An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

50 Shades of pink

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lauren Pitts
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
Through reminders from doctors, self-exams and colored ribbons, breast cancer awareness continues to catch on. But although more and more people know what to check for, how many people actually check?

After watching her mother undergo chemo for stage IV breast cancer, Michelle Betz, 5th Bomb Wing housing management assistant, believed her run-in with cancer was over. The reality, though, was that it was just beginning.

"They told my sister and I that we were high-risk, and I thought to myself, 'cancer will never hit me, it will never affect me,'" said Michelle. "It was enough having to see my mom go through it."

Unfortunately, Michelle was at such a high-risk for breast cancer that is was less "if" than "when" she would be diagnosed.

"I was at work two days before my birthday when I got the phone call," she said. "I was in shock; I had the worst pit in my stomach. How was this even possible?"

Less than a year after her mother finished her treatment, Michelle found out she too, had breast cancer. The doctors found a mass, and after enduring an extensive amount of tests, mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies, Michelle would need to have a double mastectomy.

Following her surgery, Michelle's outlook on life turned pink. With her friends and family by her side, Michelle began her healing process. A few months after her surgery, a close friend called to tell her they had breast cancer as well. Later that year, another friend was also diagnosed.

Michelle wondered how all the women in her life were falling victim; first her mother, then herself, now her friends. Michelle refocused her entire life to be an advocate for breast cancer awareness.

"Growing up, as a woman, all you hear is 'get checked.' They say 40 is that magic number to get checked," Michelle said. "But I was only 35. Now I just want everyone to know that it can happen to anyone, at any age."

With two daughters of her own, Michelle urges all her loved ones and those she meets to get checked, to know their family history and understand their risk rate.

"A lot of people wait until it's too late to get checked," she said. "If I can help someone be proactive about breast cancer awareness, then I am all for it."

Although Michelle has beaten breast cancer, she still fights to raise awareness. As a woman, a mother and a survivor, Michelle lives her life as a warrior in pink -- through a big, pink lens.

"Pink was never really a color in my closet, and now it's everywhere," Michelle said. "Now when I look at life, I feel like I'm looking through a giant pair of pink sunglasses."