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PHOTO CAPTION:  The Minnesota National Guard developed the Pink Tank Project to raise awareness about breast cancer. (Photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Paul Santikko)

October 24, 2013
By Maj. Kristen L. Augé, of the Minnesota National Guard

It’s probably a cyst…..was the thought running through my head as I conducted my self-breast exam. No worries, I’ve had them before. I’m busy with work, my family and my involvement with the VFW.

Six months pass. I’m thinking about the lump in my breast and now, I have started to worry. I could be one in eight. One of eight women diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Why have I waited so long to have this lump checked out?

It’s test day and the technician is quiet as she conducts an ultra sound on the lump following the mammogram. I feel my breath catch in my throat as the doctor walks into the room. “You’re clear. It’s only a cyst.” I breathe again and think of the women who haven’t been as fortunate to hear those words.

I know three women with ties to the Minnesota National Guard whose lives have been forever changed by breast cancer. Their stories inspired the Pink Tank Project.  The goal of the Pink Tank Project is to build breast cancer awareness for all women whether they wear the uniform or not. The Pink Tank Project is a promise – a promise to yourself to conduct monthly self-breast exams and have mammograms as recommended by your health care provider.  Liking the Pink Tank Project on Facebook ensures you receive monthly reminders to conduct self breast exams.

Why a tank? Like a tank, we are strong, but not invincible.

As each woman tells their story, I feel lucky to know these strong women. Each chose a different way to combat the disease. Yet, it is apparent that breast cancer did impact each woman in the same way.  It brought forward what was important in their life – family.

In the military, service members are responsible for providing oversight for their “battle buddies.” Women band together and form support networks to make it through the rigors of combat. Breast cancer is no different. We must commit to our ethos of “never leaving a fallen comrade” and we must “never quit” until all women know the importance of doing regular self checks, getting mammograms and following up on early detection.