," Blume writes,
If she hadn't decided I should have a sonogram because of dense breast tissue we still wouldn't know. This didn't show up in a mammo or in physical exams, and I'm checked by doctors four times a year. Even the breast surgeon couldn’t feel this one. If you have dense breast tissue ask your radiologist about having a sonogram. (emphasis Judy Blume)
Blume received a diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma in June and underwent a mastectomy with reconstruction on July 30, six weeks after she first received the diagnosis.
“I’m not afraid of surgery. Maybe I should be,” Blume writes in her post. “Anesthesia can be dangerous but I’d had a hysterectomy seventeen years ago (cervical cancer caused by HPV). We didn’t know it was cervical cancer before the surgery but we knew something was going on. Caught it just in time, extensive but still in situ. No other treatment necessary.”
Are You There, Judy Blume?
One month after the surgery "I'm still in NY and feeling stronger every day, walking a couple of miles in the park each morning and going out to early dinners with George. Have seen movies and a couple of plays, as you know if you follow me on Twitter," she writes.
In fact, before going public with her diagnosis, looking back on her twitter timeline, Blume hardly missed a beat sending out tweets. Now her readers can see that on the day of her surgery, she didn't send out a tweet. Her next tweet would be Aug 1st. She didn't tweet again until Aug. 12 and people noticed, missing her presence.
"Friend says, Why no tweets for 2 weeks?," Blume tweets on Aug 12. " I say, Olympics. Wanted it to be a surprise. Did you see Rhythmic Gymnastics with the ribbons? OMG!"
"Walking through the park after seeing Old Jews Telling Jokes. My father would have loved it. He could tell a joke!," reads another tweet on Aug 12 with a picture.
Screenshot via Twitter
Judy Blume sends out a tweet on Aug 12, 2012 with a beautiful picture of herself (two weeks post op!) Blume had not yet gone public with her diagnosis.
She is "feeling stronger every day," she writes, and right now trying to decide whether to take a daily medication since she doesn't need chemotherapy.
Blume's account also served an important purpose. "Medical diagnoses can leave you feeling alone and scared. When it comes to breast cancer you’re not alone, and scary though it is, there’s a network of amazing women to help you through it," she writes.
Now, by sharing her account, she is one of those amazing women.
As you would expect, after sharing her story on Wednesday, she received a flood of
well wishes and encouraging messages from her fans thanking her for sharing her story. In response, Blume sent out this tweet:
Screenshot via Twitter
And Blume isn't the first celebrity to share updates about their health, in their own way, in their own words, when the time was right for them, using social networking tools.
The Wall Street Journal reminds us, that "in mid-August, actress and television personality Rosie O’Donnell blogged on her website, revealing she had suffered a heart attack."
Click here to read Blume's blog post in full.