31 Aug 2012
Leigh was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2004 at the age of 33. Treatment was lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She will be on tamoxifen for 5 years. Leigh is Founder of Feel Your Boobies, an organization dedicated to raising awareness among young women about the importance of breast self-exams. HOW WAS YOUR BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSED? I felt the lump myself and pointed it out to doctors a year and a half before I was diagnosed. One doctor offered me a referral for an ultrasound, but was so passive about it that I didn't take it seriously. WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT DID YOU HAVE? I moved around the country a lot after college and had recently moved back to Middletown. It was a blessing that I had come home and was around my parents, family and childhood friends. I joined a support group and met a young girl who was 2 years out of diagnosis. Although her situation was different, meeting a survivor my age helped. HOW DID YOUR ORGANIZATION ORIGINATE? I wanted to remind my friends about breast selfexam without being overly serious. So I would say, "Don't forget . feel your boobies!" About a year ago I participated in a breast cancer walk in New York with my girlfriends to celebrate the end of my treatment. I had "Feel Your Boobies" t-shirts made for us and ordered 100 in case people wanted them. It wasn't planned; it was just easier to order a larger quantity. It was difficult to get through the walk with people stopping us. I sold 60 t-shirts in two hours. The next day we stood outside The Today Show. We held hand-made "Feel Your Boobies"signs. It was funny because there were people with professionally made signs and we were getting all the attention from the cameras. Katie Couric came out and took a "Feel Your Boobies" postcard. After the commercial break, she showed the postcard on national TV. I had set up a website to keep in touch with friends, and that day we had so many hits, it became impossible to get on the website. “For the first time, everything in my life is aligned and breast cancer made that happen.” - Leigh Hurst I remember a message from an 18 year-old girl in Chicago. She said she had never thought about breast cancer before, but wanted to send the postcards to her friends. That's what we want . people her age becoming aware and spreading the word. The shirts attract attention but it's important that women understand the message behind them. The shirt is the beginning; breast self-exam is the next step. WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHER WOMEN TO KNOW? Take ownership of your health. Be aware of how your body feels. And the chances of survival are high. Breast cancer is treatable when caught in the early stages. HOW HAS BREAST CANCER CHANGED YOU? I was always an over-achiever and a discontented soul because I wanted to do everything. Now I know I can slow down and be happy. I don't second-guess myself. For the first time, everything in my life is aligned and breast cancer made that happen. I thought it was cliché whenever I heard someone say that good came from a bad experience, but I feel that way now. I am amazed at how many awesome, inspiring people have come into my life through this.