Ellen wants you – and all of your friends – to get a mammogram

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which starts today, always makes me stop and reflect on how fortunate I am to have my friends in my life. That’s because 10 years ago last month, one of my favorite people died of breast cancer. Jeri loved chardonnay and baseball and steak and Louisiana. But most of all, she loved her friends — and we loved her.

Jeri was diagnosed with breast cancer after her partner found a lump. A few of her friends went with her to her biopsy, and I will never forget hearing the words none of us expected: “It’s cancer.” That cancer turned out to be more persistent than the surgery and chemo and radiation and various holistic health regimens Jeri tried. And five years later, it took her life at age 36.

For Ellen DeGeneres, breast cancer is personal, too. Her mom, Betty, had a mastectomy 30 years ago.

Ellen knows that she’s more vulnerable to breast cancer because it’s in her family, so she gets a mammogram annually. Those of us in lower-risk groups probably don’t need one every year. But most experts agree that, starting at age 40, every woman should have an annual clinical breast exam by a doctor or nurse practitioner. And every woman, regardless of age or risk, should do a breast self-exam every month. It’s easy, only takes a few minutes and may save your life. If you’ve never done it, you can download illustrated instructions here.

To kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Ellen is devoting today’s show to breast cancer. The entire audience will be survivors and their families, and the show will launch Ellen’s personal campaign, Ellen for the Cure. If you haven’t thought much about breast cancer, this is an entertaining way to get the facts.

Ellen also has teamed up with One A Day to provide a clever way for you to participate in breast cancer awareness. The “One A Day Women’s Wake-up Call” program lets you register to have your friends and family get a prerecorded call from Ellen DeGeneres sharing some simple ways they can support their breast health.

Just go to the site and enter your friend’s name and phone number, along with your own, to help Ellen spread the word during the month of October. You can also opt to have the message sent via email.

I know breast cancer still is a bit awkward to talk about. But I think every lesbian and bisexual woman can get behind the concept of preserving the health of breasts. So, do what you can to take care of yourself and encourage your loved ones to do the same. I’ll never know if a timely reminder to Jeri could’ve saved her life. But I sure wish I’d tried.